Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Our work for another legislative session has concluded under the dome here in Olympia. Let me tell you, it was one of the most intense, and hardest fought, sessions in recent history. As the minority party, we worked across the aisle with our Democrat colleagues by presenting common-sense, reasonable and fiscally responsible solutions to the challenges they brought forward. We were successful in many areas by making policies better, or stopping bad policy altogether.
In this legislative update, I will recap the 2019 session and provide an update on the “talk of the town” surrounding budgets and taxes.
On deck: A new edition of the Barkis Breakdown
On deck in my latest edition of the Barkis Breakdown, I provide a video recap of the 2019 session, provide an update on landlord-tenant reform, highlight my first biennial transportation budget, and speak about my interim plans. You can watch by clicking on the photo below.
Even though most of the headlines coming out of Olympia, and across the state, highlights the bad news of session, I want to begin this update with some good news. Several bipartisan successes were achieved and deserve to light the shadows of the bad policies that were passed.
The Good | Governor signs bipartisan landlord-tenant bill
This session, I sponsored four bills as part of my eviction prevention package to bring common-sense reform to our state's current landlord-tenant laws. I'm proud to announce that Gov. Jay Inslee signed my bill that will increase the notification process for tenants being displaced from their homes due to demolishment or substantial rehabilitation.
This is good bipartisan legislation. My colleagues and I worked hard with key stakeholders to find this solution for both property owners and tenants. This is a small piece of a very large puzzle of landlord-tenant reform, and remains a key issue I will continue to work on throughout the interim and into the 2020 legislative session.
The Good | Two fiscally responsible budgets
This was my first session as the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee. It was a unique experience to help write my first biennial transportation budget. I'm thankful my caucus was part of the team, and we were able to work in a true, bipartisan partnership to produce a budget that will keep Washington moving.
The final 2019-21 transportation budget appropriates $9.8 billion to fund essential infrastructure projects across the state, including maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Ferry system, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Washington State Patrol, and other state transportation agencies. The graphic below shows the funding level and project title for some of the 2nd District projects. For a complete list, please visit http://fiscal.wa.gov/BudgetTProjList.aspx.
The final 2019-211 capital budget appropriates $4.9 billion for projects statewide, including historic investments in mental and behavioral health, K-12 school construction, and affordable housing. The graphic below shows the funding level and project title for some of the 2nd District projects. For a complete list, please visit http://fiscal.wa.gov/BudgetCProjList.aspx.
I proudly supported both of these budgets.
The Bad | 2019-21 Operating budget
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. The graphic below shows our state spending from 1995 to the projected growth of 2023. It tells an important story.
There was also a procedural issue with how the Democrats swiftly moved this budget through the legislative process with no transparency. Unlike the transportation and capital budgets, Republicans were not invited into budget negotiations, eliminating any opportunity for a bipartisan budget that represents the needs of all Washingtonians.
The budget also wasn't available to you until day 104 of the 105-day session. You have the right to know how the state is spending your tax dollars, and should have the opportunity for meaningful review and comment.
The Bad | Taxes, taxes and more taxes
Even though the state is in the best financial position it has been in since the Great Recession, the Democrats chose to raise your 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
- Creation of a new state government long-term care benefit funded by a new employee-paid payroll tax. | House Bill 1087
- 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.
The chart below is a graphical representation of the taxes passed by the Democrats. The 2019-21 operating budget directly relies on all of the taxes not shaded.
If anything, the debate this session should've been about tax relief – not tax increases. For these reasons, I could not support this massive budget and tax plan.
Stay in touch!
Now that session has ended, I'm back in the 2nd District. If is so great to be home to attend local meetings and events. 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 just sit and chat.
It's an honor to serve you.