Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2023 legislative session officially wrapped up on Sunday, April 23. More than 2,100 bills were introduced between the House and Senate and about 480 ultimately passed both chambers. The governor has already signed some of those bills into law, while the rest await his signature.
We passed some good policies that will do positive things in Washington and the 25th District. Despite some efforts by the majority party, we did get out of Olympia without any major new taxes. However, as we head in to this interim, much like last year, I leave Olympia feeling like there were too many missed opportunities to help Washingtonians, especially with public safety. However, let's review the positives first.
State Government Budgets Finalized
Our most important responsibility as legislators is to negotiate and pass the three state government budgets: operating, transportation, and capital. These budgets include some great news for our district, including the Puget Sound Gateway project and the Thun Field project, which I personally requested. Here are some more highlights.
Capital Budget Allocations: The bipartisan capital budget was finalized and passed in the last few days of session. The biennial construction, repair, and infrastructure funding plan appropriates $8.98 billion in funding, $4.18 billion of which comes from the sale of revenue bonds authorized under House Bill 1148.
This budget makes significant investments statewide in housing, behavioral health, K-12 schools, and infrastructure. I'm pleased to report the 25th District received a $38 million for local projects for 2023-25, 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 included in the final capital budget spending plan, click on this link, select the 25th Legislative District in the drop down window, and then hit the “view report” button.
The capital budget is a great example of the bipartisan work being done in Olympia. This spending plan reflects key priorities and meaningful, long-lasting investments in community and infrastructure projects across the state. It supports development, encourages economic vitality, and puts people to work, even in the smallest communities.
Transportation Budget: The Legislature passed the two-year transportation budget on the second to last day of session. The best news is the budget includes $925 million in funding for transportation projects in the 25th District, including more than $870 million to continue the Puget Sound Gateway project instead of delaying it further. This is a huge step forward for our district as it will help connect Puyallup to Tacoma and the port.
Overall, this $13.5 billion bipartisan plan funds infrastructure projects across the state, including maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Washington State Patrol, and other state transportation agencies. It also represents the dedicated, cooperative work between the Democratic transportation chairs in the House and Senate and their Republican counterparts.
For a complete list of transportation projects included in the final budget plan, click on this link, select the 25th Legislative District in the drop down window, and then hit the “view report” button.
Operating Budget – Still No Improvement in Affordability: Despite ongoing economic concerns, the good news is state tax collections remain strong, and budget writers have $2.7 billion more in revenue for 2023-25 compared to what was assumed in last year's budget.
However, the 2023-25 operating budget increases spending to $69.8 billion, representing a $5.6 billion increase over current spending levels. While the budget funds many important programs, it does not reflect bipartisan input to the extent of the other two budgets, especially for House Republicans, who were completely left out of the budget writing process.
The spending plan does not offer any significant tax relief or keep enough in reserves, even though an economic slowdown has been forecast. Instead, it allocates money for close to 1,800 new or expanded programs and other general funding for current programs. This is irresponsible, and like all Washingtonians, state government needs to live within its means.
Public Safety Still Not a Priority for the Majority Party
You've made it clear that public safety is a top priority for you, and I share your concerns. House Republicans entered the 2023 session with the goal of reducing crime and drug use, which have become so prevalent in communities throughout our state. We fought hard to address these issues, but ultimately, very little was done. For starters, fixing the police reform bills from 2021, especially the vehicular pursuit law, would have addressed some of our goals.
Senate Bill 5352 passed both chambers and is waiting for the governor's signature to become law. Unfortunately, this does little to help officers or curb crime. Police are still not able to engage in vehicular pursuits for crimes such as auto theft, residential burglary, stalking, reckless and aggressive driving, and others. Our law enforcement agencies and communities want more and deserve better.
Additionally, we still don't have a reasonable long-term solution to the Supreme Court's 2021 ruling to decriminalize simple drug possession (State v Blake). Democrats are casting blame on Republicans, but they have the majority, and they had two years to address this issue. Yet, they waited until the last day to try to resolve it, and that effort failed. Read this column in The Seattle Times – WA Democrats, you had one job – that lays out what really happened.
Now, unless the governor calls a special session before July 1, the current state statute for possession or use of controlled substances will expire. People will continue to abuse drugs and we will keep losing more lives. We really can't wait another year to resolve this crisis. I would be happy to return to Olympia for a special session to fix this problem, should the governor call for one.
In Summary: Despite the Good, We Could've Done More
Republicans entered this session with high hopes. We offered numerous real solutions to the most pressing issues facing our state, but the results were mixed.
The majority party increased spending, offered no tax relief to the people of Washington, failed to correct the police pursuit issue, did nothing to fix the problems with the Long-Term Care Act and payroll tax, did little to make our communities safer, and failed to correct the devastating effects of the State Supreme Court's decision to legalize drug possession: aka the “Blake fix.”
We could have done so much more, and Republicans offered many solutions that would have addressed these ongoing issues. However, the majority party ultimately chose not to resolve them. Many of these problems will continue and we will be back here next year addressing them again.
Thank You and Please Stay in Touch
Even though the 2023 legislative session is over, I'm still working year-round to represent you. I hope you will continue reaching out to me during the interim. If you'd like to meet with me, please use the contact info below. It is truly my privilege to represent you in the 25th District. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.
It's an honor