A session of fixes, funding, and fighting for our constituents
The 2022 legislative session ended March 10 and is now in the history books. It's time to reflect on the 60-day session and our work on your behalf.
One of the first issues addressed was the unpopular and unfair mandatory long-term care insurance plan and payroll tax which was to kick in on Jan. 1. Rep. Schmick cosponsored legislation to repeal and replace the plan, and Sen. Schoesler had a bill to repeal it as well. Instead, Democrats passed legislation to delay the program and tax collections until July 2023. We remain concerned with the deep insolvency and inequity issues, which may never be fixed.
We fixed several problems created last year by Democrats' police reform bills. However, police pursuits and several other public safety solutions that we proposed were not addressed. With violent crime surging, it's disappointing the majority party is utterly reluctant to give law enforcement the tools, training, and certainty to do their jobs to protect our communities.
We fought to protect your Second Amendment rights. Unfortunately, majority Democrats passed legislation banning firearm magazines holding more than 10 rounds, restricting firearms from being assembled from certain parts, and prohibiting open carry of firearms in buildings where local governments, school boards, or election officials meet.
In February, when we learned the state would have a record $15 billion in surplus tax revenue over the next four years, we joined other Republicans to offer legislation that would reduce the state sales tax, cut property taxes, and provide B&O tax relief to employers. Democrats said the state couldn't afford to cut taxes. Yet they passed a record $65 billion supplemental operating budget that boosts spending by more than $6 billion over current levels, with no tax relief.
With the state expecting more than $4 billion in new revenues from the governor's cap-and-trade scheme (Climate Commitment Act), Rep. Dye offered the Republican ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation) Plan to put that money to work in meaningful ways. Her plan proposed to direct those dollars toward addressing serious environmental issues, such as improving forest health to reduce wildfires, flood mitigation, drought resiliency, and Puget Sound restoration.
Disappointingly, majority Democrats dedicated most of those Climate Commitment Act dollars toward a $17 billion, 16-year partisan transportation spending plan that builds electric ferries and appropriates millions toward Puget Sound projects, including transit and bicycle pathways. This funding package punishes anyone who happens to drive or own a car by significantly raising fees related to driving, yet it fails to sufficiently address the real transportation needs in our state, including highway maintenance and improvements. Most concerning, their plan leaves an unfunded $7 billion backlog of crumbling roads and bridges that need serious attention in Eastern Washington, such as the local Elmer C. Huntley Bridge over the Snake River at Central Ferry.
Efforts to pass emergency powers reform were blocked as the governor's emergency proclamation now surpasses more than two years, with no end in sight.
We did achieve some notable successes this session.
Sen. Schoesler and Rep. Dye worked in both chambers to provide a bipartisan $1.5 billion capital construction budget that brings nearly $6 million back home for projects and jobs in the 9th District.
Between us, we sent six of our prime-sponsored bills to the governor, including legislation to help retired law enforcement officers and firefighters, temporary appointment of judges when there's a vacancy in single-judge courts, and providing authorization for emergency room nurses to administer opioid reversal medication.
You can find more information on our websites: MarkSchoesler.src.wastateleg.org; RepresentativeMaryDye.com; and RepresentativeJoeSchmick.com. Contact our offices from our websites if you have questions, comments, or suggestions.
Please know that you have a strong team in your 9th District delegation. It is our highest honor to serve and represent you.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, and Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, serve and represent the 9th Legislative District.