State Sen. Cheryl Pflug predicts that 2008 will be a year of big decisions for Washington residents.
Pflug (R-Maple Valley), who represents the Valley and the rest of the fifth district in Olympia, recently spoke with the Valley Record on her thoughts on the past legislative session and what’s ahead for the state.
The Washington legislature is currently on a break until January of 2009, and Pflug is running for her second full term in the senate. She originally came to the job to finish Dino Rossi’s senate seat when he ran for governor in 2004.
“This is a watershed year,” Pflug said. With rising state spending, she predicts that a state income tax is around the corner. Possible rulings in state courts against Initiative 960, which requires a two-thirds majority in the state houses to raise taxes, could pave the way for a 1 percent income tax.
“I think they’re clearly laying the groundwork,” said Pflug said, whose feeling is that voters will be outraged by an income tax in Washington. “I think they need to connect the dots. The issue couldn’t be much clearer. Voters will choose between high levels of government spending, expanded size of government, and the tax increases to pay for it, or we’re going to have a priorities-of-government [approach]… that makes every dollar count.
“They are either going to say, we want what we want, we don’t care what it costs, and you’re going to get an income tax next year,” Pflug said. “Or, we’re going to have a decision from the people that’s clear in November, that says, we want to go back to priorities of government, we’re in a recession again, we need somebody that can fix this problem.
“With all these increases in spending, we’re not solving any problems,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s any state in the nation, certainly not this one, that won’t go bankrupt in the next decade, spending money the way we do,” Pflug said.
In Washington, state health care spending rose 41 percent over the last two years.
“Health care is my passion,” said Pflug, who proposes cost reductions and ways to get residents their money’s worth.
“The bottom line is, are we paying your doctor to give you what you want to keep you healthy?” she asked. “Or are we paying him to think of a reason to use the ultrasound in the back room? Unfortunately, the answer is often the latter.”
“We have a ways to go in understanding best practices and getting them implemented around the state,” Pflug said. Washington needs to “start paying your primary care doctor to think about who you are, what’s your family history, what do you need to do right now to make sure that you’re going to be a healthy 50-year-old,” and keep you out of the hospital, where costs are quickly rising.
During the past session, Pflug secured a $300,000 savings for North Bend, allowing the city to use a State Parks and Recreation Commission easement along the John Wayne Trail for water.
“That was great. In the end, we just directed the parks department to give it to them,” Pflug said. “The city has to put the right of way back the way they found it, but that was going to happen anyway.”
One of Pflug’s recent proud accomplishments was a “common sense” bill that took three years to pass, allowing legislators to put out more e-mails to residents.
Previously, legislators were restricted to two mass mailings a year, but their ethics committee considered e-mail the same as mail.
“If I have 10 people from the Snoqualmie school district that want to follow an issue, and I mail them on that issue, even though they requested it, it’s considered a mass mailing,” Pflug said. “It would eliminate me from doing a newsletter.
“It’s really hard on house members, because they’re up every other year,” she added. “Half the time, they can’t use e-mail.”