OLYMPIA — Having closed a $5 billion deficit this year and still facing a recession weary economy, some members of the Legislature are getting creative in their hunt for new ways to conserve taxpayer dollars.
Every year, most members of the Legislature mail newsletters to their constituents at a moderate state expense. One state senator, Tim Sheldon of Potlach, decided to curb the trend in the hope that other legislators would follow suit.
“I have always enjoyed speaking with my neighbors in the 35th District at the grocery store or a local park, and my newsletter was an extension of those conversations,” said Sheldon. “But given the continued financial challenges facing the state, I can’t justify it at this time.”
Sheldon was allotted roughly $8,000 to send his newsletter to approximately 20,000 constituents. Sheldon declined the appropriation and instead is pioneering a different means of communicating at a greatly reduced state expense.
“As technology continues to evolve, so too do our means to reach people in new and cheaper ways,” Sheldon said. “Instead of paying to print and mail a newsletter, I’ll circulate a majority of my communications digitally from now on.”
Sheldon acknowledged that not all constituents may have internet access or a subscription to his new e-newsletters.
“This is an experiment,” he said. “Families across the state are finding new and innovative ways to cut expenses, and so are we. Perhaps once our state has more fully recovered from the Great Recession, we’ll be able to do a scaled-down newsletter to reach those without internet access, but given the cuts facing public education, healthcare and other services, I simply cannot justify the cost to taxpayers at this time.”
Sheldon expressed hope that others may follow his lead and do the same.
“I realize that this presents a few challenges for the immediate future, but remain hopeful that given some hard work and due time, this will become a viable communications practice for more legislators. While my individual choice to not send a print newsletter may be small, the aggregate potential is quite large.”
Constituents and any other interested parties can subscribe to Sheldon’s e-newsletter at www.sdc.wa.gov/senators/sheldon.