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Angel: Legislature took Bandaid approach to budget

If the Washington State Legislature wants to help the state climb out of expected future multi-billion dollar deficits, State Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) says it must place a higher emphasis on helping businesses create new jobs and retain existing ones.

Speaking Wednesday during a meeting of the Gig Harbor Republican Women, Angel noted the state now has the highest level of unemployment in more than 25 years, with the latest jobless rate at 9.4 percent.

Pierce County has exceeded double-digit rates, with 10.1 percent of its population unemployed.

“I was astonished that this Legislature spent all session trying to find Band-Aid approaches to close a $9 billion budget gap, but did next to nothing to foster business and job growth in Washington,” Angel said.

“Instead, it went the wrong direction by adding regulatory burdens that stifle job growth,” she added. “During the 105-day session that ended in April, more than 60 thousand people lost their jobs. The Legislature didn't help matters any, and now unemployment continues to grow two months later.”

The revenue forecast shows a substantial drop in incoming revenues to the state.

“We may be easily looking at another $10 billion state budget deficit two years from now,” Angel said, “and the Legislature won't have federal stimulus dollars as we did in this budget cycle to rescue the state from this crisis.

“We’re at a critical crossroads in our economy,” she told the audience. “If we want to prevent, or at least minimize, the effects of another budget deficit, we’ve got to get people working again.”

Angel said education also needs to remain the state's top priority.

“The vast layoffs of teachers across the state is very disappointing,” she said. “Making ample provision for the education of our children is constitutionally the state's paramount duty. That’s why we need to fund education first before all other services.”

Angel, who serves as a member of the House Early Learning and Children's Services Committee and the House Higher Education Committee, noted, “A bright spot of the 2009 session was the passage of new reforms that define basic public education and the state's role in funding its constitutional obligation.

“Although these reforms come with a price tag,” she said, “it should not be used as an excuse for tax increases. Rather, education needs to be made the number one priority in the budgeting process.”

The 26th District lawmaker also expects health care to be an emerging issue in the next legislative session, depending upon what the federal government proposes.

“Even though healthcare is now under discussion at the federal level,” Angel said, “we have to get back to discussing in this state how to hold costs down and at the same time increase access.

“The answer is not a government takeover of our healthcare system, along with all the new taxes it would require,” she argued. “Instead, we must work to create a competitive market in the private sector that would ensure affordable, accessible healthcare through additional options from which consumers can choose.”

About 60 people were in attendance at the Gig Harbor meeting. While Angel said many challenges may be ahead, she encouraged citizens to stay aware and involved, and to contact her office with any questions, comments or suggestions they might have regarding state government.

Angel’s district office is located in Port Orchard.

The phone number is (360) 876-5986.

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