Opinion

Washington's future begins now – be a part of it | Sullivan

The 2014 Legislative session starts Monday and, although it is only a 60-day session, there are a lot of important issues on the table.

Among the most pressing are:

Transportation: There is substantial need for infrastructure improvements at both the state and local levels, including State Route 167. We also need to make sure our transit system is adequate for our communities. Additionally, there have been calls for policy changes to our transportation systems. How should the state move forward to meet these pressing needs?

K-12 education: The Legislature made a serious down payment on the Supreme Court's McCleary school-funding requirements, but we still have a lot of work to do to fulfill our paramount duty. Additionally, we may be hearing bills relating to teacher evaluations, COLAs, the opportunity gap and more. What do you think are the most important education issues?

Early learning and higher education: Experts agree that early learning plays a huge role in setting students on the path to success, and we all know that access to higher education is becoming tighter and tighter for middle-class families. What should the state do to help kids on either side of the K-12 ladder?

The operating budget: We passed two-year budget last June that made a $1 billion dent in our education-funding obligation, extended health care coverage to 300,000 additional people in our state, and held the line on college tuition costs. The Legislature will consider a supplemental budget that makes minor adjustments to that biennial budget, and work is already beginning on the 2015-17 operating budget – one that will need to make additional investments in the K-12 system as well as meet the other growing needs of the state. How do you think we should address these pressing needs?

I represent you in Olympia, and it's important to me to hear your opinion on these issues. I am reluctant to spend tax-payer money on surveys sent through the mail – such things can cost $10,000 to $15,000. Instead, I am looking for less-costly alternative methods of getting your input, so I'm planning a series of Community Conversations throughout our district over the next month. I look forward to meeting with you, in person, and hearing what you believe our priorities should be.

These are not going to be partisan arguments full of heated rhetoric. We all care deeply about the future of our children, our economy, and our state, and we need more thoughtful discussions and less rancorous debate.

Here is the list of specific topics and locations:

Transportation

Jan. 18, 10:30 a.m.-noon
Covington City Hall, Community Room
16720 SE 271st St., Suite 100, Covington

K-12 education

Jan. 25, 10:30 a.m.-noon
Kent School District Administration, Board Room, 12033 SE 256th St., Kent

Early learning & higher education

Feb. 1, 10:30 a.m.-noon
Green River Community College
12401 SE 320th St., Auburn

Operating budget

Feb. 8, 3-4:30 p.m.
Auburn City Hall, 25 W. Main St. (tentative)

We will provide updated location information as soon as it's available.

I hope you can join me for at least one of these Community Conversations. The future of our state is important to all of us – and it will require all of us, working together, to make sure that future reflects our shared values and vision.

Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) represents the 47th Legislative District and serves as majority leader in the state House of Representatives.

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