Dear friends and neighbors,
Fall is here, school is back in session, and, believe it or not, I’m already preparing for next the next legislative session. Recently, I’ve been meeting with colleagues and stakeholders in our district and from across the state. Some of those meetings have included cochairing the Quality Education Council for an education policy discussion, sitting down with farmers and fishermen to talk about how we support these important industries and capitalize on our community’s unique assets, and visiting schools around the 40th.
I especially want to highlight my stop at Washington Elementary in Mount Vernon. Washington Elementary is one of several pilot schools participating in the Collaborative Schools for Innovation and Success pilot program (CSIS). Created by House Bill 2799, the goal of the program is to support collaboration between colleges of education and school districts to improve student achievement and better prepare educators. Washington Elementary is collaborating with Western Washington University’s Woodring College of Education to serve its students in new and innovative ways. This is an exciting example of the good work being done for our students and communities, and I appreciated the update on how the program is working.
With things getting busy, I also wanted to take a brief moment and share a couple of updates with you on our recent revenue forecast and the upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Last week, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its September revenue forecast. The forecast contained good news for Washingtonians as our state continues to recover from the Great Recession. Forecasted revenues for the current biennium and the next biennium are slightly higher than we thought in the June forecast.
However, even as revenue continues to recover, revenue growth remains below average. While the economy—and state revenues—continue to improve, we continue to face significant risk and budget pressures. That includes state, national, and international influences on our economy as well as the need to increase our investments in education to fully fund our paramount duty.
As I continue to prepare for the coming session, I look forward to productive conversations with my colleagues on how we can make the needed investments in education, work to grow our economy, and keep Washington a great place to live and work.
You’ve probably been hearing and reading a lot about the next steps in implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that are coming soon. There’s a lot of information available on the ACA, and I hope that consolidating some of it here will be helpful. In Washington state, we’re committed to effectively and efficiently implementing the ACA (sometimes called Obamacare) – and Washington families are already benefitting from this decision. So far:
- Sick kids can’t be denied health insurance.
- Young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26.
- Full coverage of FDA-approved birth control is available at no cost to women.
- There are no out-of-pocket costs for preventative services.
We’ve also elected to accept federal dollars to expand the Medicaid program. This means:
- An additional 385,000 working Washingtonians will be covered by 2020.
- Adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for enrollment. To learn more, click here.
- We will provide health care in the most effective and least expensive setting – saving us all money in the long run.
- The decision to expand Medicaid saved us $200 million over the next two years alone.
And, finally, our state’s health insurance exchange is up and running. The Exchange, called the Washington Healthplanfinder, is an online marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses in Washington to compare and enroll in health insurance coverage.
Healthplanfinder also has a toll-free Customer Support Center up-and-running. Folks can get their questions answered about how it works, what types of health coverage will be offered, how to access financial help and what you need to know about the enrollment process that starts on Oct. 1.
Representatives will be on the line weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. by dialing 1-855-WAFINDER (1-855-923-4633) or by emailing customersupport@wahbexchange.
org. Help will be available in up to 175 languages.
And you’re always welcome to call my office (360.786.7800) or email me (email@example.com) with questions or comments—on the ACA, the revenue forecast or anything else that’s on your mind! It’s an honor to serve you.