The View from Washington State: Looking Back at the 2012 Election, Looking Ahead to the 2013 Legislative Session

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a monthly series from Microsoft called “The View from Washington State”. The View from Washington State provides insight and commentary on topics and trends of importance to technology, education, corporate citizenship and public policy in Washington State.

Posted by DeLee Shoemaker
Senior Director of State Government Affairs, Microsoft

With more than 90 percent of the ballots now counted, the ads have stopped, the signs have been put away, and most of the dust has settled on Washington’s 2012 elections. 

Democrats dominated the statewide races, with President Obama easily carrying Washington; Jay Inslee narrowly defeating Rob McKenna for Governor; incumbent Maria Cantwell winning re-election; Susan DelBene, Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck taking the three open Congressional seats; and Democratic candidates winning every other statewide race except Secretary of State.

Governor-elect Inslee will face a number of significant challenges when he moves into the Governor’s Mansion, including how to close a budget gap of approximately $2 billion while making strategic investments to improve our state’s transportation, K-12 and higher education systems to accelerate recovery and support economic development and job growth. To help him get off to a good start in attacking these challenges, Microsoft Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs and General Counsel Brad Smith has agreed to join the Inslee Transition Team alongside fellow co-chairs Washington State University President Elson Floyd and Renton School Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel.

In agreeing to serve, Brad emphasized Microsoft’s commitment to relentless reinvention. “At Microsoft, one has to come to work every day with the knowledge that continuous improvement is essential, not just for success, but frankly, even for survival. Ours is an environment where we need to keep innovating, and we need to find ways to drive innovation through a large organization.” He said this commitment can also help state government build upon Washington’s existing strengths and address its current challenges. 

Meanwhile, the election results won’t change the basic make-up of either the state Senate or the House of Representatives. However, the outcome of several ballot measures will mean changes in Olympia and across our state:

  • Referendum 74 affirmed the Legislature’s decision to authorize marriages for same-sex couples. This measure was strongly supported by Microsoft as part of our commitment to diversity and equity in our workplace and our community.
  • Initiative 1240 was approved, authorizing the creation of up to 40 public charter schools over the course of the next five years. Microsoft also supported this initiative because well-run charter schools have produced extremely positive results in helping struggling students elsewhere around the country. We believe that they can be an important education option for teachers, students and parents here in Washington, just as they are in 41 other states across the country.
  • Voters also approved Initiative 1185, Tim Eyman’s latest effort to impose a two-thirds majority requirement on the legislature when raising taxes. Microsoft opposed this measure as irresponsibly constraining lawmakers’ options in dealing with the fiscal challenges brought on by the recession. However, voters sent a strong message that they wanted to see reduced government expenses and taxes, as evidenced by passage of I-1185, their vote to reduce the state debt limit and votes on two non-binding advisory ballots regarding recent tax increases.

Lawmakers will again face a significant budget deficit in light of the Supreme Court decision in the McCleary education funding lawsuit. So the voters’ position on taxes and spending will make careful prioritization of resources the key to creating a balanced budget for the 2013-15 biennium.

As Microsoft prepares for the 2013 session, our focus in Olympia will again be on a balanced agenda that both enhances our quality of life in the state, and creates a stronger employment climate by reducing business costs. We will continue to advocate for strategic investments in the physical infrastructure on which our economy depends. And when it comes to both K-12 and higher education, we will encourage lawmakers to look not just at funding levels, but instead to identify specific outcomes necessary to create an education system for the 21st Century, and then strategically invest to produce those outcomes.

It all adds up to another challenging year in Olympia.

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