Friends and Neighbors,
Just six more days remain in the 2020 legislative session. Monday was fiscal committee cutoff and today was opposite house cutoff. These legislative deadlines narrow down the bills under consideration by the Legislature. The House plans to convene tomorrow to vote on legislation.
Below is an update on some of the larger issues that are still being considered by state lawmakers. Thank you for reading. I welcome your feedback.
House supplemental operating budget
The House supplemental operating budget passed on a 55-39 vote on the night of February 28. It was a partisan process and ultimately a party-line vote. While some important issues were addressed in this proposal – like behavioral health, homelessness and early learning – it spends too much, saves too little and commits our state to unsustainable spending obligations. More importantly, it provides no property tax relief. It's not a responsible approach. Therefore, I voted “no.”
Our state has a $2.4 billion budget surplus. As the chair of the Economic Revenue and Forecast Council, I've had a front-row seat to our state's extraordinary tax collections. These record tax collections are fueled by a strong state and national economy, rising home values and other unique scenarios. I believe the state should share this prosperity by providing working families with property tax relief.
Alternative budget solutions for tax relief
House Democrats had an opportunity to provide tax relief through their supplemental operating budget, but chose a different approach. They also voted down two alternatives House Republicans put forward in the form of amendments. Both proposals basically took what the governor proposed in supplemental appropriations, without tapping the rainy-day fund, and would have provided meaningful tax relief.
Our first alternative budget solution would have provided $30 car tabs (approved by voters), the Working Families Tax Credit, and some sales tax exemptions.
Our second solution would have provided meaningful property tax relief. This proposal is based on and references House Bill 2954 – a measure I prime sponsored to provide property tax relief to Washingtonians over a three-year period. You can learn more about this bill in this news release. I also discussed using part of the $2.4 billion budget surplus for property tax relief in my recent video update.
It's our duty to our citizens to put forth alternatives that include items important to you. That's what we did and what we will continue to do.
House supplemental transportation budget
The House supplemental transportation budget is a different story. It had bipartisan input from the beginning of the legislative session, and this is reflected in the 97-1 vote on February 28. This proactive proposal reflects the priorities of the state, including special needs transportation, ensures that projects that were paused by the governor would proceed, and has minimal impact on preservation and maintenance, while honoring the will of the voters by accommodating implementation of $30 car tabs.
My colleague, Rep. Andrew Barkis, did a great job negotiating this budget, providing ideas and advocating for $30 car tabs. I have served as ranking member on the House Transportation Committee and have been in these negotiations before. It's long, hard work, but very worthwhile when it all comes together at the end. While there are still final negotiations that need to take place with the Senate, I'm confident the Legislature will pass a bipartisan budget that keeps our state's transportation system moving forward.
House supplemental capital budget
Like the transportation budget, the capital budget is usually a bipartisan process and plan that takes the needs of the whole state into consideration. In supplemental years, like we are in this year, there is less opportunity to fund new projects, because state lawmakers are simply making midcourse adjustments to the two-year state budget. This is especially true for the capital budget, in which large investments and decisions are made in odd-numbered years. I will have more details on this budget in my next email update.
Big issues still under consideration
In the last few days, we will reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of policy bills and budgets, as well as pass any bill necessary to implement the budgets.
Other important pieces of policy have been voted on or are still under consideration. Here are two bills of interest that might make headlines in the news:
Senate Bill 5395 | Comprehensive sexual health education
- This bill passed the House. I voted against it. The content to be taught and age at which it would be taught is inappropriate. Local school districts with locally elected boards need to decide what is appropriate for their students in their community.
House Bill 1110 | Low-carbon fuel standard
- This bill passed the House. I voted against it. It is now being considered in the Senate. I continue to oppose this measure because it would increase the costs of gas, diesel, goods and services, while having very little benefit for air quality.
Telephone town hall
I hosted a telephone town hall with Sen. John Braun on the evening of February 25. At one point, we had 492 people on the call. We want to thank everyone who took time out of their evening to participate, ask questions and answer poll questions. We also appreciated the opportunity to provide updates on the legislative session.
My seatmate, Rep. Richard DeBolt
My seatmate, Rep. Richard DeBolt, announced he is not seeking re-election this November. You can watch his floor speech from February 6 here. We will be honoring him next week through a House resolution.
Richard has been a strong and effective advocate for our communities for almost 24 years in the Washington State House of Representatives. His legacy and legislative accomplishments will be felt for generations to come.
Richard is also my good friend. He was here when I arrived in 2002 and we have worked on many issues together over the years. I will miss his friendship and policy expertise.
So many of you have contacted me this year by email, phone and letters. I have done my best to respond in a thorough and timely manner. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate hearing from you. As a state lawmaker, I must consider so many different issues. Input from constituents helps shape my views as I vote on bills and amendments.
Please keep the communications coming. And as we transition into interim, please remember I am your state representative year-round. I am here to listen, answer questions and assist you with state government.