Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 105-day legislative session ended last week, and it was a historic process. Not only did we navigate the first ever remote session, but also, some of the most controversial legislation to ever be passed in the state is headed to the governor's desk.
Before I get into the details, I want to give a quick thank you for all your help this session. Being a freshman legislator during a pandemic and doing the work of the people virtually, was a monumental task. I greatly appreciate your continued confidence, input, and support. I could not have done this without you.
Unprecedented New Policies
Although there were some good bills this year, the Legislature passed some very problematic policies that were split among party lines. Unfortunately, these bills were not in the best interest of all Washingtonians and it is concerning that the intentions of those bills will not help but rather hinder most people in the state.
The legislative process should be a combined effort from both sides to truly represent every voice in Washington, not just those living in the I-5 corridor. However, of the more than 200 bills that passed out of the House this year, less than 20 percent were sponsored by Republicans and only a handful of Republican amendments were passed to balance out some extremely, poorly written bills. That's not a balanced representation of the people of Washington.
While we did pass some good policies, we are concerned about much of the legislation passed, including an unsustainable operating budget, unnecessary taxes, unfunded climate mandates, and unbalanced police reform. And we're also still operating under unchecked emergency powers.
Unsustainable $59 Billion Budget – House and Senate Democrat budget negotiators waited until the eleventh hour to release their final budget on Saturday afternoon. We had to vote on the bill about 24 hours later, which was not nearly enough time for legislators, the public, or the media to comprehend what this massive 13.6% increase over the 2019-21 budget really contained.
While it does fund some positive things, this kind of spending is simply unsustainable. State government continues to increase spending much faster than the incomes of our hard-working individuals and families. At some point, we're all going to pay. Additionally, this budget relies on a new income tax on capital gains.
Unnecessary Taxes – Despite Republican (and some Democratic) opposition, new taxes were imposed on the people of Washington. The biggest addition is the aforementioned income tax on capital gains (Senate Bill 5096). Not only is this tax unnecessary, but it's also unpopular, unreliable, and likely unconstitutional. In fact, it is already being challenged in the courts.
At a time, when many Washingtonians are still struggling from the governor's restrictions, we don't need to burden them with additional taxes. State government has more than enough revenue to fund every item in their new operating budget without increasing taxes. Many people believe the true goal behind this bill is to implement a statewide income tax. Voters have already said no to an income tax 10 different times in our state history (See chart below). Right now, this tax affects only certain people that accumulate a certain amount of income through investments but as history has proven once the foot is in the door it will eventually be open to everyone in the state to pay a capital gains tax.
Unfunded Climate Mandates – 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 be going up significantly. This is a regressive tax that will hurt people in rural areas the most. It will have little to no effect on our environment. However, it creates more unnecessary bureaucracy and places additional costs on businesses that is eventually passed onto consumers. This is a bad bill that will hurt low-income and hard-working families.
In addition to the LCFS, a cap and trade tax, Senate Bill 5126, was passed even though voters have already rejected carbon-pricing policies several times. Despite the bill's intentions, it 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.
Unchecked Emergency Powers – Republicans have been fighting for emergency power reform since day one of the 2021 session. Even a few across the aisle have expressed concern over the governor's unchecked emergency powers during this pandemic. However, despite numerous attempts to give the Legislature a greater voice during emergency situations, all those efforts were rebuffed. As session ends, we are still under a state of emergency and still under the rule of a single person, with no checks or balances. This is not how our state government should be run.
Unbalanced Police Reform – Another major issue this session was police reform. With another party split the Legislature passed several bills aimed at greater police accountability. We agree that change is needed, and we fully support accountability, but these bills have gone too far. Instead of finding the proper balance, many of these bills could severely hamper law enforcement officers' ability to respond to emergency situations.
Despite united Republican opposition, both chambers passed House Bills 1310, 1054, and 1267, and Senate Bill 5051, all of which will make it much harder for our peace officers to do their job, meaning public safety will decrease, putting our communities and citizens at greater risk.
I'm very happy to report that I was able to help secure some critical funding for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for youth in Pasco. This is an important center for youth from all walks of life. The plan is to use the money to refresh the outdated center and modernize it for children and teens in the area. The much-needed renovation will make the center a valuable asset for all kids in Pasco for many years to come.
I also worked with my seatmates in the 16th District to secure nearly $1.2 million in grant money to restore and preserve the exterior of the historic courthouse in Walla Walla County.
Virtual Town Hall
I will be joining my fellow 16 District lawmakers, Sen. Perry Dozier and Rep. Skyler Rude, for a virtual town hall meeting, Monday, May 3, from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. This one-hour event will be a great opportunity to review the 2021 legislative session. It's also the perfect time for you to share your ideas and concerns and get your questions answered.
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 Monday, May 3 and share what's on your mind.
You can register for the event by clicking here.
Please Continue to Reach Out
As we now enter the interim, I want to remind you I represent you year-round. So please continue reaching out by using the contact info below. It's truly an honor to represent you and be your voice in the Legislature. My goal is to represent everyone in the 16th District to the best of my ability. Thank you for allowing me to serve you and I look forward to hearing from you during the interim.