Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Believe it or not, we have less than two weeks left in this 2021 legislative session, which is scheduled to wrap up on Sunday, April 25. We have accomplished much, but we still have some big issues to tackle, including battles over the capital gains income tax and a transportation package that calls on some big tax increases. Most important, we still need to finalize and pass the state's three big spending bills: the operating, capital, and transportation budgets.
In fact, we recently spent several hours on the House floor voting on these three budgets. Here's a recap.
Operating Budget – The majority party in the Washington State House of Representatives recently proposed and approved a massive $58 billion two-year operating budget, an increase of $6.4 billion over the previous biennium.
This budget funds several important priorities, including investments in child care, improvements to state-managed forestlands, rental and landlord assistance, and the expansion of broadband. However, this budget plan is far from perfect.
First off, this budget relies on an income tax on capital gains. Despite the financial hit many have taken because of the pandemic restrictions, state government has still seen an increase in tax revenue. Not only have tax collections rebounded to pre-COVID levels, they have grown by 13.6%. So how could lawmakers from the majority party, including the governor, be asking for more? The idea of a capital gains income tax is unbelievable, not to mention unpopular and unreliable, and likely unconstitutional.
Additionally, the spending plan in future years is simply unsustainable. The House proposal increases the operating budget by $6.4 billion, more than 12.8% over the current budget cycle. The enormity of this $58 billion plan, and its focus on expanding ongoing operations and programs rather than utilizing one-time expenditures, means this budget likely will create numerous financial burdens in the future.
This budget could have had bipartisan support if not for these reasons. But because of the massive increase in spending and the reliance upon a capital gains income tax, I voted against it.
Capital Budget – The capital budget is typically a much easier budget to pass with bipartisan support. It allocates funds for land acquisitions, parks, broadband, construction and repair of public buildings, and other long-term investments. This year, the $5.7 billion House capital budget passed with unanimous support.
I am happy to announce more than $30 million for local projects in the 16th District were included in the House capital budget. For a list of our local projects, click on this link and select the 16th 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.
Transportation Budget – Lastly, we passed a $10.9 billion biennial transportation budget, which works as both an operating and capital budget for our state's transportation system. It funds infrastructure projects across the state including the Washington State Department of Transportation, maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Patrol, the Washington State Ferry system, and other state transportation agencies.
Unfortunately, the budget does not include $30 car tabs, despite the people of Washington making their position on this issue very clear. We offered an amendment to add it, but it was defeated on party lines.
While this budget is not perfect, it will do several good things, including keeping transportation projects across our state and district moving forward. Additionally, the proposal does not include any new or increased taxes. While it did not receive unanimous support, it did pass with bipartisan support, including my vote.
Carbon and Gas Taxes
Speaking of transportation policies, both the House and Senate have passed the governor's “Low Carbon Fuel Standard” (LCFS) bill, House Bill 1091, which means the cost of fuel will increase. To comply with the LCFS mandate, low carbon liquid fuels like ethanol, biodiesel, or renewable diesel must be blended in with traditional gasoline.
Under the bill, any fuel produced and other regulated entities that cannot meet these requirements would have to purchase “credits” from businesses that supply low carbon fuels or use credits that have been banked in previous compliance years.
In addition to the LCFS, the Democrat cap and trade plan, Senate Bill 5126 is likely headed to the Appropriations Committee next Monday, after being hear in the House Environment and Energy Committee Friday. From there, it could be headed to the House floor for a vote. I will keep you posted on further developments.
In any case, voters have already rejected carbon-pricing policies several times in the past, yet the majority party and the governor seem intent on ignoring the will of the people.
The cap and trade proposal directs the Department of Ecology to implement a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from certain entities and a program to track, verify, and enforce compliance. Carbon credits would be traded, creating a new, potentially unstable, and manipulative market.
And this plan would have very little reward. Washington state emits less than three-tenths of one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we eliminated every car, truck, train, plane, and boat, the impacts to global greenhouse gas emissions would still be less than three-tenths of one percent! This cap and trade plan will hurt the entire state while doing almost nothing for the environment.
The taxes don't stop there. The Senate Transportation Committee chair recently introduced a proposal that would create 33 new fees or taxes, including a 9.8 cents per gallon gas tax increase. According to an article in The Seattle Times, Senate Bill 5483, which includes charging for car tabs, food deliveries, fuels, auto parts — even higher fees to change your driver's license picture — could raise $15.3 billion to go with $2.75 billion in bond sales, for a total $18.7 billion.
When is enough, enough? We need to stop taking people's money and give them a break.
Police Reform Bills
Another major issue this session has been police reform. The majority party has introduced and passed several bills aimed at greater police accountability. We do need to improve the public's trust in law enforcement, but these bills have gone too far. Instead of finding the proper balance, many of these bills have severely hampered law enforcement officers' ability to respond to emergency situations.
Earlier this session, despite united Republican opposition, the majority party passed House Bills 1310, 1054, and 1267, all of which will make it much harder for our law enforcement officers to do their job, which means public safety will decrease, putting our communities at risk of more criminal activity.
Additionally, the House recently approved two bills from the Senate that also make policing more difficult for law enforcement.
Senate Bill 5066 – Peace Officer's Duty to Intervene
This bill would require an officer to intervene when he or she witnesses a fellow officer engaging in the use of excessive force. I strongly support the intent of this bill, however, as written, it is somewhat vague. The expectations need to be clear and reasonable, but this bill is not quite there. I would have preferred more work be done on this bill before it passed. House Republicans offered amendment to improve the legislation, but none of them were accepted. I strongly believe in accountability, but I don't feel this bill gets us where we need to be, which is why I voted against it.
Senate Bill 5051 – State Oversight and Accountability of Law Enforcement Officers
This bill would make changes to the certification and decertification processes for law enforcement officers by modifying the provisions and composition of the Criminal Justice Training Center (CJTC). It would increase the membership from 16 to 21 by adding civilian members. However, this would mean law enforcement membership would be less than 50%.
The bill also changes the primary responsibility of the CJTC to establishing and administering standards and processes for certification, suspension, and decertification of peace and corrections officers, and gives the CJTC the ability to unilaterally suspend and decertify officers.
As written, I could not support this bill. There is still work that needs to be done, but we must move cautiously and find the right balance to keep our communities safe.
Please Stay in Touch
Please continue reaching out to me with any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns you may have. Even though I'm not able to meet with you in my office in Olympia, my “virtual door” is always open and I look forward to hearing from you. You can also contact my legislative assistant, who is happy to help answer questions and schedule appointments. I encourage you to stay engaged and involved in the legislative process. Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the 16th Legislative District.
It's an honor.