Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The House released its capital budget proposal for the 2017-19 biennium this week. The capital budget is often called the “bricks and mortar” budget as it includes building, construction and infrastructure projects around the state funded through state-issued bonds.
There are several projects in the 9th District that receive funding in this initial proposal, although the final version has yet to be hammered out. Some of the projects include updating the security electronics network at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, the Global Animal Health Building at WSU, renovations at the Palouse Falls Day Use area and Steptoe Butte road improvements.
There are projects around the state like updates to municipal water systems, waste water and treatment centers, youth sports fields and university and college facilities all competing for limited state resources. The capital budget is usually one of the last bills we vote on for the session and much could still change.
Protecting local manufacturing jobs
When the state has made it so expensive for local manufacturers that it's actually cheaper to buy steel and concrete from China and ship it here rather than purchase locally – we have a problem.
Our state has some of the nation's most environmentally-friendly processes and regulations – and our businesses have been leading innovators in “green” solutions – yet the state continues to purchase materials from out-of-state suppliers from China that have enormous pollution problems.
I'm cosponsoring legislation (HB 2194) to help hold the state accountable for out-of-state purchases of construction materials. Manufacturers in our state are required to show their “carbon footprint” for their actions, including production and transportation, yet we don't require that for materials purchased outside our state. This legislation requires reporting mechanisms for certain state construction projects so that we can get a clear picture why the state is purchasing from out of state. If it's cheaper, we need to know why. Some of us suspect it's our overzealous environmental regulations. If that's the case, the state shouldn't be mandating “green manufacturing” from in-state suppliers but then purchasing “dirty” products from out-of-state.
Hirst Update: revaluating affected property and the massive property tax shift
Most of you know about the Hirst decision and how it has impacted the use and development of small and large plots of land around the state. By placing the onus on the counties (who have passed it on to landowners) to prove that a “permit exempt” well will not harm instream flows by one drop of water, the court ruling effectively shut down development everywhere. You can't build without water.
While we are fighting this extremist ruling by the court and hope to have a legislative fix in place by the end of session (hopefully in SB 5239), we are also taking steps to help homeowners in case the governor or House Democrats refuse to help out.
I'm cosponsoring legislation (HB 2195) to expedite tax reassessments of properties adversely affected by the Hirst decision. In other words, if a property was worth $100,000 last summer, but because it has no available water due to Hirst and is now worth $5,000 (actual impacts via committee testimony), the property owner shouldn't be paying property taxes on $100,000. This bill would require reassessments within a year for properties affected by Hirst rather than waiting the usual three to six years for reassessments.
Another byproduct of the Hirst decision is the massive property tax shift from rural to urban areas. As more rural properties lose value, county revenues will be impacted. But those counties will shift that tax burden onto urban areas to make up the difference. This is all the more reason the Legislature MUST arrive at a Hirst fix this session. There is too much at stake for our counties and our citizens who are trying to build or have property for investment purposes. There was absolutely no need for this ruling. Our system of small permit-exempt wells has worked fine for years and has benefited our citizens and our rural areas.
We are just over two weeks away from the end of the 105-day 2017 legislative session. Thank you for staying involved and for reading my e-newsletter. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact my office. It's an honor to serve you in Olympia.