Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In the aftermath of the global pandemic, we must find ways to ease the onerous burdens businesses are facing, including significant unemployment tax increases. Now is not the time to increase taxes or regulations. Legislators must work to ensure businesses can survive and hopefully expand to provide more employment opportunities for Washingtonians.
Business bills update
Here are a couple of business-related bills that, if fully approved, would hinder the economic recovery process:
House Bill 1076 would incentivize attorneys to seek out private citizens to sue the government so they could reap a portion of the financial award. Such a system would be ripe for abuse, with no real safeguards to ensure we won't see a surge in frivolous lawsuits. If there is an issue with state agencies not having the resources to enforce laws, we should provide additional funding, not more opportunities for attorneys to get rich on the backs of employees.
Along with being a significant risk and unfunded mandate on local governments as employers, it's just one more thing employers have to worry about while they are trying their best to stay in compliance with every changing employment law, rule, and proclamation from the governor.
- Passed House 53 to 44. Scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
House Bill 1097 shifts costs to employers. It contains vague standards and would create uncertainty for businesses in a time when they are already struggling and stressed.
- Passed the House 53-44. Currently in the Senate Rules Committee, awaiting a vote by the Senate Chamber.
It's all about budgets
For the rest of the session, legislators will primarily focus on reviewing, debating, and voting on the state's three main spending plans: the operating, transportation, and capital budgets. The tentative plan is to vote on them this week.
No need for tax increases
Despite the financial hardships endured by individuals, families, and businesses because of the COVID restrictions, state tax collections continue to climb. Simply put, the much-feared budget shortfall originally predicted at the start of the pandemic never materialized. Washington state budget writers are working with a significant surplus of more than $3.29 billion over the four-year outlook. You can watch the Economic and Revenue Forecast Councils meeting on this topic by clicking here.
Combined with federal stimulus money—$4.1 billion in recovery dollars for local, county, and state governments, and $3 billion in relief for K-12 schools, higher education, and child care—the state has more than enough to fund its priorities and provide significant COVID-19 relief, without raising taxes.
Unfortunately, this good news hasn't stopped tax proponents from asking for more. The operating budget proposal, House Bill 1094, includes an income tax on capital gains that spends even more than what the governor proposed in December. Even the Seattle Times says lawmakers should think twice before voting for a measure that is not only unnecessary but also, because of constitutionality questions, will probably end up in court.
COVID-19 relief efforts and other state programs have more than adequate funding available to work with. Our priorities should be in providing relief to struggling individuals, families, and businesses—not increasing tax burdens.
The capital budget
The House recently released its 2021-23 capital budget proposal. The state's two-year construction spending plan covers the cost of projects like schools and other public buildings. It's funded through general obligation bonds, dedicated cash accounts, and federal funds.
As a member of the Capital Budget Committee, I'm grateful to be part of the bipartisan team of legislators that created a thoughtful plan that looks to provide significant COVID relief to communities across the state. With a total spending proposal of $5.7 billion, $3.5 billion of which is from the sale of general obligation bonds, the plan leaves $176 in bond capacity for supplemental budget needs in 2022.
Federal contributions include $189 million from the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund for work, education, and health monitoring, and $400 million from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund for investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
By the end of this week, the House will vote on House Bill 1080. If approved the bill will head to the Senate for further consideration. Some local 39th District projects in the yet-to-be-approved spending plan include:
- Monroe ECEAP Facility: $361,000
- Arlington Innovation Center: $372,000
- Sky Valley Teen Center: $773,000
- Sultan Basin Park Design: $26,000
- Index Phased Water Line Replacement: $1.35 million
- LP State Route 530 (Oso) Slide Memorial Park: $500,000
- Wallace Falls Parking Expansion: $239,000
Thank you for attending my virtual town hall!
I'd like to thank everyone who attended my first-ever virtual town hall event. Town halls are a particularly valuable way to bring people together. Although I'd prefer to meet in person, the online format gave people from across the 39th District a way to meet. Nearly a hundred people took part in the meeting. Attendees had the option to submit a question prior to the event or to raise their hand during the meeting and ask their questions live.
We discussed a range of public policy topics, including landlord assistance bills, direct aid for struggling families, reopening Washington, much-needed changes for U.S. Highway 2, and tax proposals being debated at the capital. If you could not attend, please don't worry. I'll be hosting another virtual town hall at the conclusion of the legislative session.
Staying involved in the legislative process
You can stay updated by following House Republicans on Twitter and Facebook, visiting The Ledger, or utilizing the resources listed on my legislative website. If you have a comment or question about state-related matters, feel free to email or give me a call. My contact information is listed below.
It's an honor to serve you!