With 2017 coming to a close, holiday season in full swing, and the 2018 Legislative Session nearly upon us, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the work of this past year and share what is on the horizon in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor in 2018.
Though presiding over the state senate takes much of my time during the legislative session, the mission and focus of my office continues to be advancing a prosperity agenda, characterized by connecting Washingtonians to opportunity around the state and around the world by focusing on three key areas: ensuring broader access to higher education, connecting local companies and communities to international opportunities, and working to create a more inclusive economy.
As I have traveled around Washington, meeting with communities and hearing from business, labor, and education leaders, I have seen the urgent need to ensure every community in Washington state is connected to the educational resources, institutional support, and technological infrastructure that drive economic development.
This year I was pleased to announce the creation of three initiatives focused on expanding access to higher education. Early in the year Congressional budget cuts and changes to federal education spending ended critical funding usually provided to subsidize Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exam fees for low-income students. In response to the deficit created by these cuts, I established the AP Access Fund, a public-private partnership in collaboration with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the College Success Foundation. The initiative raised over $800,000 in public and private funds to ensure that nearly 15,000 low-income students in Washington state could take their AP and IB exams for free, and earn college credit.
As part of our ongoing efforts to create a college-going culture, my office launched the Complete Washington Initiative, which aims to re-engage the nearly 750,000 adults in Washington who have attended college but have not received a degree. Working in collaboration with Western Governors University, and partners across the education spectrum, the initiative will work to reduce the very real barriers to college re-entry and completion for adults, including affordability issues, geographic limitations, and family or career obligations. Moreover, it will help create flexible pathways to a college degree that recognizes and rewards critical prior work experience and education, and connects valuable skills gained through military service, apprenticeship programs, and other experience to a post-secondary credential.
My final education initiative of the year, launched in conjunction with the Association of Washington Generals, is the Washington World Fellows program, which offers students in their 10th grade year the opportunity to study in Léon, Spain while receiving college credit. At the heart of this initiative is the mission to give students who would not otherwise have a similar opportunity a chance to participate in an academic and study abroad experience that will support their trajectory into college, enhance their high school academics, and afford them a new sense of global awareness. I look forward to welcoming our first class of fellows in 2018. If you would like to support the Washington World Fellows please consider making a donation at www.waworldfellows.org.
At Governor Inslee’s request, I have had the honor of representing our state overseas, working to strengthen international friendships, connect small and medium size businesses to international markets, recruit and retain new companies to struggling areas of Washington state, and bring in foreign direct investment to key industries that will sustain jobs here at home.
Traveling to Canada, China, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates, our office promoted bi-national investments in clean energy and carbon reduction, commemorated decades-long sister-state relationships, connected companies representing Washington’s agriculture, technology, life sciences, and education sectors to export opportunities, and brought new partners in innovation and entrepreneurship to Washington state.
Washington is the most trade-driven state in the country, and our globally-facing economy is part of our strength. In the year ahead, I look forward to continuing to promote Washington and each of our key industries on the international stage, and to creating international opportunities for small and medium size businesses in every region of the state.
But international trade must be accompanied by meaningful investments back at home. As Chair of the joint Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations, I recently convened a legislative work session on rural broadband expansion, where committee members were briefed on the negative impact to economic development, healthcare, and education that lack of broadband access has on Washington’s underserved communities. As Chair of the joint Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations, I recently convened a legislative work session on rural broadband expansion, where committee members were briefed on the negative impact to economic development, healthcare, and education that lack of broadband access has on Washington’s underserved communities. Rural and tribal communities are particularly hard-hit by lack of investment in broadband infrastructure, but the effects are felt in every industry, from technology to agriculture. Ensuring the inclusion of rural and tribal communities in Washington’s economy requires statewide efforts to connect every corner of our state. This coming year, building on the work of this committee, my office will work to identify and support proposals to extend and expand broadband access across the state.
In November, I joined with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and national partners in business, labor, and public policy in launching Accelerator for America, a public-private partnership that works to identify and bolster initiatives in Washington state and around the country, specifically in infrastructure, job creation, and workforce training.
In closing, it has been an immense pleasure serving as your lieutenant governor this past year, and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish in such a short time. We in Washington are blessed with so much: a thriving economy, unparalleled natural beauty and bountiful natural resources, and strong diverse communities that together make this state an amazing place to live and work. My focus has been, and will continue to be, ensuring this prosperity is shared in every corner of the state, and working to ensure every Washingtonian has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
I wish you and your family a happy, healthy holiday, and I look forward to working with you in the New Year.