Guest Column

Keeping Promises

keeping promises by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe
This fall, I knocked on hundreds of doors and talked to many of you about what you thought should be my top priorities for the 1996 legislative session.
   Overwhelmingly, you told me to focus my energies in four key areas: cutting taxes on families and small businesses, promoting excellence in our public schools, improving access to higher education, and easing traffic congestion on our highways.
   With the legislative session more than half over, I want to give you a progress report and share with you what still lies ahead.

Cutting taxes for families and small businesses
   Last year, the Legislature approved two key tax relief measures to help homeowners and small businesses, only to have Gov. Lowry veto them. Many of us promised then that we would take action on tax relief the first week of the 1996 session. We did, and passed legislation, now law, that will give tax relief to more than 69,000 businesses, primarily small businesses.
   Also during the first week of the session, the Senate and House each approved separate bills to cut the state's share of the property tax by five percent. Our long-term goal in the Senate is to ultimately elimate the state's share of the property tax, saving the owner of a $150,000 home about $500 a year. I'm optimistic that Senate and House members can agree on a final bill before the end of session.

Promoting excellence and safety in public schools
   Improving student learning and providing a safe learning environment for our children was a top priority for most of you. This year in the Senate, we're making important progress in this area--approving legislation and the funding to make it happen. We're putting computers and technology within reach of all public school students and giving students in vocational education classes the modern equipment they need to master skills in high demand in the workplace.
   We're also investing in alternative schools for troubled middle-school students, who currently have no place to go if they've been expelled from school. Even more basic, we have made getting to school safely part of our safe-schools plan. Because data shows that children in kindergarten through fifth grade are most at-risk, we've included money in our budget to help younger students get to and from school safely. This money will allow schools to bus students, hire crossing guards, and implement safety measures.

Opening the doors of our colleges and universities
   Many of you asked me to work to expand access to higher education in our area. Our Senate budget includes money to allow us to move forward on the shared campus for Cascadia Community College and the University of Washington branch campus. The 130- acre site east of Bothell is still on track to open by 1998 and accommodate up to 12,000 students.
   Finally, we're investing in new technologies that will allow us to educate more students in more creative ways. Public schools, colleges, and universities will be linked together to promote the seamless delivery of education services, such as the "Running Start" program.

Easing traffic congestion on our highways
   Our Senate transportation budget will be released soon. My top priority will be working to make sure it includes money for the SR-527/SR-522 Interchange and for commuter lane improvements on SR-522 (Bothell Way) through Lake Forest Park. I'll know more about the budget's impact on our area soon and will keep you informed.

   If you would like to know more about these issues or have questions about progress in our areas, please give me a call or write to me in Olympia. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.