House Republican agenda for 2021: Solutions for all and resistance to bad policy
As the calendar turns on a difficult year, there is much work to be done in the 2021 legislative session. House Republicans are ready. For months, we have called for a special session, provided solutions to safely reopen the economy and advocated for the rights of Washingtonians. By and large, Gov. Jay Inslee has ignored our ideas and sidelined the Legislature in his coronavirus response.
The state's lack of a multifaceted response to the pandemic has left parts of our economy devastated and people feeling hopeless. Time will reveal the extent to which shutdown orders exacerbated problems related to mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, foster care, domestic violence and students falling behind academically. We will bring these forgotten voices and this larger context of public health to the legislative arena.
As families and employers attempt to recover, the Legislature should not ask more from them. Unfortunately, the governor is again pushing for regressive tax increases — including proposals that would make health care, gasoline and home energy more expensive. He also wants an income tax on capital gains, which is unnecessary, unpredictable and likely unconstitutional. House Republicans will again oppose these bills.
The Legislature has enough revenue, including the rainy-day fund, to pay for state priorities. State lawmakers can balance the operating budget without raising taxes. House Republican budget lead, Rep. Drew Stokesbary, will produce a framework to show how this can be done.
Small businesses and the people who rely on them need help. To assist in their recovery, we will propose unemployment insurance tax relief, suspending B&O tax collections and allowing interest-free payments over a time period, and providing a $5,000 credit for businesses on their B&O tax liability. However, more relief will be needed.
The Legislature must also hold the governor and state government accountable. The Employment Security Department's (ESD) problems, including the failure to prevent massive fraud and inability to deliver unemployment benefits, are unacceptable. Mistakes of this magnitude should not be accepted in the public sector or the private sector. Republicans called for an ESD audit in June. While it is terrible ESD could not prevent fraud, it is even more outrageous that the agency initially interfered in the state auditor's investigation.
Finally, House Republicans will propose legislation to limit the governor's unilateral emergency powers. Washingtonians should not be ruled by one person's executive orders for months on end ever again.
As the minority party, we will provide solutions, offer contrast and resist bad public policy. Our most important job is to represent the voices of millions of Washingtonians who feel like they are being ignored by the governor and majority party.
As published in The Seattle Times