Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are nearing the halfway point of the 60-day legislative session and today is the policy committee cutoff. Any bills not out of their original policy committees – like Education, Environment or Judiciary – are considered “dead” for the session. We now enter into an intense few days of appropriations-related committee hearings where any bill that has passed a policy committee and contains a fiscal impact must be approved by the appropriate fiscal committee. I expect a long day on Saturday with over 40 bills on the schedule for the House Appropriations Committee where I have served for several years. We'll then work late into the evening on Monday and most likely Tuesday night as we strive to meet the fiscal committee deadline.
Just because we have it doesn't mean we have to spend it
We continue to have record tax collections coming in to state coffers. And, at the end of the 2019-121 budget cycle, we're expected to have about $1.7 billion in the state's rainy day fund, or Budget Stabilization Account. It's very possible that these facts, combined with Democrats now controlling the state Senate, have led to the uptick in bills with large fiscal notes.
But this “spend it if you got it” mentality is not prudent. It seems many have forgotten the state recession from just a few years back. While our state and national economy are strong at the moment, many believe we're due for another recession in the near future. Having a healthy reserve in the state's rainy day fund will help us avoid the budget roller coaster of years past.
It's called a supplemental budget for a reason
The major problem with spending money on new ideas or programs now, in the middle of the biennium, is that every dollar spent now in ongoing programs equates to two dollars when we sit down to write the next biennial budget in 2019. Legislators often try to get their program approved during this time because they can “show” a smaller cost associated with it. But then the bill really comes due in two years.
As this is a supplemental budget year, my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus and I try to follow a strict set of rules that help guide our budgetary decisions:
- Is this an unanticipated, unmanageable change in an entitlement program workload or caseload;
- Does this correct a serious technical error in the original appropriation;
- Does this deal with an emergency;
- Does this address an opportunity that will not be available next biennium.
If the bill before me doesn't meet one of those four criteria, it's an easy “no” vote during supplemental budget years. Remember, the 2017-19 operating budget was signed into law barely seven months ago. If an appropriation was that important, we would have dealt with it last session.
A state income tax? Yes, if the cities of Seattle and Olympia have their way
Voters in Washington state have rejected a state income tax or graduated income tax 10 times, most recently in 2010. And yet some in Olympia – and Seattle – continue to push this issue.
Voters in the city of Olympia recently rejected a city income tax in November 2016, but the Seattle City Council approved a city income tax in July 2017. Despite a King County Superior Court Judge ruling in November 2017 that Seattle's local income tax is indeed illegal, some Democrats vow to fight on in the court system.
This tactic isn't new. There are some who view the Legislature – and the people we represent in our districts – as mere obstacles to their whims. If I voted for an income tax (which I have no intention of doing), my constituents could very well vote me out of office. But are you going to remember the name of the state Supreme Court Justice who legislates from the bench? Probably not. And you're not going to muster the votes to counter the influence of King County and Seattle who cast votes for the justices as well. This “end run” around the Legislature is not what our founding fathers intended when establishing the three branches of government. It's disingenuous and dangerous.
I'll continue to use every legislative strategy I can to fight against a state income tax being approved in the Legislature. But we must remain vigilant to the attempted “end run” by cities like Seattle and Olympia.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter. Please pass this along to friends and family you know who might be interested in what's happening in Olympia. It is an honor and privilege to serve you in the state House of Representatives.