What we've accomplished
Times are tough for everyone, and when times are tough it's essential that government make strategic and effective spending cuts. A lot of politicians talk the talk about making tough decisions and getting government to work better for our hard-working taxpayers, but I don't just talk. I walk the walk.
When I entered office at the beginning of 2009, I was shocked to discover that one of our agency's major accounts was being driven into the red. An account that had previously held $30 million was mere weeks away from being at $0. I had to cut spending and make some very difficult decisions, but through sound management we were able to right the ship and slowly bring the account back to health.
I also worked to improved efficiencies in our fire-fighting department. DNR protects more than 12 million acres of forested landscape on both public and private lands, which makes us the largest on call fire department in the state of Washington. Improving our operations allowed for cost-savings that have been essential for maintaining our other crucial services, despite shrinking budgets.
While the state budget is getting considerable attention, it's important to recognize that state government isn't the only one hurting. Our counties have been hit extremely hard by the recession and are in desperate need of some relief, which is why I'm doing all I can to help them through these tough times.
Through prudent management of resources and a recovering timber market, the department has accumulated a surplus in the Forest Development Account, a fund we use to manage forestlands for timber counties. I proposed distributing $10 million of this account back to the counties who need it, and I am pleased to see that the Governor and both houses of the legislature have put this proviso into their budgets. These counties, many of them rural, use these funds to provide police, libraries and other basic services that have suffered as a result of the economic downturn.
Priorities for next term
Sounds management is as much about a state of mind as it is about a specific list of actions. In my first term I have emphasized the need to find efficiencies, do more with less, and make government work better for the people of Washington. I will carry these same principles forward to my next term in office. Over the next few years, I will focus on continuing to look for opportunities to partner with other state agencies to share resources wherever possible. Doing so will make us more efficient and save the taxpayers money.
I also want to look within my own agency to find creative ways to do our work more effectively. DNR currently does tremendous work for conservation, protecting working forestlands, vital aquatic environments and unique ecosystems that are in danger of conversion. Though various elements of the agency work with slightly different objectives, the ultimate goal is the same: preserve natural ecosystems so that future generations can enjoy a Washington rich with species diversity and natural life, just as we have. Where possible, we should not simply protect an aquatic environment without recognizing that the surrounding uplands have an enormous impact on our ability to protect the watershed and those species that depend on it. By increasing collaboration and coordination within our agency, I believe we can better deliver on one of our vital missions.