Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In a previous update to you, I talked about the trifecta of proposals that could drastically increase the price we all pay at the pump. This could raise costs on those that can least afford it, including an increase in food costs.
It's frustrating to report back to you that two of those three bills have passed the Legislature. Governor Jay Inslee's “Cap-and-Tax” scheme (Senate Bill 5126) and the high-cost (low-carbon) fuel standard (House Bill 1091) both passed on near party lines.
The Legislature did not come to an agreement on a new transportation project proposal. There was – and still is – talk of a gas-tax increase that would go along with these new projects. While it didn't pass during the 105-day session, it is possible for the governor to call us back into a special session if an agreement between House and Senate Democrats is reached.
It will be interesting to see if the governor thinks a gas-tax increase warrants a special session when he continually rejected our calls for a special session last year to address emergency powers and our state's response to COVID. Stay tuned.
Operating budget includes income tax
Unfortunately, as the minority party, we were not allowed in the room as the final budget was negotiated between House and Senate Democrat budget writers. They made their budget public on Saturday afternoon, and we voted on it Sunday, the last day of the 105-day session. I don't think this was fair to the public or the media. There was little time to digest everything in it before we were required to vote. Transparency suffered.
The budget includes some positives and funds some worthy things. But I ended up voting against it as I believe it is unsustainable. The $59 billion budget represents a 13.6% increase over the current biennium, and a 74% increase since Gov. Inslee took office. It also relies on an income tax on capital gains (Senate Bill 5096). The other side likes to talk about this as hitting only the “supper wealthy.” But is there any doubt they will continue to lower the threshold? The governor's own budget included a 9% tax on capital gains of $50,000 for a married couple. Many on the other side have publicly admitted this is the “foot in the door” for a statewide income tax that will be coming soon.
I continue to believe that an income tax is not the right direction for Washington citizens. And voters have rejected a state tax on income several times.
The Legislature did pass a bipartisan transportation budget this weekend as well. This $11.8 billion budget funds the basic transportation needs of our state and is funded by motor vehicle tax revenues, license and registration fees, fares, and tolls.
Our transportation lead, Rep. Andrew Barkis, was an important part of budget negotiations. I voted for the transportation budget (it did NOT include a gas-tax increase). And, you can read Andrew's statement on the budget here.
Here are some of the highlights:
- $849 million for preservation and $520 million for maintenance.
- $550 million for Washington State Patrol, including an additional trooper class.
- $541 million for operating costs and $505 million for capital costs for Washington State Ferries.
- $224 million for Transportation Improvement Board.
- $101 million for County Road Administration Board.
My bill (House Bill 1096) to ensure continued Washington State Health Insurance Pool coverage for medically fragile enrollees passed the Legislature. As did legislation to protect property tax payers from foreclosure (House Bill 1410), a proposal to build economic strength through manufacturing (House Bill 1170), a proposal to fully fund wildfire prevention and forest health (House Bill 1168), and legislation to elevate road maintenance and preservation in transportation planning (House Bill 1137).
Unfortunately, several bills passed in the name of “defunding the police” that will actually make our communities and families less safe. They will also make it harder to find good candidates for law enforcement as more officers retire, as this article in The Spokesman-Review points out.
As one of my colleagues – a former law enforcement officer herself – says: “When we continue to make the profession of peace officer less desirable to candidates, we will get less desirable candidates for peace officers.”
Stay in touch through the interim
While session is now over, I still serve as your state Representative throughout the year. My office is here to help. Stay tuned for an upcoming ZOOM townhall where we can discuss the legislative session and talk about more important issues. I anticipate the middle of May for this event. I'll keep you posted.
Thank you for staying involved. Your input makes a difference!