Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In my last email update, I provided an overview of the 2017-19 operating budget and also discussed what goes on behind-the-scenes during a budget negotiation. When I sent that update on July 7, there were two major items of business left on our agenda: agreeing on a long-term Hirst water solution for rural families (background on the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision here) and passing the 2017-19 capital budget. I was confident both would get done before the end of the third special session on July 20. Instead, the 2017 session ended in disappointing fashion, as a Hirst solution was not agreed to by the majority parties and a capital budget was not adopted for the first time in our state's history.
It was a gut-wrenching way for the 193-day session to end. We had the opportunity as legislators to provide relief to rural families, but some in Olympia would just not allow that to happen. As a result, thousands of men and women who bought land in hopes of drilling a well and building a home are still waiting to be able to make that dream a reality.
We hear a lot of talk about “one Washington,” but as we all know, actions speak much louder than words. On four separate occasions, Senate Republicans passed a bill to resolve the Hirst issue. However, that bill was never brought to the House floor for a vote, despite the fact it would've passed overwhelmingly. Instead, the majority party in the House proposed a temporary solution that would not have provided the necessary certainty landowners and city planners need.
The bottom line is we should've had a fix this year. And we still can if negotiators reconvene and call us back to Olympia. However, as each day passes, the likelihood of that becomes more remote.
I do want to mention one other thing: the lack of a Hirst solution is not the fault of the tribes. They have every right to be concerned about instream flows and to advocate for the preservation of salmon runs. I don't blame them whatsoever for the Legislature's failure to resolve this issue, and continue to firmly believe there's a way for us to do the right thing for all involved parties.
A word on ST3 and Amazon's HQ2 announcement
Earlier this year, I talked about House Republican efforts to ease the financial burden that's been placed on many of you following last year's passage of Sound Transit 3 (ST3). Our caucus introduced five amendments to the 2017-19 transportation budget, including an amendment allowing cities and counties to opt-out of all ST3 taxes, but none of the five amendments were adopted by the majority party.
I know many of you are frustrated with the astronomical increases you're seeing in your car-tab fees, property taxes, and sales and use taxes. I share in your frustration, and promise to be as aggressive as possible in finding solutions to prevent you from paying for a measure that will provide almost no return to our district.
The proponents of ST3 got some bad news this week when Amazon announced its plan to build a second headquarters outside of Seattle. In its announcement, the $464 billion company said it was looking to build “HQ2” in “a stable and business-friendly environment” — something Seattle certainly is not providing. Amazon, which says its investments in Seattle from 2010 through 2016 “resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city's economy,” is already welcoming proposals from cities around the country.
Amazon's rapid expansion in a second headquarters outside of Seattle will almost certainly result in a slowing growth rate for our local economy. What that means with regard to ST3 is that Sound Transit's underlying revenue growth forecast will likely need to be totally recalculated. When all is said and done, I fear Sound Transit District residents will be forced to pay even more to foot the bill for ST3.
While it's true Amazon is not going away, the oldest story in business is the one about the rapidly-growing company that hits a sales plateau and flames out because management can't adjust to a maturing growth curve. This might be the story of Seattle unless they immediately rethink their revenue growth forecasts and re-budget accordingly. The same goes for all levels of government that are directly affected by the Seattle bubble, which is fueled by the historic Amazon boom.
Statewide, we have at least some experience in managing government to adjust for slower growth. Seattle does not, however, and the city has absolutely no spokespeople for fiscal responsibility or tax restraint. As this plays out over the next few years, I believe there will be wrenching change at City Hall.
The bottom line is the basic assumptions regarding Washington's economy changed with this announcement. It should certainly serve as a wake-up call to those who continue to advocate for policies that would hurt economic growth and competition, such as a citywide or statewide income tax.
SR 507/SR 510 coalition in the works
As you're all very much aware, State Routes 507 and 510 are the only bypasses around JBLM and the Nisqually River/I-5 crossing. Yelm City Councilmember Molly Carmody and I have discussed this gridlock on our roadways, and Yelm Mayor JW Foster has started to build a coalition of folks to come together and create a prioritized list of roadway improvements that will address congestion in both the short and long-term. I'm looking forward to attending these meetings and working closely with local leaders in the 2nd to develop solutions.
SR 510/Yelm Loop project to be completed by the end of 2023
Thanks to the good work done by 2017-19 transportation budget negotiators, the funding schedule for the $58.5 million SR 510/Yelm Loop project has been accelerated by two years. This project will complete the second stage of a new alignment for SR 510 through Yelm, relieving congestion and improving safety for commuters. Instead of construction being completed in 2025, it should now be completed by the end of 2023. That's good news for all of us in the 2nd!
Please continue to contact me about any and all legislative issues. Your feedback helps me to serve our communities more effectively. To get in touch, you can send me an email or call my office at (360) 786-7912. I look forward to hearing from you.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House.