Transportation, education and health care are three hot agenda items that will be at the forefront of the legislative session that begins Monday.
State Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, said the completion of state Route 167 needs to be funded this year.
“We cannot wait for 2014 or 2015,” Zeiger said. “About $1.5 billion is needed. I will not approve any transportation revenue package that does not include Highway 167.”
Zeiger said it is the No. 1 economic development project in the state and would generate up to 80,000 new family-wage jobs at the Port of Tacoma and in eastern Washington, where farming depends on shipments to Asia.
Zeiger will be on the transportation committee in the House. He also will be the assistant ranking member on the House’s Higher Education Committee.
“There have been a lot of tuition increases in recent years,” Zeiger said. “The state needs to be putting more money into higher education to avoid tuition increases.”
Zeiger also said it’s paramount that the Legislature address the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which mandates the state fully fund K-12 education.
“The court says to put another billion dollars into education,” he said. “So the question is how to fund education. My position is the same as (state Sen. Bruce) Dammeier. Our position is: We need a separate education budget so that the Legislature is disciplined to fund education before it funds anything else.”
Zeiger’s other appointments will be the technology and economic development committee and the early learning and human services committee.
Dammeier, R-Puyallup, will serve as the vice chair of the education committee and on the budget-writing committee. Another high-profile appointment is his seat as the vice chair of the Senate Republican Caucus. His new appointment is on the health care committee.
“That is good, since I am also on the Good Samaritan Hospital Board of Directors,” Dammeier said.
Dammeier said the No. 1 task on the health care committee is to implement the Affordable Care Act.
“We need to use good judgement,” Dammeier said.
He added that the Legislature needs to make “meaningful, significant progress” on fully funding K-12 education and on improving school performance.
Dammeier said he is encouraged by the promise for bipartisanship that will be forged by a new coalition government in the Senate composed of 23 Republicans and two Democrats. They will be the deciding 25 votes that will run the Senate, Dammeier said.
“People are watching what is going on in Washington, D.C., and all the partisan bickering,” Dammeier said. “This coalition is the exact opposite.”
The concept was last done in the state House of Representatives in 1963.
“This will encourage more bipartisanship and more focusing on solutions, resulting in fewer bills passing,” Dammeier said. “Let’s do the most important work. Let’s address the real issues facing Washington.”
State Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup, will return to the House. She said she’s most looking forward to implementing the Affordable Care Act for small businesses.
“I’m excited about doing good work, but I also realize the amount of work that is required,” Morrell said. “I’m encouraged that there will be some bipartisan work on this policy. I’m hoping the state of Washington can be an example of moving forward together.”
Morrell will chair the appropriations subcommittee for health and human services. She also will serve on the general appropriations, health care and economic development and technology committees.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001.