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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We got some good news yesterday when the governor officially moved all counties in Washington to Phase 3 of the state's “Healthy Washington” reopening plan starting on March 22. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the eased COVID-19 restrictions, along with additional changes to the reopening plan during a news conference this week.
Under Phase 3, indoor spaces, like restaurants and movie theaters, can have 50% occupancy with up to 400 people for indoor and outdoor activities, such as concerts and high school graduations, as long as physical distancing and masking are enforced. Outdoor events with permanent facilities can have 25% occupancy for spectators.
Coronavirus relief package | Congress
Washington state received even more good news this week with the U.S. House approval of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that will bring millions of dollars to Washington state schools, businesses, and state and local governments. Stay tuned, I'll be sending more information about the impact of the American Rescue Plan on Washington state in my next update.
House floor debate
For the past couple of weeks, legislators have been spending long hours and late evenings debating and deciding on bills in both the state House and Senate Chambers.
The House passed 216 bills, and the Senate passed 200 bills. To see a list of bills that passed the Senate or House click here. Seven bills have already made it through the process and have been signed into law or are waiting for signature by the governor.
If you want to track this information, you can do so at the same site highlighted above, then go to the column titled “joint” and select either “Passed Legislature” or “Governor's action.”
We've reached another milestone on the legislative calendar: house of origin cutoff was on Tuesday, March 9th at 5 p.m.—the last day bills can be considered in the chamber in which they were introduced.
Lawmakers will now head back to their respective committees to begin reviewing and vetting measures approved in the opposing chamber during the past few weeks.
39th District Virtual Town Hall
Please plan on joining me for a Virtual Town Hall Meeting on March 18 at 6 p.m. During the online meeting, attendees will be invited to ask questions about state government-related topics.
I'll also share an update on bills approved or defeated in the House or Senate prior to cutoff and other information on the 105-day session. Click here to register.
Real Opportunities for Washingtonians | 2021-23 budgeting plan
In odd-numbered years, like 2021, the primary task of the Legislature is to create and pass a budget that funds all the operations of state government for the next two years.
We've been lucky in Washington that the pandemic, from a state budgeting perspective, has produced modest deficits, and even a slight surplus in state revenue.
And yet, despite that fact, in December the governor proposed a budget plan that relies heavily on increased taxes to expand government.
Why? Given the financial strain COVID-19 has put on countless working individuals and families across Washington state, raising taxes is not answer—especially when it's unnecessary.
That's why, along with my House Republican colleagues, I'm supporting the Real Opportunities for All Washingtonians 2021-23 budgeting plan. This proposal funds our state's priorities, assists working families, vulnerable populations, and gives a hand to struggling small businesses—with no cuts to vital services and no new taxes.
Other highlights include:
- For the first time in its 12-year history, it funds the Working Washington Family Tax Credit—a tax exemption for low-income working people that work similarly to the federal earned income tax credit.
- Gives a $300 stipend to low-income families to defray the cost of remote learning.
- Investments in community behavioral health, triple the governor's proposal ($225M).
- Funds a cost-of-living adjustment for clients and other funding improvements for nursing homes and residential communities.
- Invests more in foundational public health than the governor's plan, with taxing health care plans to do so.
- Replenishes the unemployment insurance trust fund so employers aren't liable for mandatory closures or payments to Nigerian scammers.
- Offers B&O, property tax, and liquor fee deferrals for small businesses so they remain solvent through shutdowns.
All of that, with NO new taxes on anyone or anything! Yes, you read that right. The House Republicans' budget does not include new taxes—including no income tax on capital gains. In fact, the plan actually reduces taxes by $445M.
Savings, efficiencies and rational decision-making
Additionally, by focusing on reducing redundancies and wastefulness—this budget's legislative-driven savings improves the effectiveness of state programs. How does it do that? With more than $6.2 billion in savings, most of which were recommended by state agencies as part of their budget evaluation exercise last year.
It appropriates $1.8B from the state's rainy-day fund to pay for a series of one-time, COVID-related expenses. The rainy-day fund is projected to quickly rebound, reaching $1.1B by the end of 2025.
The plan proposes to grow state spending to $55B in 2021-23, breaking a cycle of unsustainable spending increases, averaging 16% over the past three biennia. It also leaves a four-year ending fund balance of $768 million, bringing total reserves to $1.8B by the end of 2025.
To read more, go to:
Please stay in touch!
Feel free to call, write or email my office with your comments, concerns or ideas about legislation and state government. My contact information is listed below.
It's an honor to serve you!
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7816 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000