Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Our work for another legislative session concluded on April 25. Let me tell you, it was one of the most intense, and hardest fought, sessions in recent history, especially since we operated 100% remotely, or very close to it.
As the minority party, we worked across the virtual aisle with our Democrat colleagues by presenting common sense, fiscally responsible, and real solutions to the policies they brought forward. We were successful in some areas by making policies better or stopping bad policy altogether. We were not so successful in other areas.
In this legislative update, I will recap the good and bad of the 2021 legislative session. For a quick recap on all the top issues, watch my video update. You can do so by clicking here or on the photo below. In this video I cover:
- My year-long bipartisan effort to end the governor's eviction moratorium;
- Housing policy: Senate Bill 5160 and attempting to bring relief to property owners and tenants;
- The challenges of being under the “virtual” dome in Olympia;
- Income tax on capital gains (Senate Bill 5096);
- Climate and environmental justice policies, including a low-carbon fuel standard (House Bill 1091) and cap-and-tax policy (Senate Bill 5126);
- Massive police reform;
- Double-digit percentage increase in state spending through the 2021-23 operating budget; and
- Interim and planning for the 2022 session.
Bipartisan capital and transportation budgets
The final 2021-23 capital budget appropriates $6.3 billion in funds for critical infrastructure improvements including schools, public buildings, low-income housing, water infrastructure, state parks, and other community-based projects. The 2nd District received approximately $23 million for local district projects. For more information on the capital budget and projects, please visit http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/budget/detail/2021/hc2123Bien.asp.
The final 2021-23 transportation budget is both an operating and capital budget for our state's transportation system. It appropriates $11.8 billion for 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.
As the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, I am proud this budget will keep transportation projects across our district and state moving forward, and that the proposal itself does not raise taxes on anyone or anything.
For a recap on the process to write this budget, including potential transportation revenue packages that are still in motion, watch my video. You can do so by clicking here or by clicking on the photo below.
You can also read my statement on the final 2021-23 transportation budget here. For more information on the transportation budget and projects, please visit http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/budget/detail/2021/ht2123Bien.asp
I proudly supported both of these budgets.
The Legislature's response to State v. Blake
Earlier this year, the Washington State Supreme Court finalized a decision known as State v. Blake, which decriminalized the simple possession of drugs in our state. This put a huge task into the hands of the Legislature to bring forward some sort of structure to what this ruling would mean for drug possession charges and convictions now and in the future.
House Republicans offered a package of real solutions to address the court's decision. Unfortunately, our solutions were not heard and did not move forward in the legislative process. Senate Bill 5476 was the avenue chosen to address the court's decision. This solution is not perfect, but it does not immediately decriminalize the simple possession of drugs. It also provides funding for addiction rehabilitation and recovery efforts. For these reasons, I supported this bill.
There is still much work to be done on this issue. Addiction and recovery is one of my top priorities now and heading into the 2022 session.
No emergency power reform
One of our main concerns all throughout the 2021 session was the majority party's lack of action to rein in the governor's emergency powers and restore decision-making authority to the Legislative branch.
At the very beginning of session, I co-sponsored House Bill 1029 in one attempt to reform the powers of the executive office during an emergency. This bill did not even receive a public hearing. Many of my other Republican colleagues also introduced emergency powers bills that were also not considered.
I believe it is important to point out the efforts House Republicans have been doing to rein in the governor's emergency powers. I know it might not seem like it on the surface, but the majority party has the power to hear and move our bills through the legislative process, and this session they have chosen not to consider emergency powers reform as a priority.
I am disappointed we had 105-days to balance the power between all three branches of government. Yet, we walked away with the executive branch and the governor still being the only person making decisions on behalf of the entire state.
The operating budget
The final 2021-23 operating budget does some good things by funding the day-to-day operations of the state, and includes priorities such as investments in childcare, rental and landlord assistance, the expansion of broadband, funding the Working Families Tax Credit, replenishing the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, and improvements to state-managed forestlands.
I opposed this budget because it grows state spending by $7 billion, an increase of 13.6% over the 2019-21 budget cycle. And it is important to note, state spending has increased by 74% since Gov. Jay Inslee took office in 2013. This budget also relies on an income tax on capital gains and moving money out of the rainy-day fund into a new account to eliminate the 2/3 majority vote needed to use these funds. For these reasons, I could not support this budget.
Despite record state tax collections the last three legislative sessions, and an influx of federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Democrats in the Legislature continue to increase taxes on individuals, families and businesses throughout Washington state.
The most notable tax coming out of the 2021 session is the income tax on capital gains. Not only is this tax unnecessary, but it's also unpopular, unreliable, and likely unconstitutional. In fact, it is already being challenged in court. We believe the true goal behind this tax is to eventually enact a statewide income tax. Voters have already said no to an income tax 10 different times in our state history. As it stands right now, this tax affects only certain people that accumulate a certain amount of income through investments, but as history has proven, once the the door is open, it will only be a matter of time before everyone in the Washington state is paying a tax on their income.
Even though the final 2021-23 transportation did not include any tax increases, there were a few environmental policies that passed the legislature in 2021 that will have an impact on your wallet as they increase the price of gasoline.
There are also talks of a transportation revenue package that is still in motion, even though the Legislature has adjourned. One of the ideas in this proposal would also add on to the price of gasoline.
I will keep you updated throughout the interim on the progress of the transportation revenue packages.
Even though session has concluded, I am your state representative year-round. Please reach out to my office to set up an appointment. My contact information can be found at the bottom of this email.