Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we get ready to close out the month of March, we have just over a month to go in the 2021 legislative session. However, while our time may be short, we still have some very important business to resolve. Not the least of which is our two-year operating budget.
While House Republicans released our budget proposal a few weeks ago, we are still waiting on the majority party to release their budget plan. We are hopeful they exercise some restraint in their spending plans, especially with the flood of cash that is pouring into our state right now.
If you hadn't heard, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released and adopted its latest state revenue forecast last week. Compared with the November 2020 forecast, Near General Fund-Outlook revenue increased by $1.34 billion for 2019-21 and by $1.95 billion for 2021-23.
What that means is we are essentially back to pre-COVID numbers. Whatever argument there might have been for raising taxes, has now gone completely out the window. State government doesn't need more of your hard-earned money.
Based on the latest forecast, state tax revenue for 2021-23 is projected to be $56.6 billion, which represents an increase of 8.2% over the current biennium. Tax collections have been much greater than expected, and that doesn't count the billions of dollars our state is expected to receive from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Washington will receive $7.1 billion for state ($4.25 billion + $189 million for state capital projects) and local governments ($2.66 billion) as well as an additional $635 million for child care, almost $1.9 billion for K-12 schools, and $655 million for higher education. Again, we do not need any new taxes.
On the other hand, we are keenly aware thousands of families and small businesses are still struggling to survive financially. We need to help them by easing their tax burden, not increasing it. So many small businesses followed the shutdown orders despite taking huge personal losses. It's time to repay their diligence and perseverance with a budget plan that helps them, and not add to their burdens.
State government has more than enough money to continuing funding it's programs without creating new taxes. That includes the capital gains income tax that was recently approved in the Senate 25-24. Make no mistake, Senate Bill 5096 is unnecessary, unwanted, unstable, and unconstitutional.
It's just another move by the majority party to implement a statewide income tax. We also need to remember that once a tax is implemented it will trickle down to every working class, so eventually everyone will be paying a capital gains tax.
I strongly oppose this tax policy and any others that would hurt Washingtonians. It's time to offer real relief, not pile on extra burdens.
Senate Bill 5141
Another bill that will never get as much attention as some of the bigger issues, but is also bad for Washington, is Senate Bill 5141. On paper, the purpose of this bill is reducing environmental and health disparities and improving the health of all Washington state residents by implementing the recommendations of the environmental justice task force.
However, the truth is this is just another layer of government that would be piled on top of a previous layer that isn't currently functioning as intended. A better solution would be to examine why the current system is failing and to correct it, rather than creating yet another level of government bureaucracy that will cost more money and may not even work. I will be a “no” on this bill when we vote on it in the House Environment and Energy Committee this week.
Republican Response to State v. Blake
This decision will have a very negative effect on our communities and put more people at risk. Additionally, it will not provide the much-needed help to those who are suffering from substance abuse. In response to this decision, this week several House Republicans from the Public Safety Committee introduced five bills to address the problems created by the judges' ruling.
Legislation introduced Monday includes:
- House Bill 1558 would promote recovery and improve public safety by providing behavioral health system responses to individuals with substance use disorder and providing training to law enforcement personnel.
- House Bill 1559 would provide a behavioral health response to juveniles consuming controlled substances.
- House Bill 1560 would consider the mental state element of a person's intention to knowingly commit a crime (mens rea) involving offenses related to possession of substances.
- House Bill 1561 would expand offenses and penalties for manufacture, sale, distribution, and other conduct involving controlled substances and counterfeit substances.
- House Bill 1562 would allow local governments to enact laws and ordinances relating to possession of controlled substances and counterfeit substances.
We are hopeful this issue is as much a priority for the majority party as it is for us.
Phase 3 Reopening
Lastly, I want to update you regarding the governor's Phase 3 reopening plan. I'm happy our state is finally opening and that we are moving away from a regional approach and going back to a county-by-county system.
The governor adopted several Republican ideas in his plan, and he has also made a stronger push to get more kids back to in-person school more often. We are also calling on the governor to revise state guidance to 3-feet distancing in schools – like the Centers for Disease Control recommended last week. Our young people are suffering, and they need to get back to in-person learning. The science says they can, so it's time our governor listens.
There's Still Time to Testify
If you want to participate in this remote session, there is still time to have your voice heard. You can testify on any bill from anywhere you have internet access. I encourage you to do so! Use these links to sign up to testify remotely:
Please Stay in Touch
I appreciate your input and I hope you will continue reaching out to me as we move towards the end of this session and beyond. My door is always open and I'm here to represent you. Thank you for your trust and support. It's an honor to serve you.