Friends and Neighbors,
Last night, the House of Representatives passed legislation (Senate Bill 6130) to overturn the voter-approved Taxpayer Protection Act (Initiative 960) which required a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes.
I want you to know that I opposed this legislation. I don't believe the Legislature has set forth clear and concise priorities in dealing with our (now) $2.8 billion budget hole. My fear is that without leadership, without establishing and defining our priorities, state leaders are setting us on a perpetual course of state budget deficits. We already know that a large deficit looms before us for the 2011-13 biennium. Because legislators are making it easier to raise taxes – and setting the precedent to do so – tax increases will become the norm for future budget holes rather than the rarity.
And speaking of tax increases, here is a quick summary of tax legislation proposed in the House of Representatives this year:
- A doubling of the “death tax”
- A 1 percent increase in the state sales tax, making Washington's the highest in the nation
- A tax on candy and bottled water
- A state income tax
- A Hazardous Substances Tax (HST) increase which amounts to a 6-cent per gallon gas tax increase
However, while these are the ones that have garnered the most attention to date, the full list of tax and fee increase proposals is astounding:
- A total of 77 bills proposing tax and fee increases have been introduced thus far, for a total of over $3 billion in new state and local taxes or fees for Fiscal Year 2011.
- These same proposals would amount to over $11 billion in the next biennium! (2011-13)
At this time, we don't know what taxes and fees will be raised. But there are plenty of proposals on the table and now it only takes a simple majority in the Legislature to do so. And the Governor has now put forth her preferred list of taxes to raise – many of which will hurt employers in SW Washington leading to more layoffs in a county where we already have the highest unemployment rate in the state.
House Bill 2973 would allow military persons who are stationed in Oregon but live in Washington to qualify for resident in-state tuition rates. Spouses and dependents would also qualify. The bill passed the House unanimously and was heard Wednesday in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
House Bill 3168 would help property owners who want to appeal their property valuations even when their property's value is unchanged. If a property's value doesn't change, no notice is given, which often times leads to property owners missing the July 1 deadline to appeal. My bill, which passed the House unanimously yesterday, would help fix this “catch 22.”
I've also co-sponsored two bills to help protect our timber jobs. The first, House Bill 2541, will promote and foster economic success of the forest products industry by keeping forestry as a priority for land use. This bill passed the House and is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Natural Resource, Ocean and Recreation Committee.
The second, House Bill 2420, would give timber jobs credit for being part of the “green” economy. This bill also passed the House and is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Economic Development and Trade and Innovation Committee.
18th District Town Halls
Please join Rep. Jaime Herrera, Sen. Joe Zarelli and me at a town hall meeting this Saturday, Feb. 20.
We'll be in Woodland at the Woodland Church of the Nazarene located at 2000 Lewis River Road from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.
We'll be in Battle Ground at the Battle Ground City Hall located at 109 SW First Street from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
I look forward to seeing you soon!