We are more than two-thirds of the way done with the 2021 legislative session. The last month of session we will be debating some major issues including the three budgets (operating, capital, transportation), a capital gains income tax, local carbon fuel standard, a possible gas tax, public safety issues and much more. I urge you to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments.
Virtual town hall
I appreciate and thank all of you who participated in the virtual town hall Rep. Jim Walsh and I had a couple of weeks ago. Your input and feedback is important to us as we debate on important issues impacting the 19th District and Washington state. It was great to hear your questions and concerns. I look forward to holding an in-person town hall meeting in the future.
Revenue forecast shows state has plenty of tax dollars
Last week, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its quarterly revenue forecast, and it is good news for Washington state and budget writers in the Legislature. Compared to the November forecast, tax revenues are up by $1.34 billion for the remainder of this biennium (2019-21) and up another $1.95 billion for the 2021-23 biennium. That is a total of $3.29 billion over the four-year outlook. Finally, the state tax revenues for the 2021-23 biennium are projected to be $56.6 billion, an increase of 8.2% over the current biennium.
This forecast puts us back at pre-pandemic revenues. This is very good news, given last June it was estimated we could be facing a $9 billion budget deficit this session.
Not included in the positive revenue forecast is the latest federal stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan Act, which is sending Washington state approximately $7.1 billion in recovery money for local, county, and state governments, in addition to about $3 billion in COVID relief for K-12 schools, higher education, and childcare.
No need for taxes
With the more than $3 billion increase in taxpayer revenue forecast and the federal dollars coming in, majority Democrats are still pushing new and increased taxes. The most concerning is the capital gains income tax, Senate Bill 5096.
It passed the Senate by one vote, 25-24 and it is currently in the House Finance Committee. This tax is unnecessary, unreliable given its volatility, unwanted and likely unconstitutional. We are the only state that doesn't consider capital gains income. However, the IRS has weighed in and has said “capital gains” is income, or an income tax.
Of course, the biggest concern is this would be the first step toward a full-fledged state income tax on our taxpayers. Voters have rejected this policy or a constitutional amendment dealing with an income tax 10 times. We should listen to the voters and not pass this legislation.
Republicans introduce legislation to address State v. Blake
House Republicans unveiled a package of bills this week to address the state Supreme Court drug possession decision (State v. Blake) that deemed the state's simple possession drug law unconstitutional.
The court's decision is scary and a threat to public safety for our communities and the people of Washington. This doesn't help those who suffer from substance abuse and it sends a poor message to our young people.
The legislation we introduced:
- House Bill 1558 would promote recovery and improve public safety by providing behavioral health system responses to individuals with substance use disorder and providing training to law enforcement personnel.
- House Bill 1559 would provide a behavioral health response to juveniles consuming controlled substances.
- House Bill 1560 would consider the mental state element of a person's intention to knowingly commit a crime (mens rea) involving offenses related to possession of substances.
- House Bill 1561 would expand offenses and penalties for manufacture, sale, distribution, and other conduct involving controlled substances and counterfeit substances.
- House Bill 1562 would allow local governments to enact laws and ordinances relating to possession of controlled substances and counterfeit substances.
The court's decision needs to be addressed. We are hopeful the majority party will work with us to pass this much needed legislation before we adjourn.
Phase 3, finally
As of Monday, the entire state is now in Phase 3. It took longer than many of us had hoped, but we are pleased the governor has finally taken action. It was also good to see him adopt several Republican ideas in his plan, including moving away from a regional approach and going back to a county-by-county system.
We are also pleased the governor announced yesterday schools can use the Centers for Disease Control guidance of 3-feet distancing in schools to get more students back in the classroom. It is important our young people get back in school full time and give them a sense of normalcy. It has been more than a year, and the personal sacrifice and toll on mental health for all citizens in Washington has been difficult.
The weeks ahead
It is budget week in the legislative session. Proposals for the three budgets – operating, transportation and capital – will have been introduced by the majority parties in both chambers by the end of Friday. We expect to be debating and voting on the House proposals next week. Then, the two chambers will work to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate budgets.
For details on the budgets click here. The final details are far from determined and House Republicans will be working to make sure there are NO new taxes and the proposals are fiscally responsible and live within our means.
There is still time to testify remotely this session on any of the bills still going through the committee process – including the budgets. Stay engaged! You can use the links below to sign up to testify remotely:
As mentioned, the Legislature will be deciding some big issues the last month of session so please do not hesitate to contact me. Your input and feedback are important to me as I prepare to debate and vote on these issues, as they will impact our state for years to come.
It is an honor and a privilege to represent the 19th District.
Your Humble Servant,