Handing over the reins of the House Finance Committee
For the past three years I’ve thrown my heart and soul into serving as chair of the Finance Committee in the House of Representatives. It’s been the most rewarding and challenging of my seven years in the Legislature.
As I hand over the reins this week to the capable Rep. Kris Lytton, I am proud of the dramatic change in our state’s approach to tax policy during that time and the role that our fiscal committee has played in this authentic transformation. The thesis sentence of my chairmanship–announced the day I assumed the gavel–was to raise the level of analytical, intellectual and financial rigor of the tax side of the ledger. To show a deeper respect for the taxpayers of our state by raising the bar of our analysis of state and local taxes in our 21st Century global community.
Recently I was nominated by the Democratic Party to fill the impending vacancy in the state Senate due to the election of my seat mate Sen. Jeanne-Kohl-Welles to the King County Council. The council will make its formal selection and appointment January 7 in time for the 2016 Legislative Session.
It has been an honor to serve as the lead on tax policy for the House and as a senior budget writer. My colleagues Rep. Ross Hunter, now head of the Department of Early Learning, and Majority Leader Pat Sullivan have been wonderful friends and partners in our work to respect taxpayers’ hard earned dollars and craft responsible state budgets. The members of our caucus have stood with us as we’ve worked to introduce and adopt new ideas, approaches and reforms. We’ve made big progress in closing some of the tax preferences that struggle to justify their return on investment for taxpayers, and to responsibly fund our state budget, yet much more remains.
Recently, three major editorial boards forcefully embraced the idea of transparency for our state’s many tax preferences–the signature work of my time as chair–and a reflection of the profound shift in support for full and open tax transparency. The editorials followed a substantive article in the Seattle Times about Boeing’s tax preference based on the legislation I shepherded through the Legislature. The Seattle Times’s editorial is here, the Walla Walla Union-Bullitin is here, and the Everett Herald is here.
I am deeply grateful to the members of the Finance Committee on both sides of the aisle who joined in this impactful work. Rep. Terry Nealey served honorably as ranking Republican. I am deeply appreciative of the dedication, diligence and integrity of the staff, co-led by Olympia’s finest K.D. Chapman-See and Jeffrey Mitchell.
Serving in this role does not always make a legislator popular. The institution hungers to say ‘yes’ to interests, yet the role of Finance chair is to question, push, prod and resist the tide of acceptance of proposals that may struggle to justify their efficacy and value to the taxpayer. The job is often to say ‘no’ when the larger system wants to take the easier path. But it is essential work to protect the taxpayers’ interests.
We have not yet met our full constitutional duty to fully fund public education nor have we resolved other pressing issues facing our state. But our work to elevate the dialogue about tax policy has helped our state move forward toward the 21st Century at a time when our old fashioned tax structure is struggling under the weight of our modern era. Here are a few of the news stories and issues that I’ve tackled and helped usher through the legislative process. And I’ve had fun with the job, too. Indeed!
Thank you! Thank you for the honor of your support, the learning from your criticism and the opportunity to grow personally and professionally and help make a difference in our state’s quality of life.
Your partner in service,