Hiring Our Nation’s Heroes
During my travels around the state, I hosted roundtable discussions in Bremerton, Tacoma, and Everett to get an update on my VOW to Hire Heroes Act, a veterans employment law, to see how it is making an impact in Washington state. I met with local veterans employment and service providers, as well as local veterans, to discuss VOW’s impact within the local community, ongoing challenges to implementation, and how to work together to produce better outcomes in the future.
Each year, 13,000 transitioning service men and women plan to enter civilian life in Washington state. For too long, our country didn’t do much more than pat our veterans on the back and let them venture into the job market alone. That’s why I was so proud to write and pass the VOW to Hire Heroes Act – and it’s already producing results. In Washington state, it is estimated that 85-95% of transitioning service members are taking advantage of the programs this legislation created, and nationally, veterans’ unemployment rates have dropped dramatically from double-digits, and are now at or below civilian unemployment rates. While these results are promising, I know there is more work to be done. I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that all our veterans are able to find employment.
“JBLM program fosters career transitions” – The News Tribune
Supporting our Ports
Two weeks ago, I joined with Senator Cantwell at the Port of Seattle to talk about the importance of our ports and the trade economy that’s supported our region for generations. Washington is the most trade-dependent state in our country--in fact, 40% of jobs in Washington state are tied to international trade. And every day, millions of dollars in goods move through our state’s ports, bringing in products from every corner of the globe and shipping out goods manufactured or grown here in the Pacific Northwest.
Unfortunately, some of the laws we have in place – specifically the Harbor Maintenance Tax – are actually hurting our ports and holding our economy back. Currently, the Harbor Maintenance Tax is diverting US-bound sea cargo, which should enter our country through the Port of Seattle, the Port of Tacoma, or other ports along our shores. Instead, shippers have decided it’s more cost-efficient to send those US-bound goods to Canada and Mexico first – only to ship them to the United States by truck or rail. That means fewer cargo containers coming into our ports. It means less work for longshoreman and pilots. And it means we can’t make investments in infrastructure that our ports need to be state-of-the-art and competitive. If that’s not a perfect example of an outdated law, I don’t know what is.
So that’s why Senator Cantwell and I have worked with small and large ports here in Washington state, the business community, and labor leaders to write the Maritime Goods Movement Act – which will make desperately needed improvements to the law. This legislation will change the Harbor Maintenance Tax to give shippers new incentives to move their goods through American ports – particularly those in the Pacific Northwest. We will be introducing this new legislation when the Senate returns to session in September.
Read more about the Maritime Goods Movement Act for the 21st Century.
“Senators want to ‘level playing field’ for Puget Sound ports”
- The Seattle Times
“Tax change proposed to help Puget Sound ports compete”
- Puget Sound Business Journal
Celebrating Wild Sky
I travelled to Wild Sky during my time in the state and joined with Congressman Rick Larsen, community leaders, local business owners, and environmental advocates to mark the 5-year anniversary of the Wild Sky Wilderness designation at a public community celebration in Index. We had a discussion of the impact the federal designation has had on tourism, local businesses and families, and land conservation efforts. I was so proud to be part of the efforts to designate Wild Sky as a wilderness area, and was glad to be part of this celebration.
“Those who pushed for Wild Sky Wilderness celebrate its 5-year mark”
– The Everett Herald
The Affordable Care Act: Next Phase to Begin October 1
Last week, I hosted a roundtable discussion at International Community Health Services in Seattle on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The next phase of ACA implementation starts on October 1, when enrollment in new state-based health insurance marketplaces will begin. Because of these marketplaces, across the country 25 million currently uninsured Americans are poised to get health insurance coverage. In Washington state, that means over 800,000 uninsured Washingtonians, or 15% of the state’s population, will be eligible for coverage in the marketplace. I met with health care providers, community leaders, and state health officials about the challenges and opportunities they will face as the marketplace is set up.
The Impacts of Sequestration Being Felt Across Washington State
The devastating impacts of sequestration are being felt across our state. As Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, I have been working to replace sequestration and subsequent furloughs for thousands of employees across the state by pushing my colleagues to move forward in budget negotiations. The Senate Budget I authored would fully replace sequestration with a balanced mix of revenue and spending cuts, but Tea Party Republicans have blocked efforts to move the budget process forward.
During recess, I travelled to Longview to tour a newly renovated housing facility for formerly homeless veterans. While there, officials from the Longview Housing Authority discussed how sequestration is affecting their ability to serve low-income people who need housing assistance, including veterans. I also toured a contracting company in Seattle that relies on both civilian and defense contracts, to meet with furloughed employees from JBLM and small business owners impacted by sequestration. The stories I heard at these events represent just a few of the many ways sequestration is impacting the lives of so many hardworking people across the country.
In Longview and Seattle I continued to stress the need for a balanced approach to addressing our current budget challenges that takes into consideration the need to invest in the middle-class and the resources that will help Washington state grow. I will use the stories I heard at these events to continue fighting for a balanced approach in the other Washington.
“Sen. Murray visits renovated veterans sanctuary in downtown Longview”
- Longview Daily News
“Murray tries to put a face on the sequester” - The Seattle Times
Touring Hanford, B Reactor National Historic Landmark
I was also able to tour Hanford with Department of Energy officials and community partners to view the improvements and preservation work DOE has undertaken in the five years since B Reactor was named a National Historic Landmark. The B Reactor played a critical role in the history of our nation, and I was proud to work for designation of B Reactor as a National Historic Landmark in 2008. On the tour I was able to see firsthand the wonderful progress being made at historic Hanford. I can also report that we are making progress back in Washington D.C. in passing legislation to designate this land as a National Park. The bill I co-sponsored, along with Senator Cantwell who has helped lead this effort, has passed in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and we are committed to continuing to move the bill toward passage in the full Senate. Just like I successfully fought to designate the B Reactor to become a National Historic Landmark this process will take time, but together, with the community, we will fight for the important next step of preserving the B Reactor and the other sites I saw on the tour.
“Sen. Patty Murray visits historic Hanford buildings” - The Tri-City Herald
Spokane with Secretary Shinseki
I was so honored to attend the renaming ceremony for the VA Medical Center in Spokane with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. The Mann-Grandstaff Medical Center honors the ultimate sacrifice two of our state’s native sons made to defend our country, and I was so proud to lead the charge with our Congressional delegation to help make this a reality.