Friends and Neighbors,
We've got less than a week to go before the legislative session is scheduled to end. Right now it looks like we'll make the March 13 deadline. Here's an update on the latest news from Olympia…
Tax plan threatens border communities
I've talked before about Gov. Inslee's and the majority party's proposal to raise taxes on bottled water, janitorial services, certain types of fuel, and out-of-state residents. This week we voted on that proposal in the House Finance Committee. I am very concerned about all the tax hikes, but especially about removing the sales tax exemption on out-of-state residents and the effect it will have on our local economy in the 20th District.
The plan requires non-Washington residents to pay our state sales tax at the time of sale, then fill out a form to get reimbursed later. This would add expense and nuisance to the shopping experience, turning away Oregon shoppers and devastating stores in the Longview-Kelso area which are the retail center for the Lower Columbia region. We could see serious job losses as a result.
As I sat in the committee hearing I reflected on the fact that one of my bills to encourage new jobs in the 20th District didn't get approved by the majority party. It gives tax exemptions to manufacturers of helicopter equipment. There is just such a manufacturer interested in moving to Longview and in the process providing many good-paying jobs to people in the community. So, as I said to the members of the Finance Committee, we can't create jobs but we sure can destroy them.
It was frustrating, but the good news is the plan likely won't pass the state Senate. In the meantime, I'm not giving up on my helicopter bill and hope to get it passed before the end of session.
This week the House approved the supplemental transportation budget. There were many things in the budget I supported, but the big sticking point for me was giving more money to the State Route 520 bridge replacement project in the Seattle area.
You may recall that the 520 project has had many costly problems. Two years ago it was revealed that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) erred in its design of the bridge pontoons. This expensive and preventable mistake has so far cost taxpayers more than $400 million. WSDOT spent all of its $250 million contingency fund, then came to the Legislature and asked for an additional $170 million.
The House supplemental transportation budget includes that $170 million for WSDOT, and for that reason I had to vote “no.” We put a spending cap in place for a reason, and I don't think spending caps should be ignored. We need to hold our state agencies more accountable for how they treat taxpayer dollars.
Vehicle registration bill clears Senate
I just had what they call a “good little bill” pass the state Senate. It has already been approved by the House and now heads to the governor for his signature.
House Bill 2741 says that you only have to show your valid driver's license when you first register your vehicle. Current law requires you to show your license, or a copy of your license, when you renew your vehicle every year. For most people this requirement is an additional and unnecessary nuisance. I was happy to sponsor this common-sense legislation and see it pass the House and Senate.
That's all the news for now. In my next update, two weeks from now, I'll give you a recap of the end of session. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns.