The Washington State Legislative Session begins this upcoming Monday, and because of the current economic climate, it's been said that this session feels a bit like stepping into an abyss - dark and bleak with a lot of unknowns. So just how deep is the abyss - oh, about $2.6 billion dollars deep (the budget deficit facing the state). But fear not - our very own Senator Lisa Brown is approaching the session with optimism and hope fueled by none other than Eddie Vedder. Well, kind of.... You see, every year Senator Brown picks a song for the session. This year she picked Pearl Jam's "The Fixer". This excites DTE on two levels: one, because we're Pearl Jam fans, and two, because we're optimists. Here's a sample of the lyrics, and below we have some news bites about the session.
When somethings dark, let me shed a little light on it
When somethings cold, let me put a little fire on it
If somethings old, I wanna put a bit of shine on it
When somethings gone, I wanna fight to get it back again
A few weeks back we introduced you to this years Environmental Priorities, with one of them being to sustain environmental protections in the budget. And now we're introducing you with an opportunity to send a loud and clear message that legislators should not balance the budget on the environment, our communities, the backs of working families, our kids, or the most vulnerable. Futurewise has joined together with organizations from around the state and will deliver thousands of petitions to the capital on Monday calling for a fair, humane, and sensible budget in Washington State. You can sign that petition by clicking HERE. Last year the legislature cut $3.6 billion from the state budget for 2009 -2011. These substantial spending reductions have cut into the muscle and bone of our education and healthcare systems, programs that support kids, the elderly and disabled, and projects that clean up toxic waste sites and protect clean air and water.
Just how hard is it to remain optimistic when staring down a $2.6 billion hole? Many environmentalists around the state are expecting the worst this session, but there may be a proposal with a fighting chance. There is a proposed $1.50 per barrel tax on petroleum products (including gasoline, motor oil, and asphalt, but not jet fuel) that will make its way before legislators this session. The measure, which died in the Washington Senate last year, is being recast as a jobs-stimulus bill this time around. So just how much are we talking with this tax? $120 million the People for Puget Sound and its allies in the Environmental Priorities Coalition say. "$120 million here and $120 million there, and pretty soon you're into real money," Daniel Jack Chasan said in paraphrasing Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen in a recent piece on Crosscut. But not all the money would stay on the westside and for the Puget Sound. Chasan reports, "Not all the money would go to Puget Sound. Other places have stormwater problems of their own. Prime sponsors of the legislation this session and last have been Spokane Rep. Timm Ormsby, whose constituents worry more about pollution of the Spokane River, and Vancouver Sen. Craig Pridemore, whose constituents worry more about the Columbia." We can expect a big fight from the petroleum industry, but you can help. Write your representatives and tell them the importance of getting our hands on some of these funds for watershed protection and cleanup issues. Contact Rep Ormsby and thank him for his support and urge him to continue the fight.