Dear friends and neighbors,
The 2023 session adjourned last weekend, and it was one of the most productive sessions we’ve had in years. With one major exception, we moved forward in moderate, responsible ways that stayed true to our Washington values. So much happened that I could write an email that’s 10,000 words long that nobody would read, but instead we’ll just run down some of the big items.
Education: Our budget has $2.9 billion in new money for schools, the most since the McCleary decision was resolved. We’re adding nearly half a billion dollars for special education, and we’re providing money to help districts pay their cost-of-living raises for teachers, which frees up local levy dollars to stay in local programs. The budget also includes funding for my bill to make sure that the College in the High School program is free and available for every student, so that kids can get dual credit for high school and college regardless of their family’s income. By the way – we paid for it all with no new taxes!
Housing: 2023 has been “the year of housing” – our housing affordability crisis is so big that no one solution will solve it, and we took it on from every angle. The capital budget I authored made a record-setting investment in directly constructing affordable housing, but we also passed major policy bills that will make it easier for the private market to build condos, duplexes, and single family homes. We focused on expanding density near transit, streamlined permitting for construction, cut down on burdensome bureaucracy and red tape, and we did it all in a bipartisan way.
Health care: I had the opportunity to participate in an important series of negotiations around our nursing workforce and how we make sure we have enough nurses in our health care system so that patients get the care they need. We negotiated a historic agreement between nurses and hospitals that will help nurses with their working conditions and improve staffing ratios, while ensuring we have sufficient workforce for the hospitals to hire. People had been arguing about these issues for years without making a deal – this year, we brought people together and got a package of bills signed by Gov. Inslee that will help our patients, our nurses, and our hospitals.
Public safety: The good news for public safety is that we restored the ability for police to pursue violent criminals and we made important investments in training facilities for law enforcement and crime labs for processing evidence.
The issue also had our biggest disappointment of session – our failure to pass a bill addressing the drug addiction crisis in Washington state. Earlier in session, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that I was happy with – it struck a balance by providing major investments in drug treatment to help folks who are in trouble, paired with meaningful criminal penalties for people who need a push in the right direction. In the final hours of session, efforts to pass a bill fell apart in the House. We’re already continuing conversations about how we could pass a bill with the support of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate, and I hope that in the coming weeks, we’ll have Gov. Jay Inslee call us back in for a one-day special session to pass such a bill.
I’m so honored to have the opportunity to represent you and our district’s values in the Senate. In our communities, we know the importance of investing in education, transportation, and mental health services. We’re socially liberal, but we’d rather scrub the budget to find money to fund something rather than raise taxes. When I look at that list of what I worked on, the common themes I see are bipartisanship, finding compromise, and bringing people together, while still standing strong for the values and priorities we share. I hope I lived up to the trust you placed in me.
Thank you for reading all of this, and the other emails I’ve sent this year. You can always reach me at Mark.Mullet@leg.wa.gov – the work starts soon to get ready for 2024 and our agenda for the next session. I’m excited for what’s next!
Sen. Mark Mullet