Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2023 legislative session is almost over, but we still have a few remaining issues to resolve before we're scheduled to wrap up on April 23. That work includes finalizing and passing the three state budgets – operating, transportation, and capital – for the next two years.
Update on Public Safety
But before I get into the budgets, I want to update you on two of the biggest issues this session, both of which affect our public safety. Unfortunately, House Democrats have done little to fix them. There were several bills to address these issues and two of them made it through committee, but neither is as strong as originally written. We are still waiting to vote on Senate Bill 5536 (drug possession and treatment, Blake decision) on the House floor, which could happen as soon as today.
The majority party did bring Senate Bill 5352, the vehicular pursuit bill, up for a debate and a vote late Monday night. This legislation intends to partially correct House Bill 1054, which passed in 2021.
Since then, criminals have felt emboldened and law enforcement has felt abandoned. This experiment has failed, and our communities are suffering. Crime is up and numerous innocent people have lost their lives because officers are not allowed to pursue unless they have probable cause.
Ultimately, despite mixed feelings on both sides, the House passed the bill 57-40. There were reasons to vote both ways. On the plus side, this legislation is a small step in the right direction and better than what we currently have. But there is still much work to be done. It simply doesn't do enough to make our communities safe. That's why I voted against the bill. Click on the image below to watch my speech:
Unfortunately, as they currently stand, neither bill gives law enforcement the proper authority needed to do their job effectively and keep our streets and communities safe. We need to restore the initial pursuit threshold back to reasonable suspicion, instead of probable cause. And we need to fix the Blake decision by increasing the penalty for drug possession to at least a gross misdemeanor, or crime rates will keep getting worse.
You can watch my comments on several other important issues, including gun control laws, by clicking on the links below:
- More funding for law enforcement
- Addressing the homelessness issue
- Changing the definition of a hate crime
- Restricting assault weapons
- Amendment to allow assault rifles for self-defense
- Selling and transferring firearms
- Early release from prison
- Removing further protections from small landlords
The House and Senate have introduced and voted on their respective operating and transportation budget proposals. Votes on the capital budget proposals are coming soon. None of the budgets include the governor's proposed extra bonds. Budget writers from both chambers must still convene to find common ground on their differences. Here's a closer look at the House's budget proposals as they currently stand.
The 2023-25 House operating budget proposal, which passed the House on a party-line vote of 57-40, would increase spending by $6 billion over current spending levels which would push the budget to more than $70 billion. As seen in the chart below, the operating budget has more than doubled since 2011-13, when the state operating budget was right around $31 billion.
Unfortunately, Republicans were not included in the operating budget process, and there is no tax relief in the spending proposal. Instead, it proposes to allocate money for close to 1,500 new or expanded programs, in addition to funding current programs. Another problem with this proposal is that it drains reserves, leaving only 2.1 billion in our rainy-day fund at the end of the four-year outlook period. This amount is far below 10% of annual revenues, the minimum target recommended by the Democrat state treasurer.
The proposal does fund several important programs, but given our recent slowdown in revenue collections, and our COVID experience, saving more money for the future makes a lot of sense. In addition to the need to put more money aside instead of spending most of our reserves, we should also be providing meaningful tax relief to Washingtonians. While there are no major new taxes, unfortunately, Democrats chose not to give any tax relief in their budget proposals.
The House transportation budget did have bipartisan input, unlike the operating budget. However, even though the legislation passed by a vote of 97-1, House Republicans would have done some things differently, including how we allocate funds to different projects.
In any case, the transportation budget proposal spends a total of about $13.2 billion, $646 million of which would go toward helping our state's police force. This money will go towards hiring new officers and increasing efforts to retain the ones we currently have. Our communities and neighborhoods continue to suffer as the number of officers in Washington keeps falling.
Another positive inclusion in the House the transportation budget proposal is some of the major projects of the Connecting Washington plan that the governor delayed or did not include in his budget. We should keep our promises and Connecting Washington has waited long enough.
The third budget is the House capital budget, which is a bipartisanspending plan. Budget writers from both sides worked together to create this $8.34 billion spending proposal, which includes $4.18 billion from the sale of newly authorized, general obligation bonds. The remaining $4.15 billion is comprised of a combination of reversion of previously authorized bonds, other dedicated funding sources, and federal funds. It also leaves $160 million in bond capacity for next year's 2024 supplemental capital budget.
The capital budget makes appropriations for projects tangible in nature that have a long useable life, such as schools and other public buildings, behavioral and mental health facilities, parks, low-income housing, water infrastructure, and habitat, including nearly $23 million for 25th District projects, such as:
- $11.5 million for the Chief Leschi School HVAC system.
- $2.6 million for the Step-by-Step Early Learning Center.
- $1.1 million Estuary and Salmon Restoration Shore Friendly local organizations projects.
- $1.09 million for the Pipeline Trail phase 1 development.
- $1 million for the Thun Field – Emergency Response and Meeting Space (Puyallup).
- $500,000 for the Half Dollar Park development.
- $440,000 for New Beginnings Homes in Puyallup.
- $370,000 for the Puyallup Elks Roof replacement.
For a complete list of local projects currently included in the House budget proposal, click on this link and select the 25th Legislative District in the drop down window and then hit the “view report” button. While this budget still needs final approval, I'm hopeful these projects are funded when the House and Senate reconcile the final budget.
Capital Gains Income Tax
In 2021, Democrat lawmakers approved Senate Bill 5096, which created a 7% tax on the sale of stocks, bonds, businesses, and other investments, if their profits exceed $250,000 annually. The new tax is estimated to bring in about $500 million to be spent on child care and early learning.
The goal is noble, but this income tax on capital gains is likely just another step in an effort to implement a statewide income tax, and I believe it's unconstitutional. State government has more than enough money to continue running its essential services and programs. Taking more of Washingtonians hard-earned money is bad policy.
But unfortunately, despite every other state in the country recognizing capital gains as income, our state Supreme Court recently ruled 7-2 that the new capital gains tax is legal, and Washington can tax the sale of stocks and other investments.
Raising taxes on individuals, families, and employers when they are already paying more than their fair share is regrettable, especially under our current economic circumstances. This is just another example of state government taking more of our hard-earned money when they should be looking for ways to give back.
Please Stay in Touch
Thank you for all your input and feedback. Please continue reaching out to me. I'm honored to represent you in the 25th District and I'm sincerely grateful for your support. My door is always open.