Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its quarterly revenue forecast this week and the news is good for Washington state. Compared to the November forecast, tax revenues are up by $1.34 billion for the remainder of this biennium (2019-21) and up another $1.95 billion for the 2021-23 biennium, for a total of $3.29 billion over the four-year outlook.
Much of this is due to strong automobile sales, a hot real estate market, and an uptick in sales tax revenues as people spend their federal stimulus checks. In addition, the latest round of federal assistance includes $4.2 billion to the state and $2.6 billion to local governments, with flexibility to use those federal dollars extending to the end of 2024.
We are now back to pre-pandemic revenues for the state. Which means we absolutely do NOT need to raise taxes on hardworking individuals and families. Especially an income tax, which I mentioned in my last update. The case for any tax increases was extremely thin before the revenue forecast. But now, with this most recent revenue forecast update, we should be discussing targeted and needed tax breaks, not increases.
State Supreme Court strikes down felony drug possession
As you may know, the Washington State Supreme Court recently struck down our state's felony drug possession law. This means that law enforcement cannot arrest someone who has a “personal use amount” of drugs in their possession (on their person, automobile, etc.). I have heard from several of you frustrated over this ruling, and I agree. It sets a dangerous precedent and could result in the release of thousands of inmates back onto the streets or into a judicial system that is not designed to handle so many cases at once.
House Republicans will be introducing legislation next week to fix this overreach of the court so we can insert some common sense back into our drug laws. Without this legislation, drug use – including hardcore drugs like heroin and fentanyl – may become more rampant, along with the property crimes associated with drug users desperate to pay for their next fix.
We must address the governor's emergency powers
One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear is the need to reform the governor's emergency powers. Over the last year, I have heard from many of you: “How can one man have so much power, even during an emergency.” I agree. Our state emergency powers granted to the governor have come under a microscope by several media outlets, and rightly so. We continue to press for legislation that would reform the governor's emergency powers and bring the elected Legislature back into much of the decision-making process.
The Tacoma News Tribune had an interesting editorial on this issue, which you can read here. Here is a small excerpt:
The problem is that there's little appetite among Democrats to challenge Inslee. That's a shame. Power-sharing between the three branches of government shouldn't be a partisan issue.
In the long run, this isn't about whether you agree or disagree with a particular governor. It's about preserving a balanced, constitutionally sound government, where the public's voice is carried by the 147 representatives and senators they elect.
Thank you for continuing to stay involved and for allowing me to serve you in the state House. Please feel free to contact my office with questions or concerns about state issues. It is an honor to be your state Representative.