Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Operating budget proposals from House Democrats and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus have been released and budget negotiations are ongoing. For more information, including comparisons of the two dueling budget proposals, see below.
We also expect to vote on the state transportation budget this week as well as the capital (construction) budget.
I've also included the results of my session survey at the end of this e-newsletter. A big thank you to those who participated in my survey and our 8th District town hall meetings last month!
Can you afford an $8 billion tax increase?
According to non-partisan committee staff, the House Democrat budget includes $8 billion in new and increased taxes over the next four years. Their tax increases include a 20 percent Business and Occupation (B&O) tax increase on residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, hospitals and grocery distribution, among others. They also propose a capital gains income tax, which is most likely unconstitutional and a first step toward a state income tax.
I also have concerns about how fast their budget increases spending. Their budget increases spending by 17 percent in the next two-year budget cycle, and by 15 percent the following two years. This significantly outpaces the earnings of those being asked to pay for it, even at a time of historically high state revenues. If their budget was adopted as-is, the 2019-21 budget would be $51 billion! Our 2011-13 budget was $31 billion. This would be a $20 BILLION increase in just eight years!
And, once again, House Democrats have no intention of actually voting on their proposed tax increases. Their budget is a can't-say-no-to-anybody wish list of spending ideas with no way to pay for them. It's going to be difficult to negotiate budget proposals when one is a “wish list” and the other is a complete budget proposal.
Senate budget – not perfect, but no major tax increases
The Senate budget includes a levy swap to pay for fully funding education. As part of the final piece to the McCleary puzzle, we must find a way to fund education without relying on local levies. The Senate does this by setting up a standard statewide levy rate across the board so all homeowners in the state pay the same levy amount. This is a much more fair and equitable way to address our education and local levy needs. Our current local levy model has some school districts paying over $5 per $1,000 of assessed value while others are less than $1. The end result is that a few property-rich districts like those found in Bellevue and Seattle will pay a little more in property taxes while those in property-poor districts in much of Eastern Washington will pay less.
Another thing I like about the Senate budget is what it does with extraordinary revenues. Rather than spend this likely one-time money on new programs and services, which only exacerbates our budget problems in future years when the economy takes a dip, the Senate proposes to take $700 million and pay down our state pension liability. This move could save the state $1.5 billion over the next 10 years! Think of it like getting a large bonus in your paycheck. Do you go out and buy a new house that you may not be able to afford unless you get that same bonus every year? Or do you make a few extra payments on your existing mortgage, saving significant interest payments in the long run? The Senate's approach to fiscal responsibility and sustainability is encouraging.
I don't like everything in the Senate budget, but it's much more sustainable while putting education first and protecting our most vulnerable. As I mentioned, negotiations are ongoing. I'm hopeful budget leaders can come to an agreement so that we can adjourn the legislative session on time this year.
House Bill 1107 has passed the Legislature. This eliminates the term “branch” as an identifying factor for college and university extended campuses.
House Bill 1130 also passed the Legislature. It helps small businesses by allowing them to contract with qualified community and technical colleges or private vocational schools to provide customized training.
House Bill 1723, my bill to help Hanford workers who are sick or injured on the job, died in the Senate. I'll continue to work on this issue with those who have concerns. At the end of the day, I want to assist Hanford workers get the help and medical attention they need. I'm willing to work with anyone who shares this goal.
What issues are most important to you? Rank 1-10 (1 being most important)
2. Jobs and the economy
3. Health care
4. Responsible and sustainable state budget
5. Public safety
6. Property rights and the continuous eroding of this fundamental right
7. Gun issues and the constant attack on our Second Amendment rights
8. Wildfires and forest management
9. State Supreme Court's Hirst decision and the uncertainty of water issues
10. Delisting wolves from ESA
How do you feel about the economy where you work and live?
(My apologies, but there was a technical glitch in the creation of this survey resulting in inaccurate data collection. I'll include this question again in a future survey)
What do you think about the regulatory climate in our state?
It is manageable. Employers are able to cope and it's not a hindrance to job creation or economic growth. = 39%
Overburdening employers with unnecessary rules and regulations is the single biggest hurdle to economic growth in my community. = 25%
It is one of many factors including B&O taxes, L&I issues and a high minimum wage that is preventing job creation and economic growth in my community. = 22%
We need more regulations on our small businesses and employers to protect our environment, consumers and public safety. = 14%
Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order temporarily suspending the death penalty in WA. Now, legislation has been introduced to make this permanent. Do you support eliminating the death penalty?
Yes, the death penalty unfairly targets minorities, costs taxpayers money and should be permanently repealed. = 49%
No, the death penalty helps bring closure to victims and families, is proper justice for certain crimes and should remain a viable option for prosecutors when determining sentencing. = 51%
What is the number one problem that you, or someone you know, are experiencing with Obamacare?
Does not apply to me. = 61%
Had to switch health plans and am now paying more. = 15%
I'm on Obamacare and have no problems whatsoever. = 13%
Not enough options to choose from to fit my needs and budget. = 7%
Not able to keep my doctor. = 2%
Not able to keep my health insurance plans. = 1.5%
Problems with access to or delays with the state Healthplanfinder website or phone number. = 0.5%
Thank you for staying involved. Contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your state government.