Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been nearly two months of a statewide quarantine. And, unless you live in certain parts of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, it looks like much of the rest of the state has not been hit too hard by the new coronavirus. Here is a web page run by the state Department of Health that has COVID-19 statistics by county.
As of today, our state has 15,594 confirmed cases and 862 deaths, with nearly 3/4 of the fatalities in the three aforementioned west side counties.
The other side of the health coin is the economic one. The damage done to our state, local and national economies has been enormous and may prove to be the biggest financial recession of our generation. Already here in Washington state, it's estimated that our current unemployment rate is around 20% with nearly 800,000 workers filing for unemployment. Many small businesses will not recover, many families and individuals will struggle to make ends meet, and our economic recovery may be years in the making.
Now is the time to reopen Washington. We can do so in a safe, practical matter by continuing to practice social distancing, wearing masks, and being smart about how we gather in public places. Several weeks ago, Legislative Republicans in our state introduced a plan to reopen Washington. Our Safe Economic Restart Plan was the result of weeks of work and input from our local communities, workers and business leaders. While I'm somewhat relieved that Gov. Jay Inslee is now talking about his plan to reopen Washington, it is too little, too late. We must do more, and we must do it now. Here are some of the media stories about our plan:
- Republican lawmakers release plan to reopen Washington's economy amid coronavirus (The Seattle Times)
- Challenging Inslee, GOP lawmakers release plan to restart the economy (The News Tribune)
- Legislative Republicans unveil “safe economic restart plan” (The Daily World)
- Inslee facing increasing pressure to allow homebuilding and other sectors to reopen (NW News Network)
Here is what the governor's “phased in” approach will look like:
Our liberties are threatened…
One of my concerns has been our apparent loss of individual liberty throughout this process. The governor has very broad powers in times of declared emergencies. You can read more about his executive proclamations, his emergency powers, and the Legislature's role here at this web page. While I'm relieved to see that we are indeed flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases in our state, like many of you, I wonder if the cure has been worse than the disease? With what we're hearing and seeing in some states with police arrests of people not practicing social distancing, new surveillance technologies being put into play to track people, and governors seemingly grabbing more power and trampling on more rights – it's concerning.
Perhaps one of the things that comes out of this situation is a sincere conversation about government power, our God-given liberties, and the sacrificing of our freedoms for safety. I have heard from many of you on both sides of this issue – some wanting us to completely shut down until late summer or fall, and some who think we should be completely open to allow herd immunity to happen faster. There are valid points on both sides. But I do have serious concerns anytime we lose a little more of our liberties and freedoms.
One of the victims of this pandemic is our rural health care system. Many rural hospitals and clinics were already financially stressed BEFORE the coronavirus landed on our shores. But with so many people not seeking preventative care, the canceling of elective surgeries, and the fact that the COVID-19 slam to our facilities failed to materialize, our rural health care system has been financially damaged. We need to make sure our rural hospitals and clinics have a pathway forward to regain financial viability once this pandemic is over. As the ranking member on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, I'll continue to do as much as I can to ensure the economic vitality of our rural health care system.
Tax increases…no way!
There will most likely be a special session sometime this summer or early fall to begin to address the budgetary issues brought on by the COVID-19 situation. Even before the pandemic, the majority party in Olympia was spending at an unprecedented and clearly unsustainable rate:
Now, we're hearing that many of those same legislators are planning to introduce a statewide income tax bill. I believe taxpayers are already giving enough to the state, and with so many people struggling financially, it doesn't make sense for state government to take more from your pocketbook. As families and individuals around the state tighten their belts, so should state government. I will work hard to keep tax increases off the table as we adjust to the new normal in state spending. Click here to see a list of taxes proposed and passed by the majority party over the last two years.
Please stay safe and stay healthy during this time. Help each other out and have lots of patience. It's a tough and unprecedented time for us all, but we will get through this. Thank you for reading and God bless.