Friends and Neighbors,
With the 2019 election behind us, it's now time to look ahead to what its results will mean for the 2020 legislative session in January. Front and center will be the adjustments that need to be made with the passage of I-976. Voters sent a strong message to the Legislature and other elected officials – with around 53% of the statewide vote – that they want lower car tabs.
I believe this message reflects the frustration of Washingtonians who demanded $30 car tabs, but have seen numerous increases since first passing $30 car tabs years ago.
I-976 primarily affects the multimodal account which primarily funds projects and services such as walking, biking, transit and other public transportation options. But, it does provide some funding for some transportation projects related to roads and bridges. The Legislature and governor's office are already looking into these details. Whatever those details may be, the Legislature should plan for new fiscal realities while respecting the will of the voters.
I look forward to being a part of this debate as a member of the House Transportation Committee. The backdrop for this debate will be the lawsuits that have been filed to challenge the initiative. I am very disappointed that local governments – especially transit agencies – chose lawsuits as their first response to voter-approved I-976. Whether the litigants prevail or not, the Legislature still has the ability to implement the will of the people.
If you have any questions on the impacts of I-976 to vehicle licensing fees, the Department of Licensing released this fact sheet. I will provide more information when session and the budget-negotiation process begin.
KELA Radio appearance
I joined Peter Abbarno of KELA Radio in studio last Wednesday. We discussed the passage of I-976 and how it might affect the 2020 legislative session, the state revenue forecast, and what to expect in a supplemental budget year. You can listen to the interview here.
Visit with Associated Students of Lower Columbia College
I had an opportunity to visit with the Associated Students of Lower Columbia College on November 15. Though I have toured this campus before, I accepted students' invitation to join them for a tour from their perspective. During this tour, we discussed several issues facing students at the college. I appreciated their time and their interest in the legislative process.
Committee Assembly Days
The House and Senate held Committee Assembly Days last Thursday and Friday. The House also met for this purpose back in September. These were opportunities for state lawmakers to come together, meet in committees, learn what has happened or what new issues have emerged since session ended in April, and look ahead to the upcoming legislative session.
Last week, the House Republican Caucus continued a conversation that began at a retreat last month. We discussed how many communities have become unsafe because of drug addiction and homelessness. Our group talked about how the cost of living and housing have increased for so many individuals and families. And we discussed how failures of state government have eroded the public's confidence in programs and projects.
As we prepare for the 2020 legislative session, and consider the legislation that is put forward, we will look through the lenses of safety, affordability and accountability. We will continue to advocate for policies that bring down the cost of housing and homeownership and that provide services to the homeless to enable them to stand on their own.
These are the priorities I voiced when I met with Gov. Inslee and Lewis County officials recently. Please stay tuned and share any ideas you might have on these issues and others.
The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the state revenue forecast last Wednesday. The forecast revealed that our state tax collections remain strong, which is good news for budget writers. Our state will now have $50.3 billion in revenue for the 2019-21 budget cycle. That's a $300 million increase over the September revenue forecast.
This good news is compromised by what Gov. Inslee stated was “budget savings we weren't able to realize.” Unfortunately, it was his vetoes that eliminated these savings from the state budget.
While economic times are good for our state now, we know it's just a matter of when – not if – the next economic downturn will hit. We've been down this road before when times were good in the mid-2000s. The majority party ignored warnings and increased state spending to unsustainable levels. The state was not prepared for a rainy day. When that rainy day hit, our state's finances were exposed and those who rely on state services were hurt badly.
We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past with our state spending. While we have a “rainy day” fund, we must use caution not to spend this added revenue – we need to prioritize our spending and build a stronger reserve to prepare for the next downturn.
Please contact my office
Just a reminder that while our state has a part-time Legislature, I am here to assist you year-round. My Legislative Assistant, Tori, and I welcome your calls, emails and letters. We can arrange to meet with you and to assist with casework. Please contact us at (360) 786-7990 or firstname.lastname@example.org.