Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This will be my last e-mail update for a while, due to election-year restrictions. My legislative assistant, Sharon, and I will still be available to help you, but if you do contact my office please specify that you would like a response. It's been a pleasure serving you this year alongside my new 2nd District seatmate, Rep. Graham Hunt.
Telephone town hall April 23 at 6:30 p.m.
Please join Rep. Hunt and me for an hour-long telephone town hall on Wednesday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. The toll-free number to participate is (800) 762-1620. During the call you can press your phone's star key (*) to ask a question. You'll also have the option of answering poll questions on state-level issues. We look forward to talking with you and hearing your thoughts on state government.
We managed to end the session with a supplemental operating budget that did not include tax increases. As you may recall, the governor and others across the aisle had wanted to raise up to $200 million in taxes, but because of our strong pushback in the Finance Committee, the proposals never came to the floor for a vote.
As a member of House Republican leadership and as the assistant ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, I was closely involved in crafting and negotiating this budget. I think we ended up with a responsible budget, in that we stayed within the confines of the larger, four-year balanced budget, we didn't raise taxes, and we prioritized spending.
This was the first time since the recession that we didn't start out in the red – due to the slowly recovering economy the state took in an additional $155 million in revenues. Almost two-thirds of that went to K-12 and higher education. The rest went to funding for the most vulnerable – the mentally ill, people with developmental disabilities and those who need long-term care – as well as criminal justice and corrections and other government operations.
I was happy to see two of my bills pass the House and Senate this year. Both have been signed into law by the governor.
The first bill deals with removing fish barriers. It allows more barrier removal projects to qualify for streamlined permitting. The goal is to get as many barriers out, and open up as much fish habitat, at the lowest possible cost. The state is required to spend money on salmon habitat, and in the past many of the dollars have been spent in ways that are ineffective. This bill requires that we get the greatest possible benefit for each taxpayer dollar.
The second bill clears up a problem that's been occurring for nurseries in Pierce County and across the state and that threatens jobs right here in the 2nd District. Some nursery owners have lost their farm and agricultural land-use classification (which is valuable tax-wise) simply because they grow some of their crops in pots instead of in the ground. My bill ensures that these employers will continue to be viable.
In addition to my regular committee and constituent work during the interim, I'll be looking into some of the issues that many of you have raised concerns about.
First is the issue of privacy, which was a big topic at our 2nd District town halls in February. This session, the Legislature came together and passed a remarkably bipartisan bill that placed restrictions on government use of drones. Unfortunately Gov. Inslee vetoed it. It's a shame that all that good work went to waste, but I suspect this issue will come up again next year, and you can be sure that I will continue to be concerned about people's right to conduct their lives with minimal intrusion by the government.
Second, many of you are not only opposed to the proposed 11.5 cent per-gallon gas tax, but you are also very concerned about the possibility of the governor imposing what are called “low carbon fuel standards.” These standards could add as much as $1 to the cost of every gallon of gas. Even some Democrats have raised concerns about the governor unilaterally imposing these standards without any input from the public or the Legislature. I'll continue to follow this issue, and House Republicans will do what they can to stop the costly low carbon fuel standards.
Thank you for your time. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need assistance or have questions – just remember to let me know if you'd like an answer so I can respond to you.