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Friends and Neighbors,
Due to election-year restrictions, it has been a while since I sent you an email update. I hope this letter finds you well in the new year.
The 2019 legislative session will begin on Monday and run 105 days. As a result of the November election, the House will now have 57 Democrats and 41 Republicans, while the Senate will have 27 Democrats and 22 Republicans. For the last six years, those margins were closer and it produced many bipartisan results – including state budgets, a McCleary fix and a Hirst solution. I'm hopeful this spirit of bipartisanship will continue this year, but I have some doubts given what the governor proposed last month.
Governor proposes massive, new tax increases
Last month, as he is expected to do each year, Gov. Inslee proposed an operating budget. Unfortunately, his budget relies on massive, new tax increases that would generate about $3.7 billion in the 2019-21 budget cycle and $5.4 billion in 2021-23. He's proposing:
- a new capital gains income tax;
- increasing the service business and occupation tax rate; and
- graduated real estate excise tax rates.
In other words, the governor wants more taxes on many families and small businesses.
The Legislature does not need to raise taxes. Period. In fact, our state is experiencing record tax collections – more than enough to fund its priorities. Our state should live within its means and save for a rainy day.
I was encouraged to see my seatmate and Senate Republican budget lead, Sen. John Braun, and some Democrats push back on the governor's new tax proposals. However, the battle of ideas is just beginning. I will be right in the middle of it – fighting for taxpayers. Please stay tuned and let your voice be heard.
Speaker Chopp to step down after the legislative session
In a surprise announcement in late November, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp said he would step down as Speaker after the legislative session but continue to serve as a state representative. You can watch his news conference here.
While I haven't always agreed with Speaker Chopp's policies and decisions over the years, he has prevented some bad bills from moving forward. Time will tell what this decision will mean for both the House and Senate – this legislative session and beyond.
My committee assignments
I was named ranking member on the House Finance
Committee. You can find a story on it in The Daily News here.
This committee considers issues relating to state and local tax policy,
exemptions from taxes, and changes in the administration of taxes. With the
continued push for new tax increases and additional proposals likely to emerge,
the debates will start in this committee.
My role on this committee is simple: protect taxpayers. While our state economy is strong and overall unemployment is low, many families still live paycheck-to-paycheck. What we do in Olympia should not add to these families' financial burdens and economic anxiety.
I will also serve on the following council and committees:
- House Transportation Committee, where I previously served as
- House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee;
- Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (Chair);
- Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee; and
- Joint Transportation Committee.
Other important issues
Beyond budget and taxes, there will be other important issues debated this year. For example: fixing our broken mental health system; preventing wildfires; combating homelessness; making housing more affordable; restoring salmon habitat; and there has even been talk of a new transportation tax package. I will be discussing some of these issues and others in future email updates.
I will keep you updated every two weeks throughout the legislative session. Please feel free to contact me to share your ideas or if I can be of assistance. I look forward to hearing from you.
408 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7990 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000