Dear Friends and Neighbors,
One of the most intense, and hardest fought, 105-day sessions concluded on April 28. As the minority party, we worked across the aisle with our Democrat colleagues on all issues by offering reasonable, commonsense and fiscally responsible solutions to the challenges they brought forward. Our solutions were meant to make policy better, and give tax relief to you – the taxpayer.
In this legislative update, I'll recap the highlights of the 2019 legislative session including: some good bipartisan bills that were passed, some bad bills we fought hard to defeat and a brief overview of the state's budgets.
The Good | Bipartisan successes
Even though most of the headlines coming out of Olympia shadows the bad news of session, I want to begin this update with some good news. Several bipartisan successes will make an impact to our state. They include:
- House Bill 1065 will prohibit the practice of “balance” or “surprise” billing by out-of-state medical providers.
- House Bill 1166 will set a deadline of December 2021 for the Washington State Patrol to eliminate the rape kit backlog.
- House Bill 1713 will advance the investigations and discovery of missing and murdered Native American women.
- House Bill 1784 will require the Department of Natural Resources to prioritize forest health treatments to specifically, and strategically, include long, narrow wildfire prevention corridors and provide information to firefighting personnel.
- Senate Bill 5380 will establish new rules regarding opioid prescriptions, dispensing of opioid overdose reversal medication, and require physicians to discuss alternatives to opioids with patients before prescribing.
- Senate Bill 5649 will eliminate the statute of limitations for most sex crimes committed against minors. It will also extend the statute of limitations for most other sex offenses.
The Good | Transportation and Capital budgets
Two of the state's major biennial budgets – transportation and capital – will bring funding to the 31st District for much needed infrastructure, construction and community projects. I proudly supported both of these budgets.
The final transportation budget appropriates $9.8 billion for transportation-related projects across the state. It provides agency requested modifications that will help these agencies to provide necessary transportation services. The graphic below shows the funding level and project title for some of the 31st District projects. For a complete list, please visit http://fiscal.wa.gov/BudgetCProjList.aspx
The final capital budget appropriates $4.9 billion for projects statewide, including historic investments in mental and behavioral health, K-12 school construction, affordable housing and water quality issues. The graphic below shows the funding level and project title for some of the 31st District projects. For a complete list, please visit http://fiscal.wa.gov/BudgetCProjList.aspx
The Bad | Operating budget and tax increases
The Democrats' $52.4 billion operating budget increases state spending by $8 billion, an 18 percent increase over current spending levels. This is not responsible or sustainable. It leaves our state vulnerable for the next economic downturn – which state economists predict is not too far off the horizon.
There was also a procedural issue with how this budget swiftly moved through the legislative process with no transparency. You didn't have access to even see the budget until day 104 of the 105-day session. You have the right to know how the state is spending your tax dollars.
Even though the state is in the best financial position it has been in since the Great Recession, the Democrats chose to raise taxes by $2 billion over the next four years. The major taxes include:
- A business and occupation (B&O) tax surcharge on services that will impact 90,000 employers and raise costs for consumers. | House Bill 2158
- A new, graduated real estate excise tax (REET) that will restrict housing supply, increase rents and harm our economy. | Senate Bill 5998
- A B&O tax increase on certain banks that will result in costs being passed on to the customers. | House Bill 2167
- Ending the sales tax exemption for Oregonians, which will drive away business from border communities. | Senate Bill 5997
- A higher tax on oil that will increase the price of gas. | Senate Bill 5993
This $2 billion number doesn't include the school levy lift (Senate Bill 5313), which will increase property taxes for families across the state by modifying the amount local levies can collect for K-12 enrichment programs.
If anything, the debate this session should have been about tax relief – not tax increases. For that reason, I could not support the final biennial operating budget.
Stay in touch with me!
Now that session has ended, I'm back in the 31st District for the interim. It feels great to be home! Remember, just because my time has ended in Olympia for the year, I'm your state representative year-round. Interim gives me the chance to connect with you at your convenience throughout the district. Please reach out to my office to set up an appointment, to arrange a speaking opportunity, or to ask any questions you may have. My Legislative Assistant, Meagan, is happy to assist you.
It's an honor to serve you.