Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we head into the last three weeks of the 105-day 2019 legislative session, deliberations around the next two-year spending plan continue. At this point, both the House and Senate have passed their respective versions, mostly along party lines. Now, the two sides will get together to iron out their differences so that we can adjourn on time with no special sessions. Because we're in the minority party, we've been left out of the vast majority of budget discussions. However, we were able to make a valid case against the House Democrat budget on the House floor, and we had several amendments adopted into the House budget.
House Democrat budget
The House budget spends $53 billion, an increase of $8.6 billion over the current spending level of $44.4 billion. Despite historical revenue growth and $3 billion in available resources, it relies on $4.2 billion in new tax increases over four years, including a new B&O tax on services and a capital gains income tax, which is most likely unconstitutional. Under their budget, state spending will have increased nearly $22 billion – or 70 percent – since 2013. This budget growth is completely unsustainable.
Senate Democrat budget
The Senate budget spends about $52 billion, an increase of around $7.6 billion over current spending levels, or about $1 billion less than the House. The Senate budget uses a graduated Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) and the modification of certain tax preferences to generate about $1.1 billion over four years. It includes a vape tax, a new plastic bag fee, and an increase to the property and casualty premium tax.
At the end of the day, it appears the majority party in both the House and Senate have decided to propose tax increase not out of need (we have record tax collections and billions in surplus), but out of ideology. This ideology is going to get us into trouble in the next year or so when the economy cools and they've spent every dime. I continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the House Appropriations Committee to drive this point home.
The governor signed one of my bills into law this week. House Bill 1349 clarifies the official definition of geriatric behavioral health worker. It will help expand the workforce associated with geriatric patients. As more and more people seek assistance in nursing homes, it's important we make sure we have excellent, qualified care for the elderly.
Thank you for reading my email update and allowing me to serve you in Olympia. As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns.