Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2022 legislative session is winding down. We have just two weeks left before we're schedule to wrap up on Thursday, March 10. As usual, there is a lot to talk about, so I want to bring you up to speed with some of the biggest news. But first, I want to thank you for your continued input and support and remind you of the 25th District virtual town hall we'll be holding tonight. You can still register using this sign-up link. More information about the event is included later in this update.
Budget Plans Released
This week is supplemental budget week in Olympia with all three major budgets now introduced. The overarching theme from Democrat budget writers is more spending and no tax relief. Here are some of the details.
Operating Budget – Democrats in the House and Senate released separate supplemental operating budgets on Monday. The plan is to vote on the House proposal this weekend. As usual, the majority party in both chambers is looking to increase spending, while offering no tax breaks for the people of Washington.
Families and individuals are now facing the highest inflation rate in more than 40 years, which is costing the average household an extra $250 a month. However, while so many families are grappling with the increased costs, the state has a $15 billion budget surplus.
Washington has seen a huge revenue increase over the last year. Despite the pandemic, tax collections have shot up by 13.3% in fiscal year 2021 and 8.7% in fiscal year 2022. Additionally, since the 2021-23 budget was enacted last March, revenue has increased by $9.25 billion over the four-year outlook.
The Senate plan would spend a total of $63.4 billion, adding about $5.8 billion in new spending to the two-year budget passed by lawmakers last April. It would leave $3.3 billion in reserves. The House plan calls for spending approximately $65 billion, adding $6.2 billion in new spending, with $2.2 billion in reserve.
With so much additional money available, now is the time to give something back to taxpayers. House Republicans have introduced the SAFE Washington budget plan, which would do a number of things to improve life for Washingtonians, including provide tax relief to families, without compromising state services.
It's time for the majority party to stop talking about wanting to help working families. There are no more excuses. We have record revenue, plus a historic surplus. Now is the time to deliver tax relief for working Washingtonians. House Republicans will continue providing real solutions to our biggest issues, including offering long-term tax relief to help struggling families and individuals. Learn more about the SAFE Washington budget plan.
Transportation Budget and Move Ahead Washington Spending Package – Democrats released their transportation budget on Wednesday, after both chambers introduced their massive $16 billion transportation package last week, which they're calling Move Ahead Washington. Neither of these pieces of legislation had any input from Republicans.
The 2021-23 transportation budget is$11.7 billion, which is a reduction of $137 million from the budget passed last year. The reliance on bonding is reduced from $2.5 billion to $1.4 billion. The revenue forecast projects $6.59 million in state revenues for 2021-23.
The good news is the budget does include some Republican ideas, including $5 million going toward keeping safety rest areas open, similar to the direction in HB 1655. Another $50,000 would go toward posting human trafficking assistance phone number signs at those areas, similar to HB 2077.
It would also direct Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to allow commercial truck drivers to park in chain-up areas on US 2 and I-90 during the season when snow is unlikely. And lastly, $5 million in additional funds would address encampments on WSDOT's right of ways.
The bad news is it spends $127 million in Climate Commitment Act funding that may not appear at the end of the biennium. This funding is going to special interests instead of much-needed repairs on the state system. It also increases spending by $68.8 million for public transportation funding, with a good portion of the funding coming from the Climate Commitment Act, identified in the Moves Ahead Washington bills.
Additionally, it provides $4 million and authorization to seek federal funding for the governor's ultra-high-speed rail concept from Portland, Oregon, to Vancouver, BC. An additional $50 million is available for federal grant matching requirements for the state portion. Lastly, this bill authorizes the Department of Commerce to set vehicle miles traveled reduction targets for all jurisdictions when the original plan did not apply in rural counties.
As for the Move Ahead Washington tax and spend plan, much of it is incorporated into the budget. This plan is expensive, poorly thought out, and one-sided. House Republicans should have a place at the table to introduce and discuss their ideas for improving transportation in Washington. In fact, earlier this session, we introduced the REAL Act: Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity. This would resolve many of the most pressing transportation issues in the state without burdening taxpayers more.
The Democrats'16-year, $16.8 billion package does not rely on an increase in the state's gas tax, as previous transportation funding has. However, it would bring in $2 billion in new revenue by adding a new, 6-cent tax on fuel exported from Washington state. This export fuel tax is a terrible idea that could start a trade war and would likely be challenged in court. In addition, Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho have all threatened to retaliate, which would likely leave Washington consumers footing the bill.
In contrast, the Republicans' REAL Act calls for shifting specified transportation programs to be paid for by the general fund starting in 2025. It would direct state sales tax paid on motor vehicles to the preservation and maintenance of the existing transportation system. The plan also calls for permanently transferring sales tax paid on transportation projects to the transportation budget.
These are real solutions that fix real problems. That's what Washingtonians really need.
Capital Budget – last but not least, the House supplemental capital budget was also released this week. Unlike the other two budgets, the capital budget is typically a bipartisan effort, designed for projects such as schools and other public buildings, behavioral and mental health facilities, parks, low-income housing, water infrastructure, and habitat.
It proposes to spend $1.5 billion, $77.4 million of which is from the sale of general obligation bonds. The remaining $1.41 billion is comprised of a combination of federal funds, General Fund-State transfers, and other dedicated funding sources. It leaves $27.6 million in bond capacity.
In addition, $2.9 million in local projects for the 25th District have been included in the supplemental budget for 2022. For a list of our local projects, click on this link and select the 25th Legislative District in the drop down window and then hit the “view report” button.
Bad Bills That Are Dead
As with any session, the majority party Democrats introduced numerous bad bills. As House Republicans, we were not able to kill every bad bill, but we did stop many of them from moving further. Here are some of the bigger ones.
HB 1838 would've created riparian management zones effectively killing much of the state's farmland.
HB 1727 would've eliminated odd-year elections for county, city, most special purpose districts, and all statewide ballot measures.
HB 1904 would've required a landlord to provide at least 6 months' notice prior to rent increases of more than 7.5%. A tenant would've been able to break their lease at any time during this period after providing the landlord at least 45 days' notice.
HB 1692 would've eliminated drive-by shootings as a cause for elevating a murder charge to aggravated murder.
HB 1681 would've modified the eligibility requirements to vacate a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor conviction.
HB 1756 would've restricted solitary confinement except in limited circumstances.
HB 1767 would've authorized municipal electric utilities (Seattle/Tacoma/Clark PUD, etc.) to do outreach and investment to convert customers' end use equipment from natural gas to electricity.
HB 1486 would've expanded reasons an individual may voluntarily quit their job and receive unemployment insurance, including caregiving for a child or vulnerable adult.
HB 1103 would've required construction firms to provide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and working conditions data to produce materials used in the project and created a database of EPDs.
HB 1951 would've removed 'don't know' as an option on the seller's disclosure statement, removed 'actual knowledge' standard, and made sellers liable for any misinformation on the form.
There is still much work to be done as the Senate considers the bad bills that did pass the House. We will continue to work tirelessly to kill these bills as well.
Update on My Bills
Two of my bills have passed the House and are now receiving further consideration in the Senate.
HB 1930 would give an assist to cosmetologists, hair designers, barbers, and manicurists who have been pushed out of the workforce by COVID. This bill was brought to my attention by a constituent who has been hampered by the licensing renewal process for cosmetologists. So many people were forced to shut down because of the pandemic restrictions. Now, as they attempt to return to work, they are facing additional obstacles.
This bill would improve that process, and I hope to introduce more comprehensive legislation about this issue during the interim. House Bill 1930 would allow licensed cosmetologists, hair designers, barbers, manicurists, and estheticians until June 30, 2023, to renew a license that was expired, or canceled, after March 1, 2020.
HB 1984 would require all paper-issued registration certificates for vehicles, trailers, and vessels to omit the residential address of the registrant. Based on current law in Washington, a signed vehicle registration with the owner's address must always be in the vehicle.
However, this makes it possible for car thieves to access a person's address and use it for nefarious purposes after breaking into a vehicle. Washington is currently the eighth worst state for car theft. In Pierce County alone, the number of stolen cars last year increased by 40%, and the cases continue to climb.
We need to make sure we are looking out for people and doing whatever we can to protect their privacy and ensure greater public safety. I'm happy to see this real solution for a real problem move forward.
Zoom Town Hall
I will be joining my seatmates, Rep. Kelly Chambers and Sen. Chris Gildon, for a virtual town hall meeting this Thursday, Feb. 24, starting at 6:30 p.m.
This one-hour event held over Zoom will be a great opportunity to learn more about what's been going on in the Legislature. It's also the perfect time for you to share your ideas and concerns and ask us any questions you have.
We represent you in the legislative process and love hearing from our constituents. Your input is extremely valuable as we work to improve the lives of all those in Washington.
So, please join us on Thursday evening, Feb. 24, from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. and share what's on your mind.
You must pre-register for the event, which you can still do by clicking on the image below.
President's Day Speech
We celebrated President's Day on Monday, and it was my honor and privilege to represent the House Republican Caucus and share some of my thoughts regarding this special day and the 45 men who have held our nation's highest office. Please click on the image below to hear my remarks.
As this session winds down, please continue reaching out to me. I'm so grateful for your input. I'm honored to represent you in the 25th District and my door is always open so please don't hesitate to get in touch with me via the contact info below.