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Friends and Neighbors,

As day 47 of the 105-day legislative session ends, it has been a busy week in the Legislature.

Monday was fiscal committee cutoff, meaning bills needed to pass out of the House and Senate fiscal committee in their house of origin. I sit on two of these House fiscal committees: Finance and Transportation.

Tuesday through today included long hours in caucus going over bills and voting on them on the House floor. And, it appears we will be on the House floor voting on bills tomorrow, as well.

This 2021 session cutoff calendar shows the upcoming deadlines facing state lawmakers in the last half of the legislative session.

COVID-19 relief, still no word on Phase 3

A lot has happened in the last two weeks. Gov. Inslee signed the COVID-19 relief legislation I discussed in my last email update. He also moved all regions of his reopening plan to Phase 2, although there was a snafu with the data for one region that initially prevented it from moving forward. Fortunately, the issue was resolved quickly.

Our state – including individuals, families, communities, and small businesses – still do not have clarity from the governor and his state Department of Health on what Phase 3 will be, including the metrics he will use to advance regions forward. Yesterday at a news conference, the governor said all regions could stay in Phase 2 for the next “several weeks.” While it's good he is not looking to move us backwards, it is unfortunate that the governor has not provided a plan forward nor any transparency in his decision-making.

We know how to safely reopen our state, including businesses and schools, and what to do on a personal level to prevent spread of the disease. And, though the vaccine is being distributed, the state must step up its administration of the vaccine. I am working to get it sped up in Southwest Washington. It is time to move our state forward past the current Phase 2.

House Republican operating budget proposal

My colleagues and I entered this legislative session with an ideal: Real solutions. We spent the last half of 2020 calling for – and preparing for — a special session, which the governor refused to call. Our work included ideas to support struggling families, students, and small businesses in a COVID-19 relief package that we released early in the legislative session.

The House Republicans are the minority party. As such, we are not required to produce operating budget proposals. And in most years, the minority party does not. But things are different this year. Our budget team, led by Rep. Drew Stokesbary, drafted a budget anyway. This effort culminated in the House Republicans rolling out a proposal at a news conference on February 16.

Writing an operating budget takes a long time. It requires hundreds of decisions, careful consideration, and a lot of staff time working on the numbers. The end result is hundreds of pages of detailed documents that explain these various decisions. And the final proposal reveals legislative priorities.

House Republicans produced an operating budget proposal that prioritizes working families, students, vulnerable people, and small businesses. It does not make any cuts to vital services and does not raise taxes on anyone. In fact, it offers tax relief to working families. If you want all of the details, you can find them here.

No state spending plan is perfect

No state spending plan is perfect. In a proposal this large and broad, there will always be things I do not like. I have voted for budgets that included things I did not like, and I have voted against budgets that included things I liked, as budgets are adopted not in parts but as a whole.

On whole, I support the House Republican operating budget proposal, but there are parts I am not enthusiastic about. For example, merging the LEOFF 1 pension system with the TRS 1 pension system, which would save the state a lot of money by reducing the size of the catch-up payments to the TRS 1 pension system. The shortfall in TRS 1 is likely a failure of budget writers to make necessary contributions – payments – to the plan over several years. While skipping payments in recessions makes budgeting easier, these payments should have been made up when revenues recovered – even soared above expectations.

Overall – as a whole – this proposal offers real solutions and having the proposal on the table for consideration will offer an alternative to the tax-and-spend budget methods we have seen in the past.

Updates on my bills

House Bill 1438 would provide property tax relief to seniors with high medical expenses.

  • Status: Passed House Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee.

House Bill 1249 would use existing tax dollars to help fund transportation projects.

  • Status: Did not receive a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.

House Bill 1358 would provide needed property tax relief.

  • Status: Passed House Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee.

House Bill 1246 would allow counties to keep more of the state portion of sales tax to extend broadband infrastructure to rural areas.

  • Status: Remains in House Finance Committee following its public hearing.

Bad bills

While a lot of good, bipartisan bills are moving forward this legislative session, there are a few bad ones – legislation that I will continue to oppose. Here's a list of what I consider bad bills, but there are others:

House Bill 1496 would create a new income tax on capital gains. We do not need to raise taxes on anyone, plus this tax would be an unpredictable revenue source and should be ruled unconstitutional.

  • Status: While this House bill did not move forward, a Senate version – Senate Bill 5096 – did advance from the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

House Bill 1091 would increase fuel costs by regulating the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. Also called the low-carbon fuel standard mandate, this would increase what you pay at the pump while doing very little to improve air quality.

  • Status: We expect this bill to run on the House floor tonight or tomorrow.

House Bill 1084 would restrict energy choice and increase energy costs by restricting natural gas use in homes and commercial buildings. This would add more financial burdens on those who can least afford it.

  • Status: Remains in the House Appropriations Committee, likely exempt from deadlines for consideration.

House Bill 1285 would increase the business and occupation tax on fruit and vegetable processors if they incur a single adjudicated labor-related complaint. This would weaponize our tax code, which is something we should never allow.

  • Status: Remains in the House Finance Committee, likely exempt from deadlines for consideration.

Contact me

Please contact me with your questions, ideas, and concerns. I can also assist you in your interactions with state government. While email is the easiest way to contact me, I also welcome your calls and letters.

Sincerely,


Ed Orcutt

State Representative Ed Orcutt, 20th Legislative District
RepresentativeEdOrcutt.com
408 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
ed.orcutt@leg.wa.gov
360-786-7990 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000