Michael Baumgartner, senator from the 6th District in Spokane, is a voice for business and jobs, higher education and smarter, more effective government. First elected to the Senate in 2010, Baumgartner is serving his second term. He is chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
In the Legislature, Baumgartner has compiled a record as a fiscal conservative who believes the state should place its emphasis on the core functions of government – education, roads and services for the most needy and vulnerable. During his first term he quickly made his mark as sponsor of a bill creating the Department of Enterprise Services. The new department improved state-government efficiency by combining several agencies providing back-office functions.
Higher education also is a major concern for Baumgartner. He was the Legislature’s prime advocate for the “tuition freeze” that halted the annual increases in tuition at public colleges and universities over the last two years and a key architect of the tuition cut included in the 2015-17 budget. During the preceding three decades, tuition has increased at a rate far faster than inflation — a seventeenfold increase at some institutions — imposing a hidden tax on students and parents to fund other state-government priorities. Baumgartner thrust the issue to center stage during the 2013 session, and that year’s budget deal was the first since 1986 that avoided a tuition hike. The 2015 tuition cut was the first in state history and made Washington the only state nationally to actually cut tuition. Baumgartner is a strong supporter of the WSU Riverpoint branch campus in Spokane, and he leads efforts in the Senate to launch an independent WSU medical school at the site.
Baumgartner is a champion of Spokane’s long-sought North-South freeway, helping secure the funding required to complete the link to Interstate 90 in the transportation package passed in 2015. Baumgartner also advocates reforms to restore public confidence in the Department of Transportation and its management of road projects.
As chairman of the Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee, Baumgartner demonstrates his interest in the small businesses that are the backbone of the economy in Spokane, Eastern Washington and statewide. The panel oversees business and labor legislation, workplace rules, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and other matters vital to job creation. Baumgartner also serves on the higher education, health care and transportation committees.
Baumgartner was born in Pullman and attended high school in Spokane. He graduated from Washington State University in 1999 with a degree in economics. At WSU he was named a Foley Scholar and a Stephenson Scholar, the top award of the honors college. Baumgartner went on to earn his master’s degree in public administration for international development at Harvard University. At Harvard he was a teaching fellow in economics.
A varied career took Baumgartner around the world as a diplomat and a business consultant, including a stint as an economic affairs officer with the U.S. State Department in Iraq. Since joining the Legislature Sen. Baumgartner has also consulted for private business groups and provided pre-deployment advisory on issues of counter-insurgency to the US military. He and his wife Eleanor have four young children.
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