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Inside Olympia — Senate Budget Chair June Robinson, Sen. Karen Keiser’s “How To” Book for New Legislators

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When the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee stepped down earlier this year, Senate Democrats had to choose a new leader for the committee. Their choice? Senator June Robinson of Everett. 

Host Austin Jenkins sits down with Robinson for a discussion on the state’s revenue situation and the upcoming 2024 legislative session, during which lawmakers will discuss and vote on a supplemental state operating budget that tweaks the 2023-25 full budget. 

This year there’s more new money on the table than in most supplemental budget years, compliments of the state economy and two new revenue sources: proceeds from Climate Commitment Act (CCA) carbon auctions, and the state’s new capital gain tax. How should that money be spent? Sen. Robinson said spending of CCA revenue needs to remember the premise of the Act: reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “That should be our north star” in spending those proceeds.  

State agencies also have significant new budget asks. For instance, the Department of Social and Health Services has a big budget request in order to staff and operate a new behavioral health facility in south Seattle — a big request but one the state needs to fund, says Robinson. 

Are any new revenue sources on the table for 2024? Robinson comments on a proposal debated last year to change the real estate excise tax to a graduated formula, which she thinks should be aired and discussed; and a proposal for a new state “wealth tax,” which she doesn’t anticipate will move forward. 

Democratic State Senator Karen Keiser of Des Moines is the longest-serving member of the State Senate. But her recent book is targeted at legislative newcomers. Published by WSU Press, it’s entitled “Getting Elected is the Easy Part: Working and Winning in the State Legislature.” 

In it, she gives advice to newcomers to the State Capitol. Examples: 

— Change doesn’t happen on its own, it needs an agent. And you can’t do it alone, so you can’t just give fiery speeches, you need to bring others along. 

— Don’t be known as a gadfly — be serious, read, listen, and develop in-depth knowledge on issues. 

— You don’t get to do everything, you have to choose where you devote your energy. 

— Legislative staff is indispensable to the work done by legislators — so treat them well. 

— When you’re in the minority you can still have an influence on legislation; experience shows that laws are better when more voices are involved. 

In addition, Sen. Keiser shares some fascinating legislative history, including the election of women to the State Legislature. 

That and more, this week on Inside Olympia.