Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It seems like the 105-day legislative session just barely started, but believe it or not, it concluded last Sunday. This was my first term in the Legislature, but it was no ordinary session. For the first time in our state's history we conducted the business of the people virtually.
This was not an easy task, especially for the freshman lawmakers, like me. We missed out on the personal interaction that is so important to build relationships and create good policies. Unfortunately, this session was full of bad policies that are going to hurt our state for years to come.
However, before I get into the recap, I want to say thank you for your input and support throughout this session. I truly want to represent you and be your voice in the legislative process. I hope you will continue reaching out to me and offer your thoughts and ideas during the upcoming interim.
Bad Polices Will Hurt Washington
We worked many long hours and considered hundreds of bills. In the end, we did pass some good legislation, but of the 341 bills that passed both chambers, less than 20% of them were sponsored by Republicans. Many of these bills were split on party lines, and unfortunately, the majority passed several pieces of legislation that are going to hurt, not help, most people in the state.
The legislative process should be a balanced effort with input from every corner of the state. Despite Republican opposition to many of the bad policies introduced, very few amendments were adopted that would have helped improve some very poorly written bills. However, it's the people of Washington that are hurt the most when things are unbalanced.
Again, there was some good legislation, but unfortunately, the majority passed several bills that are going to prove very costly to Washingtonians, including more taxes, an unsustainable operating budget, new climate mandates that will raise the cost of fuel, and police reform that could leave our communities at risk. And lastly, our governor is still wielding unchecked power as Washington continues to operate under a state of emergency.
Unnecessary Additional Taxes – Perhaps the biggest story this session was the capital gains income tax. Despite opposition from both sides, including every Republican in the House and Senate, Senate Bill 5096 is now awaiting the governor's signature. This income tax on capital gains is completely unnecessary. State government has more than enough money to continue running all its services and programs. We do not need to ask the people of Washington for more of their hard-earned money.
This tax is also unpopular, unstable, and likely unconstitutional. In fact, it is already being challenged in the courts. Hopefully it will have the same fate as other attempts in state history to create an income tax. See the chart below:
With record tax collections, there is no viable reason to create a new tax and many people believe the true goal behind this bill is to implement a statewide income tax.
Voters have made it very clear how they feel about an income tax, having voted it down 10 previous times already. Right now, this tax affects only certain people that accumulate a certain amount of income through investments but as history has shown, once tax proponents get started, they don't stop. It could be just a matter of time before everyone is paying a capital gains income tax.
$59 Billion Budget Is Not Sustainable – Another major story was the two-year operating budget. This budget has some good things, many of which were included in the House Republican budget proposal released earlier in the year. However, Republicans were left out of the negotiations and House and Senate Democrat budget writers didn't release their budget till the second to last day of session.
Republican lawmakers, along with the public and the media, were largely left in the dark until we had to vote on the budget on the last day of session. In the end the budget increases spending by 13.6% over the 2019-21 budget.
This kind of spending is simply irresponsible and unsustainable. It's time for state government to live within its means. The budget also relies on the new income tax on capital gains to fund important services like early education and child care. If these programs are so important, then why are we relying on a such an unstable source of income to fund them?
LCFS and Cap and Trade Mandates – The majority party didn't stop there. The House and Senate passed the governor's “Low-Carbon Fuel Standard” (LCFS) bill, House Bill 1091, despite bipartisan opposition. This bill will have almost no effect on our climate, yet our working class and low-income families are going to feel the pain. This is a regressive tax that will increase the cost of fuel and hurt those living in rural areas the most. The additional expenses that this bill will add to businesses will simply be passed on to consumers, leaving us to pay the price of this poor legislation. This is a bad bill that will come back to haunt Washington families.
As if the LCFS wasn't bad enough, the majority also passed a cap and trade tax, Senate Bill 5126. The bill has good intentions, but very little reward. It will also have unintended consequences that will hurt almost everyone. Washington state emits less than three-tenths of one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That means, even if we wiped out every car, truck, train, plane, and boat, the impacts to global greenhouse gas emissions would still be less than three-tenths of one percent! On the other hand, every Washingtonian, including businesses, will pay more at the pump and those businesses will pass those costs onto everyone else. This is another regressive tax policy.
Emergency Powers Still Unchecked – One of the top priorities this session for Republicans was to limit the governor's emergency powers. We weren't alone in our belief the Legislature should have more say during a state of an emergency. Some Democrats joined us to express their concern over the governor's unchecked emergency power during this pandemic. Click here to read a bipartisan op-ed in The Seattle Times about this issue. However, when it came time to vote, none of them crossed party lines.
Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts to give the Legislature a greater voice during emergency situations, none of our efforts were ever seriously considered in either chamber. As we enter the interim, nothing has changed, and the governor is still ruling the state as a one-man show. We have no checks or balances in place and the emergency will only end when he says it's over. This is not fair and balanced, and our state shouldn't be run by the voice of one.
Unbalanced and Unsafe Police Reform – Last, but certainly not least, this session saw unprecedented police reform. However, in most cases, that was not good news. I fully support our law enforcement officers. I also support accountability and equality, but we must work together on sensible change that protects everyone, including our officers and our communities.
Unfortunately, the Legislature passed several bills aimed at greater police accountability that don't fairly consider both sides of the issue. Although the intent is good, these bills have gone too far. Instead of finding the proper balance, these policies will put our officers in danger and leave our communities unsafe.
Despite united Republican opposition, both chambers passed House Bills 1310, 1054, and 1267, and Senate Bill 5051, all of which will make it much harder for our officers to do their job and protect us from harm. This is more legislation that will have unintended consequences and we'll all pay the price.
I'm happy to report that my first bill made it to the governor's desk this session and was signed into law May 3. House Bill 1119 will help ease some expenses for college students in Washington state by encouraging four-year colleges to use open source course materials, as well as inform students of textbook prices before they register for courses.
Having spent a decade as a community college course instructor, I know how much this change will mean to students living on a tight budget. This legislation has received strong support from four-year colleges, as well as students, so I'm honored to have sponsored this policy.
I'd also like share some other good news for the 25th District. I was able to help secure some important funding in our capital budget, with a total of $67.6 million coming to our district.
On a personal note, I specifically worked on securing funding for a variety of projects in our district, including:
- Puyallup Recreation Center Exterior and Expansion: $1.03 million.
- Franklin Pierce Farm Agricultural Resource Center (Tacoma): $3.9 million.
- Sheffield Trail Repair and Widening Project (Fife): $1.03 million.
- Puyallup Valley Cultural Heritage Center at Meeker Man: $335,000.
- Cornforth Campbell Demolition and Infrastructure Improvement Project: $330,000.
- Puyallup Food Bank Capital Campaign: $257,000.
- Master Planning for Amara's 29-acre Opportunity in Pierce County (Tacoma): $246,000
Thank You and Please Stay in Touch
This was a whirlwind session and as a freshman legislator, I learned so much. I appreciate all the input and feedback from you throughout these last four months. Please continue contacting me. Even though we are entering the interim, I am your state representative year-round, and I look forward to hearing from you. Please stay in touch by using the contact info below. It's truly an honor be your representative. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.
It's an honor.