Friends and Neighbors,
Week five of the remote, 105-day (15 week) legislative session is coming to close. A lot has happened in the last two weeks and I outline some of the top issues below. Thank you for reading.
I also want to remind you there are several ways to be involved with your citizen Legislature. Please visit this website to learn more.
COVID-19 relief legislation
My Republicans colleagues and I have been calling to safely reopen the state for months. Again, the key word is “safely.” We understand the devastation that the prolonged shutdown orders have had on the economy and families – including personal finances, mental health, student performance, substance abuse, crime, and other areas. We also trust employers and citizens to do what is needed to protect themselves and others.
It is important to not just say the state should reopen, but to showhow it can be done. In a recent debate on COVID-19 relief legislation, House Republicans offered amendments focused on easing burdens on working families, safely reopening schools, assisting students who have fallen behind, providing rental assistance, helping child care providers, and supporting small businesses. Unfortunately, the majority party rejected them and opted for a more limited approach.
While House Bill 1368 does some good things for our state, the Legislature could and should have done more. Its shortcomings will leave many more employers to close their shops and lay off workers permanently – and that's why I voted against the legislation.
I am supportive of a COVID-19 relief package that did not come up for a vote: The REAL Recovery for Washington Act. It is a more comprehensive approach, including utilizing the state's rainy-day fund, compared to House Bill 1368. You can compare the two packages here.
Bipartisan opposition to governor's reopening plan
It is not just Republicans who are calling to safely reopen the state. More and more Democrats and nonpartisan local health officials are criticizing the governor's reopening plan and have had some harsh criticism of it. Here are few stories that highlight this sentiment:
- Gov. Inslee touts vaccine progress and defends criticism from Democratic lawmakers on his reopening plan | The Seattle Times
- Here's what Whatcom's elected officials are saying about Inslee's COVID 'Roadmap' | The Bellingham Herald
- Counties plead with Washington state to rethink reopening plan | KING TV
The governor said he is listening to this criticism, but I don't know if he is hearing the concerns. While he did announce yesterday that he would move more regions to Phase 2 on Monday, six counties in our state will remain in Phase 1.
Worse yet, the governor has yet to develop or release information on what's next – what will subsequent phases look like and what criteria must be met for us to move into subsequent phases? He should be planning now for the next phase rather than waiting until later.
I continue to support legislation that would move all regions of the governor's reopening plan to Phase 2. There are companion bills in the Legislature: Senate Bill 5114, sponsored by my senator Sen. John Braun, and House Bill 1321.
Talking taxes on TVW
As the ranking member on the House Finance Committee, I had an opportunity to join Mike McClanahan of TVW's The Impact this week to discuss tax proposals. I was joined by my Democratic colleague, and chair of the House Finance Committee, Rep. Noel Frame. We had a good discussion about tax policy and Republican vs. Democratic approaches to it. You can watch the segment here.
As I mentioned in my last email update and a recent video, I will continue to lead the opposition to new taxes/tax increases. Our state has enough tax collections to pay for its priorities, including relief for struggling families, students, and businesses. In fact, from 2018 to 2019, we saw two-year revenue projections jump by roughly $6,000,000,000.00 with $2,500,000,000.00 more added in new taxes – triggering an 18% increase in spending. And state revenue has remained resilient throughout the last year.
The Legislature should focus on ways to allow people to keep more of their hard-earned money: tax relief – rather than tax increases. This is how state lawmakers can help families and the economy recover.
House Democrats' $26 billion transportation package
The majority party announced a $26 billion transportation package back on January 20, but still have not actually introduced the legislation for it. The Senate Democrats have also introduced a competing package. Both proposals would greatly increase transportation taxes and fees, including what you pay at the pump.
Having been in the Legislature when the last three transportation packages passed, I have seen how much time, work, and negotiations go into passing these massive spending plans. I discuss these experiences and my thoughts on the recent House proposal in this video (click on the image below):
I welcome you to contact me if you have ideas for legislation, questions, concerns, or need assistance navigating state government. Email is the most convenient way to contact me, but you can also call or send a letter to me. I look forward to hearing from you.