It has been a while since I provided you an update. I spent a number of weeks back east as part of my Marine Corps military training. There are a number of concerning issues getting a lot of attention over the last month. I wanted to touch base with you on those issues and also make you aware of an important town hall coming up.
In 2017, a provision was included in the state operating budget that created the Tax Structure Work Group “to identify options to make the Washington state tax code more equitable, adequate, stable and transparent.”
That work group is now holding virtual Tax Town Halls to gain input from taxpayers. There are two sessions for our region. Information and registration links below:
The work group will be presenting six tax scenarios it released in May, including a couple scenarios that would implement a personal income tax.
This is an opportunity to share your voice on our state's tax structure, concerns over a possible income tax or if you believe it is time for taxpayers to see some tax relief. Keep in mind, the Democratic majority party has passed new tax increases over the last three legislative sessions including a new income tax on capital gains. For a complete list of their recent tax increases click here.
It is worth pointing out our tax revenue has held strong during the pandemic, and before it hit we were experiencing record tax collections. On Sept. 24, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council unveiled the September revenue forecast and it continues a trend of incredibly strong tax revenue collections.
If you have questions about the virtual tax town hall you can contact the workgroup at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is happening with insurance rates?
I have heard from many of you who are seeing increases in their home, auto and renter's insurance policies. On June 20, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an emergency rule banning credit scoring. The rule prevented insurance companies from using credit scores to determine premiums for home, auto and renter's insurance policies for three years or until the governor's “state of emergency” proclamation ends.
However, on Friday a Thurston County Superior Court judge ended the commissioner's emergency rule. Read more below:
There are three things that can happen now.
- The insurance commission can go through the rulemaking process at the state level to replace the emergency order. (This is concerning as the Legislature has no oversight of the rulemaking process.)
- He can appeal the court decision.
- He can let the court ruling stand.
It is difficult to predict what action his office will take. I can assure you we will be watching closely as he used the emergency rule process in June to get around the Legislature since he couldn't get any traction with his bill last legislative session that would have done the same thing. There was strong opposition against his bill and it didn't make it out of the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The court ruling comes at a critical time. The insurance industry was expecting to see rate increases of up to 5 – 10%. However, according to AAA, Washington senior citizens, many who are on a fixed income, could have ended up paying 20% or more for their policies.
Long-term care payroll tax coming soon
In my August legislative email update, I discussed the new long-term care payroll tax, the WA Cares Fund. The tax kicks in on Jan. 1, 2022 and employees in Washington state will see 58 cents per $100 come out of their paychecks unless they have purchased a qualified long-term care insurance plan before Nov. 1, 2021 to opt out.
Unfortunately, many are finding it difficult to find an insurance company offering long-term care policies. The quote below is from an article on Sept. 13 in the Washington State Wire:
“The Office of the Insurance Commissioner stated that one company received 66,000 applications for long-term care insurance ahead of the Nov. 1 opt-out deadline, according to KUOW. Last year, the same company only sold 8,000 policies. This rush has overloaded insurance companies, and led many to stop selling policies.”
There is a strong push to suspend or make changes to this program. A bipartisan group of state senators sent a letter to the governor asking him to suspend the new tax.
Also, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, who chairs the Senate budget committee, stated in a Crosscut article that she is troubled that she hasn't heard from any constituents who are excited about the program. She added that a special session may be needed to postpone or make changes to the program. At this time, there is no plan for a special session. However, the flaws in the poor public policy need to be addressed.
For more information on this issue, check out our webpage, which includes frequently asked questions. We will continue to update it when more information becomes available, including legislation we are proposing related to the program. Two recent articles you may be interested in include:
- Washington state receives 95,000 exemption applications to new long-term care benefit in first week (Seattle P-I)
- EDITORIAL: Gov. Inslee should extend deadline for long-term-care insurance (The Seattle Times)
Vaccine mandates and emergency powers
I have heard from thousands of you concerned, upset and frustrated with the governor's vaccination mandates. Last year, the governor hailed our health care workers and educators as heroes. Our health care workers battling the pandemic on the front lines and our educators working to ensure our children are getting the best education possible under the difficult circumstances. Now, many will be fired as his mandate deadline approaches. I believe he is violating the privacy, individual rights and freedoms of our citizens. It strengthens the case that we must have emergency power reform in Washington state.
I have heard from many of you questioning what is being done or what can be done. Being in the minority makes it difficult. We need our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to work with us. We have also put forth a lot of effort to engage the governor on a number of issues. We have introduced legislation, talked with the media, tried a procedural motion and sent more than 40 letters to the governor since the pandemic started requesting some type of action or collaboration on a variety of issues. We have requested a special session not only for pandemic-related issues, but the police reform legislation, and the poor policy of the long-term care payroll tax, only to be ignored.
Check out “What are House Republicans doing to reform the governor's emergency powers?” It is an extensive timeline of our efforts. My colleagues and I won't stop fighting for you. However, you can help us bring back balance to our state government – no more one-person rule! I urge you to contact the governor here, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) here. You can contact the Washington State Speaker of the House, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, here. And Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig here. It is imperative they know how many in our state are frustrated. They need to know you want your state elected officials to be part of the process.
What are we up against? Below is a quote from the governor during his recent TVW interview.
Education legislation and keeping in touch
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns or comments you have regarding this email update or state government issues. I urge you to stay engaged with the many critical issues we are facing in our communities and state.
If you have any ideas for legislation please reach out to me. Some of the best ideas for legislation comes from you, the constituents. Currently, I am working very hard to improve the quality of education for our children by focusing on local control and giving parents a voice in what their children learn. We need to ensure fair funding for all school districts in Washington state and keep “Critical Race Theory” from being taught in our schools.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Here are a few websites to follow to keep up on state government news:
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process. It is updated frequently.
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session and every month during the interim.
It is an honor and privilege to represent the 19th District!
Your Humble Servant,