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Friends and Neighbors,
As week three of the legislative session ends, I wanted to provide you an update on some big issues being considered and remind you of how you can be involved in the process. As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts.
Safely reopening Washington state | Senate Bill 5114 and House Bill 1321
Yesterday, Gov. Inslee announced that two regions – which include the seven counties of Grays Harbor, King, Lewis, Pacific, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston – will be eligible to move to Phase II of his reopening plan on Monday. While this is good news for some, many counties, communities, families, and businesses continue to struggle under shutdown orders.
There is legislation that has been introduced that would move all regions in Washington state to Phase II of the governor's reopening plan. The measure, Senate Bill 5114, is sponsored by my senator, Sen. John Braun. It received a lot of support from the public in a committee hearing last week. The House companion measure is House Bill 1321.
The key word with this legislation is “safely.” I believe our businesses can be trusted to operate safely and protect their customers. And I am confident that Washingtonians will continue to take the proper precautions to protect themselves and others. Too many livelihoods are being destroyed with inadequate support systems in place for those employers struggling the most.
“Many families and businesses are in crisis, but your state government isn't.”
As my colleague Rep. Drew Stokesbary said in the Republican response to the governor's inaugural address: “Many families and businesses are in crisis, but your state government isn't. Tax collections are up by nearly 10% this biennium despite the pandemic.” He is right.
As a member of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, I can tell you that our state tax collections – often referred to as revenue – have remained resilient during the pandemic. Why is this important? Because when tax collections are strong, it means our state can continue to pay for its priorities – including programs that help those who are struggling the most.
Pushing back on news tax increases
Despite the resiliency of our state tax collections, the majority party is still pushing for new taxes or tax increases. While I do not think there is ever a good time to raise taxes on individuals, families, or employers, certainly it's not the time when our state is trying to recover from a health and economic crisis.
As ranking member on the House Finance Committee, I have a front-row seat to these efforts to raise taxes and will be leading the opposition to them. I talk about my work on this committee in this video:
Like in years past, I will help lead efforts to oppose a new income tax on capital gains. It is an unnecessary, unpredictable, and unconstitutional tax. And we know what Washingtonians think about a state income tax. Please stay tuned.
If anything, the Legislature should be looking at ways to put more money back in the pockets of Washingtonians in these turbulent times. In times like these, it is reasonable to use the state rainy-day fund and to be strategic with the federal dollars that Congressional relief packages have been provided.
REAL Recovery for Washington Act
My caucus was the first to propose a comprehensive pandemic relief package. It's called the REAL Recovery for Washington Act and it would provide more than $4 billion to: help struggling families and students; support schools; and assist small businesses. The proposal would use a large portion of the state rainy-day fund, which is one of the main reasons we have the reserve. And the plan would utilize federal funding we have received.
While the REAL Recovery for Washington Act has a large price tag, it would not commit our state to unsustainable spending obligations in the future. Rather, it is designed to be a temporary bridge until employers are able to re-open and bring employees back to work. This Crosscut article, which does not require a subscription, highlights the proposal from House Republicans and the one from House Democrats.
This is what the legislative process is all about: Putting real solutions on the table, allowing the public to weigh in, and moving forward with legislation that will help Washingtonians. It's also why Republicans called for a special session in May and continued that call throughout the remainder of 2020. Our state could have put some of these ideas in motion early instead of waiting until the third week of the legislative session.
Just a reminder: There are several ways you can participate in the legislative process. I discuss some of the ways in this recent video. Here are also some helpful links:
- Accessing the Legislature remotely
- Participating in committee hearings
- How to comment on a bill
- Committee schedules, agendas, and documents
In my next email update, I'll discuss the majority party's $26 billion transportation package and other proposals as they are released. Having been in the Legislature when the last three transportation packages were proposed, debated, and passed, I have a lot of thoughts to share. Here's a headline and story on the proposal from The Seattle Times: Gas taxes and fees could reach $1 per gallon under new Washington state transportation proposal.
Even while these proposals are being introduced, I am working on alternative proposals that use existing tax dollars to help fund transportation projects (House Bill 1249). And, I continue to work to provide property tax relief to seniors (House Bill 1438) and to small businesses and families (House Bill 1358).
Please feel free to contact me if you have ideas or questions, or need assistance navigating state government. While email is the quickest and easiest way for me to hear from you and to respond, I also welcome your calls and letters. Unfortunately, I am still not allowed to meet with you in person on the Capitol Campus with facilities being closed to the public.
Have a nice weekend.
408 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7990 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000