Heritage Center, election bills top Wyman’s wishlist
Resuming the Washington State Heritage Center project and enacting election improvements are the centerpieces of new Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s legislative package.
Wyman unveiled her 2013 legislative agenda in her office Friday morning during a gathering with members of the Capitol Press Corps. Wyman introduced several division directors and most of her executive team during the informal get-together with the media.
The Heritage Center, which would house the State Archives, State Library, historical exhibits, an educational center and other features on the Capitol Campus, was approved by the Legislature in 2007, but an economic downturn and state budget woes forced the project to be suspended before groundbreaking could begin. In 2001, the State Library was moved from the Joel Pritchard Building on the Capitol Campus to an office building four miles away, in south Tumwater.
Wyman says the improving economy and budget situation and increasing calls for the demolition of the General Administration Building (considered by some to be at risk of collapse in a strong earthquake) are signs that now is the time for the Heritage Center project to resume.
“We need to move forward with the Heritage Center and build it on the Capitol Campus so visitors of all ages can learn more about the history and heritage of our great state,” Wyman said. “It would be the one place on campus that actually highlights Washington’s past. Legislators approved it before because they knew it was a good idea, and it’s still a good idea that needs to happen.”
Other elements of Wyman’s legislative package include:
- Providing a printed Voters’ Pamphlet for all federal and state offices in even-year primary elections to give more information to voters. The price tag is about $1 million.
- Eliminating printing of the full text of ballot measures in the paper Voters’ Pamphlet, and not hold primary elections for judicial races when only one or two candidates have filed for office. These changes would save about $1.6 million per biennium.
- Repealing old statutes related to the Pick-A-Party Primary system that was replaced by the voter-approved Top 2 Primary, and repealing or amending laws that have been declared unconstitutional.
- Allowing the Combined Fund Drive program and its volunteers to legally run raffles to raise unlimited money for charity. The Combined Fund Drive moved from the state Department of Personnel to the Office of Secretary of State in 2011.
“A major issue in the campaign was the need for a printed Voters’ Pamphlet for the even-year primaries. In a primary, many voters know very little about some of the candidates for federal, statewide, legislative and judicial races. A primary Voters’ Pamphlet would give voters needed information on candidates before they fill out their ballots,” Wyman said.
Wyman will ask legislative budget leaders to restore the State Productivity Board, which was frozen for two years by the 2011 Legislature. Created in 1982, the board oversees incentive programs that encourage public employees to offer innovative ideas to help the state save money.
The Productivity Board’s two incentive programs, the Teamwork Incentive Program and the Employee Suggestion Program, resulted in nearly $60 million in savings. There was $9.48 in savings for every dollar spent by the program.
“It’s amazing that these programs have saved nearly $10 for every dollar spent. It’s clear that the Productivity Board has helped the state save money thanks to ideas offered by state employees. The Legislature needs to bring this program back,” Wyman said.
Former Governor Gregoire’s final operating budget proposal supports many requests by the Office of Secretary of State. The Gregoire budget, however, would reduce General Fund support for the State Library by 6.7 percent. (The State Library is a division of the Office of Secretary of State.) Remaining state support would be provided permanently by the Heritage Account, which Wyman believes should be retained for its intended purpose of construction of the Heritage Center.