Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The pace of session this last week slowed down quite a bit compared to the mad scramble of the previous few weeks. We're now hearing Senate bills in our House committees and the Senate is holding public hearings on the bills that passed the House. This time of the legislative session seems to be a time to “catch your breath” after the hectic pace of the first cutoff date. Our days are still full of committee hearings, strategy sessions and constituent and stakeholder meetings, but it's nice to be able to get home before midnight!
One of the bills we heard this week in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was Senate Bill 5187. This bill would give people the right to protect their animals from wolf attacks. It was sponsored by 7th District Sen. John Smith. His seatmate in the 7th District, and my friend and colleague, Rep. Shelly Short, sponsored similar legislation that died here in the House. The bill simply authorizes the owners of livestock and domestic animals to kill a gray wolf without a permit or license if the predator is in the act of attacking or posing an immediate threat to livestock or pets. As Rep. Short said in a press release on this issue:
“Right now, many livestock and pet owners in this state are being held hostage to an unrealistic and unnecessary standard when it comes to wolf predation. There are people and organizations behind the wolf recovery effort that are either ignorant of our rural lifestyle or simply don't care about the threat to animals and humans that wolves can pose,” said Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, and sponsor of similar legislation in the House. “This bill would provide a simple and very legitimate tool for those who would like to save their pets from being killed by wolves.”
If we're going to get this bill through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, we're going to need your help. If you are interested in this issue, I encourage you to contact committee members and urge the bill's passage so it can receive a final vote in the House and be sent to the governor's desk for signature. Committee member contact information can be located here: http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Committees/AGNR/Pages/MembersStaff.aspx. The toll-free hotline to contact committee members is 1-800-562-6000.
Over Ten Billion Dollars in new taxes? You heard me correct. If you added up all the tax bills introduced by the majority party in Olympia, it would amount to over $10 billion!! Of course we all know that not each and every one of these bills is going to pass – but the fact remains, there is still a strong desire in Olympia to raise your taxes. We've seen proposals to:
- Increase the state “death tax”
- Increase the state sales tax
- Introduce a state income tax
- Reinstate the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax
- Impose a 10 cent per gallon increase on fuel
- A new tax on ammunition and ammunition components
These are just a few of the proposals we've seen this year. And again, because the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for tax increases was struck down by the state Supreme Court after several Democrats and education organizations sued the state, any one of these new or increased taxes can be imposed with a simple majority vote.
Do we need new taxes? Hardly. The new state revenue forecast came out this week. Our state is expected to take in about $58 million more than previously forecasted for the remainder of the 2011-13 biennium. Because of “sequestration” impacts from the federal government, our revenues are expected to be down by about $19 million in the 2013-15 biennium and $48 million for the 2015-17 biennium. With a budget that hovers around $32 billion, and with the state expected to take in about $2 billion more in revenues during our next budget cycle, the argument for tax increases is a lame one.
Rep. Terry Nealey from Dayton is our lead Representative on the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. As he stated this week:
“Although we discuss the revenue forecast in terms of numbers, there are real stories of families across the state who are still struggling and sad consequences of the Legislature's failure to address high unemployment. For the past five years since the economy has taken a nose dive, the majority party has spent very little time on job creation. This year, out of thirteen job-creation bills proposed by House Republicans, only one passed the House.
“This revenue forecast sets the stage for two very different approaches in the Legislature. House and Senate Democrats have made it no secret they want to raise taxes, which I believe would further damage the small gains we have made in Washington's economic recovery. House Republicans stand with Governor Jay Inslee and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus against tax increases. We believe the state budget should be crafted upon the priorities of government – funding education first, taking care of our state's most vulnerable, and ensuring public safety. We should also redirect the remaining five weeks of this legislative session toward improving the private sector job market. If we want to ensure better revenue forecasts in the face of federal sequestration and other economic challenges, we simply must get Washington working!”
I'll continue to work against tax increases and FOR legislation that eases the burden on employers around the state so we can get folks back to work. Thanks again for reading my e-newsletter. It is an honor to serve you in Olympia.