Sam on the Issues Facing Our State

The environment—protecting and restoring our future

We must build a sustainable future for ourselves and our grandchildren.  Washington is known as the Evergreen State for a reason—its beautiful natural resources.

We must protect and improve water quality in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and other bodies of water.

Oppose increasing number of massive coal and oil trains crossing Washington State

Increasing use of solar and wind energy while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

I sponsored laws to drastically reduce  mercury from the workplace and products used in the state and to implement recycling of mercury-containing products such as florescent lights and to mandate removal or repair of failing septic systems along Puget Sound.

Capitol Lake continues to be a big environmental issue for our community.  The 2016 capital budget contains funds to develop a plan to address this.  We must find a solution that is acceptable to a large majority of the community so we can save this waterway and maintain the area as a beautiful center of our capitol campus.


Budget and revenue

Washington’s tax structure is based on a 19th century economy.  It does not reflect or respond to the economic realities of the 21st Century.  People with lower incomes pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy.  We need to fix our tax structure so those who take home million of dollars pay their fair share.

I support enactment of a corporate gains and high earners’ tax. I am a cosponsor of legislation to establish a corporate gains tax.

Education (early learning and beyond)

The Washington State Constitution says, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”

The State Supreme Court has reaffirmed this provision in its McCleary decision that states the Legislature is not meeting its constitutional duty.  The Legislature has until 2018 to fulfill this mandate.  As a Senator, I will advocate for legislative actions to adequately address this funding crisis.  That includes being willing to vote for additional taxes.

Addressing the funding issue creates a steep hill to climb.  It will take at least $3 billion new dollars.  I am not willing to see the rest of state government suffer huge cuts in order to meet our commitment to K-12 education.

  • Support for K-12 education includes:
  • Reducing the number of standardized tests required of our students
    • I joined Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, Representative Chris Reykdal and other House members in proposing legislation to reduce the number of mandatory tests.  Unfortunately, the bills never received a hearing in the Senate.
  • Setting a starting teacher’s salary at a minimum of $50,000
  • Increasing students’ access to career and technical education

I will continue to support funding for early learning.  Research shows that newborns are born ready to learn and begin to discriminate between language sounds within the first months of life.  The Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington is a world leader in studying the first five years of life.  Strengthening support for early learning is a great investment in our future.

Higher education funding has suffered during the Great Recession because it has no dedicated funding source, making it an easy target for cuts.  As a result student tuition was increased to offset these cuts.  This made access to community colleges and universities more difficult for many families.  I support reductions in tuition and increases in state support.  Given the pressures of the McCleary decision, this will not be easy and will have to take place over a number of years. 


Campaigns and elections—advancing the right to vote

We must remember that people in Washington have the Right To Vote not the privilege to vote. Access to voting is not something that has to be earned, it is a basic right granted to all who are eligible. 

While Washington has a reputation as a progressive leader in election reform, there is more that need to be done.

I support these important steps we can take to improve access to voting:

  • Election Day voter registration. I am the prime sponsor of this bill.
  • Pre-registration of 16-17 year olds when they get their driver’s licenses. This has passed the House three times but failed to receive a Senate vote.
  • Enactment of the state Voting Rights Act to give people of color better access to their local governments. The bill passed the House four years in a row but has failed to receive a vote in the Senate.

Election bills I have sponsored that became law include

  • Implementing on-line voter registration
  • Making all elections vote by mail
  • Strengthening public disclosure laws


State employees—the backbone of state government

I strongly support the right of state employees to belong to a union and their collective bargaining rights.

I believe that the state must provide fair pay and benefits, including health care and adequate funding of state retirement systems for its employees in order to recruit and retain a talented workforce that can properly serve the residents of our state.

Additionally, I support restoration of annual cost-of-living adjustments for PERS I and TRS I retirees.  Expecting a retiree to live on the same income year after year with no adjustment for inflation makes no sense.  It unfair to ask a public retiree to live on the same income he/she received upon retirement in 1990, 1995, 2000, etc.


Transportation—improving how we get from here to there

The Legislature passed a large transportation package in 2015.  It addresses some of the most critical needs facing our state.  However more must be done.

We need to plan for the future of the Interstate 5 corridor between Dupont and Littlerock.  While major improvements are taking place north and south of these points, nothing is planned for the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater areas.  Unless the needs of this area are addressed, our community will face traffic problems similar to what we face driving through Joint Base Lewis-McCord today.

Funds to plan for future needs of this corridor must be provided to plan for:

  • The future of the Nisqually River Bridges
  • Additional and expanded interchanges in Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater

At the same time, we need to plan improvements for Highway 101 from I-5 through Olympia, including a new interchange at Kaiser Road.


Health care—supporting affordable health care

I support the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and will support its expansion and measures to improve its implementation. 

We should remember that programs like Social Security were not perfect as originally passed.  The same is true of the ACA.  We must not, as many Republicans demand, dismantle it.  Rather we need to continue to fine tune and improve it.  Like voting, health care is a right we should all expect to have access to.