Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2021 legislative session has not been easy. Holding committee hearings, floor debate and even constituent meetings has had its challenges. While lawmakers are making the best of the situation, the in-person and face-to-face work on legislation and floor debate is truly missing. We have almost 20 new House members this year and building those working relationships benefits both sides of the aisle. However, we are pushing forward.
House Republicans introduce real solutions budget
Last week, House Republicans introduced a “real solutions” operating budget proposal. It is a rarity for the minority party to do this. However, we felt it was necessary to show where our priorities lie, and that a budget can be put together with existing revenue and not raise taxes.
It uses about $1.8 billion from the state's rainy-day fund, but I believe the COVID pandemic would qualify as a good time to use rainy-day funds. It also cuts taxes by approximately $445 million and breaks a cycle of unsustainable spending increases, which have averaged 16% over three biennia. Spending has increased almost 80% since 2012.
Here are some of the highlights:
For additional information and details on the budget check out these links:
What about Phase 3?
A couple of weeks ago the governor moved all regions in his “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” plan to Phase 2. This is good news. However, we are still under a “state of emergency” by proclamation, despite businesses opening, kids back in school, sports starting back up and COVID rates dropping. I am unsure of when the “emergency” can be declared over, but we must not be complacent and need to continue forward.
What is Phase 3? We do not have the answer to that yet. We need some guidance or direction. If you want citizens to buy into a plan, it is essential we have one in place, with an expectation of what is next so we can work toward that goal.
The people in the 12th District and Washington state are working hard to follow the guidelines while being safe and responsible, and we must continue to trust them as we push ahead.
No plan will be without risk, but we must also consider the negative impact the closures and prolonged isolation has had on the mental health of our young and old. The personal sacrifices made have been significant.
It is time to take the next step. House Republican leadership has asked the governor's office for some clear direction on the next phase or plan. I am hopeful we will have details soon – every step forward allows us to put some normalcy back in our lives and communities.
Legislation we are keeping an eye on
In the House, we are tracking several pieces of legislation. Here are some bills that could benefit our economy and individuals struggling with property taxes:
- House Bill 1170 would strengthen and build our economy by establishing a goal to double manufacturing jobs and firms over the next 10 years.
- House Bill 1263 would put in place a rural infrastructure competitive grant program.
- House Bill 1410 would repeal heavy penalties on delinquent property tax payments. This should help those who are struggling to pay their property taxes, especially during these difficult economic times.
- House Bill 1438 would expand eligibility for the senior and disabled veteran property tax relief program by excluding common medical expenses from calculation of income for purposes of eligibility.
The bills listed below are concerning:
- House Bill 1496 would create a new income tax on capital gains. No other state in the country has an excise tax on capital gains. It is a very volatile tax and our state Department of Commerce for many years pointed out not having an income tax was a competitive advantage for employers.
- House Bill 1091 would mandate a low-carbon fuel standard. It is a costly and ineffective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It could substantially increase fuel prices.
- House Bill 1054 would severely limit the training, tactics and equipment law enforcement can use. We want to ensure our law enforcement officers are accountable, but at the same time we do not want to hamper their ability to do their job effectively and safely.
Below are some high profile bills that appear to be dead this session. They did not make it out of their fiscal committees before the cutoff deadline. However, because they do have fiscal implications there is always a chance they could be tied to the budget down the line.
- House Bill 1084 would have restricted energy choice and increased energy costs by restricting natural gas use in homes and commercial buildings. It also would have negatively affected the energy reliability in our region and the diversity of Washington's energy portfolio.
- House Bill 1499 would have decriminalized the possession of drugs. This is a public safety issue and also gives the perception that drugs are acceptable. We should focus more attention on prevention and services.
- House Bill 1299 would have lowered the B&O tax on hospitality businesses for four years. This was legislation we were pushing to assist the many businesses impacted by the COVID restrictions and shutdown.
Remember to check out the websites below to follow the Legislature this session:
- The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process. Check it out!
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online. This will be an important tool with the session being “virtual.”
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any concerns or questions you may have regarding this email update or our state government.
It is an honor to represent the 12th District!