I have returned to Olympia this week for my second term as the Senator who proudly represents the 40th Legislative District. I was re-elected in November as an outspoken advocate for working people and Washington jobs, women's reproductive rights and a champion for equality, education and the environment. These core values remain my focus as I begin my second term.
I believe the people of Washington look at the problems facing us as a state and want to see solutions that get results while reflecting their values. This last election strongly underscored this notion when voters elected pro-choice, pro-education, pro-jobs and pro-environment candidates in unprecedented numbers at the state and federal level.
I believe these values are important to my constituents in the 40th Legislative District, and important to an overwhelming majority of Washingtonians. Upon returning to Olympia this week, what will drive my agenda is a recognition that in order to leverage our strengths and move our state forward, a recommitment to not only these core values, but also specific strategies to advance them is critical.
Washington needs a K-12 system that gives every student the chance to succeed in the 21st century global economy. This necessitates funding our constitutional obligations, targeting our investments on key student outcomes and focusing on programs with the greatest impact on student success. This also means committing to a higher education system that innovates to add value, grow capacity and drive 21st century innovation while dedicating ourselves to preserving opportunities that allow lower- and middle-class families to better afford and plan for tuition such as the Guaranteed Education Tuition, or GET, program.
Also important are a number of environmental issues that will spur economic growth in the 40th Legislative District and Washington state. These include but are not limited to measures addressing climate problems such as carbon impacts and ocean acidification, expanding our renewable energy sector and the hundreds of associated jobs. Our state is already a leader in advancing green energy, increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but we need to do even more to grow our green energy sector. I look forward to working with Gov. Jay Inslee to advance this critical agenda and create Washington jobs. We've created thousands of jobs in the last few years either directly through the transportation and capital budget, or indirectly through creating opportunities for small businesses. I will continue to advance legislation that promotes clean-energy technologies, such as expanding the program to encourage community solar projects and other important opportunities.
As the wide gap between the wealthy and the middle class continues to widen, I will continue to the fight to do everything we can to help Washingtonians stay within reach of attaining or maintaining middle class. Finishing our business and passing a fiscally responsible budget must be a priority - but that is not the only priority. I believe we must be bold and discuss the difficult issues and make progress on those issues that represent all of our constituents - which means women and Washington jobs, education and the environment. There are some thoughtful and hard discussions that will need to take place during the 2013 session. I'll do what I always have done: reach across the aisle to seek common ground and put policy ahead of politics, and the needs of the 40th at the forefront of it all.
Sen. Kevin Ranker represents the 40th Legislative District. He serves as an advisor to President Obama's National Ocean Council and lives on Orcas Island with his wife and daughter.