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Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this email finds you well.
The last time I sent an email update, it was to invite you to my Zoom town hall meeting in May. I would like to thank those of you who participated in the event. We had 85 attendees and a great discussion on the 2021 legislative session and important issue impacting our communities and state. I encourage you to participate in future events and will be sure to send out invitations.
Economic and Revenue Forecast Council
I continue to serve on the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. This council forecasts economic activity and tax revenue for Washington state.
On June 23, more good news was revealed for our state's tax collections. In comparison to the March revenue forecast, state revenue increased by $838 million for the 2019-21 budget cycle and the projection for 2021-23 increased by $1.798 billion. This equates to about $2.64 billion more revenue over four years.
In this article in The Seattle Times from a day later, I am quoted as saying: “It think it's time to start looking at tax relief.” I will continue to push for tax relief the rest of the year and throughout the 2022 legislative session. The best place to start would be by providing property tax relief.
A new payroll tax facing many Washington workers
Over the last three years, Democrats have unfortunately had a different mindset and passed several new taxes/tax increases. You can find that list here.
One of these measures, passed in 2019 and now about to take effect, established a new payroll tax for Washington workers that will fund a new Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Program. Basically, by creating and administering the new WA Cares Fund, the state of Washington is now in the long-term care insurance business. Most Washington workers will be automatically enrolled in the state program, including a payroll tax, unless they choose a private plan, notify the state, and receive state approval to opt out.
This story explains the new payroll tax, new state program, and the options facing Washington workers: Deadline coming on WA long-term care: private or state plan?
My Communications staff created this web page to provide facts: FAQ: Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Program.
I joined my House Republican colleagues in opposing and voting against this bill in 2019. Perhaps long-term care insurance is the right decision for you. I believe it is your own personal choice and financial decision – one that the state should not be making for you, nor taxing more money from you.
Changes to policing laws already having real-life consequences
With the backdrop of national events and the “defund the police” movement, policies relating to policing were front and center in the 2021 legislative session. Numerous bills were introduced and considered. Unfortunately, the majority party overreached with some of their policies, and it has already resulted in real-life consequences that have made communities less safe.
The two measures receiving the most attention are House Bill 1310 (Concerning permissible uses of force by law enforcement and correctional officers) and House Bill 1054 (Establishing requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers.). These bills were passed by the majority – despite bipartisan opposition – and went into effect on July 25.
You can find stories that explain how these policies are playing out in the real world at this link. I have to credit the media: they have understood and reported the problems these policies created. Here is a sampling:
- Deputies searching for suspect after man shot dead in Puyallup parking lot (Q-13 TV)
- State Patrol says troopers were unable to pursue wrong way driver because of new law (KOMO TV)
- DV suspect evades police as officers adhere to legislative changes (Spokane Police Department)
- Tri-Cities woman slashes tires on 3 cop cars. New law kept police from stopping her sooner (Tri-City Herald)
- New restrictions on Washington state police may lead to spike in crime (Q-13 TV)
I believe the Legislature needs to fix House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054 as soon as possible. And I support a special session to do it – it is that important. I also have concerns with Senate Bill 5051 (Concerning state oversight and accountability of peace officers and corrections officers), another controversial measure that has not received as much media attention, which I think will result in good people leaving law enforcement and others not pursuing the noble profession.
It is unfortunate that these three bills passed and are causing so much confusion and damage. More concerning is that in addition to these bills limiting law enforcement, the majority also allowed early release of offenders. This means more criminals on the streets with fewer law enforcement officers around to protect you.
These bad bills overshadow other good, bipartisan legislation related to policing that passed this year.
Governor's vaccine mandate announcement
As a news conference yesterday, Gov. Inslee announced a vaccine mandate for most state employees, private health care workers, and long-term care workers. The impacted workers have until October 18 to be fully vaccinated or they face dismissal from employment. You can find his news release here.
I understand the concerns that the Delta variant has raised. I am supportive of those who have chosen to be vaccinated. However, I am against state government forcing anyone to get the shot and especially opposed to taking away someone's employment if they don't comply. To get vaccinated is a personal health care choice and we should not threaten or punish those who choose not to do it.
Once again, the governor is making controversial decisions under his emergency powers that impact tens of thousands of Washingtonians. Yet, these Washingtonians and their elected state lawmakers have been shut out of the decision-making process. This is another example of why we need emergency powers reform. Other legislatures across the county have enacted reforms on their executive branches over the last year or so.
Visiting with constituents and groups
Over the last three months, I have had the opportunity to visit with more constituents and groups in the district – more so than last interim. I really missed these meetings and have enjoyed talking to people face-to-face. I enjoyed my visit to the Southwest Flexible Training (SWFT) Center at Centralia College. I also had the chance to tour the new Toledo High School, which is nearing completion. Three-dimensional, in-person and on-site meetings are so much better and productive than 2-D computer meetings.
While the Legislature is not scheduled to return until January 2022, I am your full-time state representative. I am here to listen, respond, and help you with your interactions with state government. Please don't hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.
408 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7990 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000