Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are nearing the end of the 2022 legislative session. We have just two weeks left before the final gavel is scheduled to drop on March 10. More than 200 bills have passed out of both the House and Senate and are now being considered in the opposite chamber. Some of the biggest bills that remain are the three supplemental budgets: operating, transportation, and capital. We are scheduled to vote on these this Saturday.
Transportation Budget and Move Ahead Washington Spending Package
As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I was looking forward to being involved in the discussions and offering input to provide real solutions to the state's biggest transportation problems.
However, that did not happen. House and Senate Democrats completely left Republicans out of the conversation and introduced their own package without any Republican input. Transportation is a priority for both sides, as well as everyone in Washington, as it greatly affects every one of us.
The 2021-23 transportation supplemental budget is$11.7 billion, which is a reduction of $137 million from the budget passed last year. The reliance on bonding is reduced from $2.5 billion to $1.4 billion. The revenue forecast projects $6.59 million in state revenues for 2021-23.
The good news is the budget does include some Republican ideas, including $5 million going toward keeping safety rest areas open, similar to HB 1655. Another $50,000 would go toward posting human trafficking assistance phone number signs at those areas, which is similar to HB 2077.
Unfortunately, there are several questionable things about this budget proposal.
- It spends $127 million in Climate Commitment Act funding that may not appear at the end of the biennium. This funding is going to special interests instead of much-needed repairs on the state system.
- It also increases $68.8 million for public transportation funding, with a good portion of the funding coming from the Climate Commitment Act, identified in the Moves Ahead Washington bills.
- It provides $4 million and authorization to seek federal funding for the governor's ultra-high-speed rail concept from Portland, Oregon, to Vancouver, BC. An additional $50 million is available for federal grant matching requirements for the state portion.
- It authorizes the Department of Commerce to set vehicle miles traveled reduction targets for all jurisdictions, which originally did not apply in rural counties.
To sum up the Democrats' supplemental transportation budget proposal, it was completely partisan, and rather than making necessary modifications, it creates another massive “tax and spend” plan.
House Republicans, on the other hand, offered real solutions to the state's many transportation troubles. Our ranking member, Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, introduced the Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity (REAL) Act in November.
The REAL Act consisted of several bills that would, among other things:
- Shift specified transportation programs to be paid for by the general fund starting in 2025.
- Direct state sales tax paid on motor vehicles to the preservation and maintenance of the existing transportation system.
- Permanently transferring sales tax paid on transportation projects to the transportation budget.
Unfortunately, the majority party ignored our plan and chose the Move Ahead Washington plan, instead. This 16-year proposal is expected to cost $16.8 billion and will raise taxes and fees on many if not all drivers. Under this proposal:
- The state would create $2 billion in new revenue by adding a new, 6-cent tax on fuel exported from Washington state. Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho have all threatened to retaliate if Washington decides to move forward with this bad policy.
- Democrats envision that gas powered vehicles after model year 2030 will no longer be allowed to be purchased, sold, or registered in Washington. That means the government would dictate which types of vehicles we're allowed to own.
- One of the funding sources is the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), which draws some of its revenue from the Cap-and-Trade Act, which will increase the price of gas.
- It would require vehicle owners and drivers to pay more for other forms of transportation.
- The cost of several transportation fees would increase, including license plates and enhanced driver's licenses.
These are not solutions, but rather additional burdens on families and individuals throughout Washington. We are in the middle of one of the most robust economic periods in our state's history, with record tax revenue. There is no reason to raises any taxes or fees. We can solve our state's transportation issues with the money we have coming in and reduce the burden to taxpayers. This is bad policy that creates more problems.
As I mentioned, the state is currently experiencing a tremendous influx of revenue, which is why the supplemental operating budgets released by Democrats in the House and Senate on Monday are very disappointing. As with the transportation budget, Republicans were again completely left out of the discussion regarding these budget proposals. And the majority party in both chambers is looking to increase spending, while offering no meaningful tax breaks.
Families and individuals are now facing the highest inflation rate in more than 40 years, which means an increase of about $250 a month in expenses for the average household. However, while families all over the state continue to struggle with the increased costs, the state has a $15 billion budget surplus.
Washington has seen a huge revenue increase over the last year. Despite the pandemic, tax collections have shot up by 13.3% in 2021 and 8.7% in 2022. Additionally, since the 2021-23 budget was enacted last March, revenue has increased by $9.25 billion over the four-year outlook.
Despite that record revenue, these plans offer no real tax relief. Instead, the Senate plan would add about $5.8 billion in new spending for a total of $63.4 billion. It would leave just $3.3 billion in reserves. The House plan would add $6.2 billion in new spending, for a total of about $65 billion, with just $2.2 billion in reserve.
With so much additional money available, now is the time to give something back to taxpayers. House Republicans have introduced the SAFE Washington budget plan, which would do a number of things to improve life for Washingtonians, including provide meaningful tax relief to families, without compromising state services.
It's time to stop talking about wanting to help working families and actually do it. We have record revenue, plus a historic surplus. If we aren't going to offer tax relief now, then when will we? There's never been a better time and the people of Washington need it now. House Republicans will continue providing real solutions to our biggest issues, including offering long-term tax relief to help struggling families and individuals. Learn more about the SAFE Washington budget plan.
Budget writers also released the supplemental capital budget proposal this week. Unlike the other two budgets, the capital budget is typically a bipartisan effort, designed for projects such as schools and other public buildings, behavioral and mental health facilities, parks, low-income housing, water infrastructure, and habitat.
It proposes to spend $1.5 billion, $77.4 million of which is from the sale of general obligation bonds. The remaining $1.41 billion is comprised of a combination of federal funds, General Fund-State transfers, and other dedicated funding sources. It leaves $27.6 million in bond capacity.
In addition, $3.29 million in local projects for the 16th District have been included in the supplemental budget for 2022. 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.
Update on Good and Bad Bills
As I mentioned earlier, both the House and Senate passed more than 200 bills each from their prospective chambers. Some of those bills are good and some are very bad. Additionally, some good bills from Republicans made it through, but the majority party chose to prevent many more from advancing.
House Republicans also worked tirelessly to stop several bad bills, and we were successful in killing some troubling pieces of legislation. Here are some of the highlights.
Good Republican Bills That DID Pass the House
- HB 1973 would require school board meetings to be recorded.
- HB 2019 would increase educational and training opportunities for careers in retail.
- HB 1015 would provide loans to historically underserved communities during the 2021-23 biennium.
Good Republican Bills That Did NOT Pass the House
- HB 1788 would've allowed law enforcement to chase suspects.
- HB 1656 would've changed the definition of theft to include concealment.
- HB 1772 would've created emergency powers reform and involved the Legislature.
Bad Democrat Bills That Did NOT Pass the House
- HB 1838 would've created riparian management zones effectively killing much of the state's farmland.
- HB 1727 would've eliminated odd-year elections for county, city, most special purpose districts, and all statewide ballot measures.
- HB 1904 would've required a landlord to provide at least 6 months' notice prior to a rent increase of more than 7.5%. A tenant would've been able to break their lease at any time during this period after providing the landlord at least 45 days' notice.
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.