Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now in the home stretch of this year's 60-day legislative session, which is scheduled to adjourn March 10. On Monday, House Democrats released their 2022 supplemental operating budget proposal. Remarkably, it doesn't include any significant tax relief despite our state's $15 billion budget surplus.
At a time when families are facing rising costs everywhere they look, it is unconscionable to me that we would not provide meaningful tax relief this session. A three-day sales tax holiday, which is the only relief Democrats are proposing, is almost laughable when you consider just how large our budget surplus is. I would also note their $16.8 billion transportation funding package would levy and/or increase a number of taxes and fees.
Earlier this week, Senate Republican Leader John Braun and I sent out the following statement on the Democrats' priorities:
“We're stunned at the continuing inability or unwillingness of the Democratic majorities to listen to the people and take to heart the financial pain people are in daily. Neither of the operating budget proposals gives any real, meaningful tax relief to middle-income Washingtonians, while their transportation packages pile on with fees and the new fuel tax. Instead, Democrats pay lip service to the needs of people trying to recover from unemployment and other losses. Washingtonians deserve better. They deserve direct tax relief that makes it easier to stretch a dollar right now. They need tax relief that helps employers to create more jobs instead of laying people off and shutting facilities down. They do not need gimmicks like a three-day sales tax holiday.
“The time for relief is now when we have a historic surplus. State spending has nearly doubled since Gov. Inslee took office, far outpacing average worker wage growth. It's up 90% from 2011-13 to 2021-23 and it's grown at a rate roughly four times that of inflation. When do taxpayers get relief from that level of government greed?
“When the governor released his budget a couple of months ago, he and other Democrats made excuses for not including tax relief. They said the surplus was mostly 'one-time' money while Washington's needs were ongoing. Clearly that was a misrepresentation. Less than 20% of the surplus – only about $2.3 billion – is one-time money. The rest is ongoing – just like the increases in spending we see in the budget proposals out today. The latest revenue forecast increased an already-historic surplus to a whopping $15 billion. To put that into perspective, budget writers are usually happy if there's a surplus of any significance. There is no reasonable explanation for why much of this extra money did not turn into true, ongoing relief from the inflation and tax burdens people are feeling.
“Republicans have proposed fiscally sound ideas for tax relief. Not one has been incorporated because they interfere with Democrats' increases in spending that show a misstep in priorities. Education funding would drop back down to only 44% of the state budget from the more than 50% we raised it to in the solution to the McCleary decision. That's not treating education like it's our paramount duty. And it could lead Washington toward a McCleary 2.0.
“The bottom line is that there's apparently no state surplus large enough for Democrats to allow the people to keep more of their own money. How many billions more would it take? This approach undermines any attempts at rebuilding public trust.”
For our part, House Republicans have introduced a budget framework that would address critical needs while reducing the state sales tax rate by a full percentage point. Our plan would also put more police officers on the streets, protect and create jobs, redirect billions for transportation projects, and transfer an extra $1 billion to the state's rainy-day fund.
Along with these priorities, House Republicans remain committed to passing meaningful emergency powers reform legislation. Earlier this session, Rep. Chris Corry introduced a bill that would have ensured legislative oversight during states of emergency lasting longer than 60 days. More than 5,000 people signed in to support the bill when it received a public hearing, but the Democrats ultimately decided to kill it. They have chosen instead to advance their own emergency powers reform bill, which editorial boards around the state have called 'ineffective,' 'weak,' and 'milquetoast.' I recently talked with Jason Rantz about their bill, along with a number of other topics.
House of origin cutoff
Last Tuesday marked house of origin cutoff, a significant deadline every session that marks the end of the road for the vast majority of bills that are introduced. Bills that fail to advance out of the chamber in which they were introduced by this deadline are considered “dead” for the year unless deemed necessary to implement the budget.
While the majority ignored many of our priority bills for the session, I wanted to highlight a number of bills offered by members of our caucus that are still making their way through the legislative process:
- HB 1973 – Requiring school board meetings to be recorded.
- HB 2044 – Protecting critical constituent and state operational data against the financial and personal harm caused by ransomware and other malicious cyberattacks. Last year, Washington businesses, agencies and other entities experienced more ransomware attacks than ever before.
- HB 1286 – Adopting the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact in Washington, removing a significant barrier to access and ensuring continuity of care is there for individuals struggling with mental and behavioral health challenges.
- HB 1015 – Providing loans to historically underserved communities.
- HB 1877 – Reducing unnecessary regulations in order to ease the state's caregiver shortage.
Good Republican bills killed by the majority include:
- HB 1788 – Allowing law enforcement to chase suspects when there is reasonable suspicion a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a criminal offense.
- HB 1656 – Changing the definition of theft to include concealment in order to curb the rise in retail theft.
- HB 1772 – Enacting meaningful emergency powers reform.
- HB 1594 – Repealing the majority's long-term care trust act and mandatory payroll tax.
- HB 1787 – Increasing funding for the recruitment of law enforcement officers.
- HB 1898 – Reducing state property taxes.
- HB 2015 – Expanding the Working Families Tax Credit.
- HB 1633 – Promoting school choice through scholarships.
- HB 2056 – Requiring teachers to make all materials used in the classroom available to parents.
- HB 1656 – Amending the definition of theft to include concealment.
- HB 1737 – Rolling back a number of harmful provisions passed in last year's “police reform” bills, restoring tactics and tools to help police bring criminals to justice and help keep communities safe.
- HB 1873 – Cracking down on the growing problem of catalytic converter theft. The majority did actually pass a bill on this issue, but remarkably, it's a study bill. A catalytic converter theft work group will be convened to “study and provide options and recommendations related to reducing catalytic converter theft in Washington.”
Bad Democrat bills that did not pass the House include:
- HB 1838 – Creating riparian management zones, which would effectively kill much of the state's farmland.
- HB 1727 – Eliminating odd-year elections for county, city, most special purpose districts, and all statewide ballot measures.
- HB 1904 – Requiring landlords to provide at least 6 months' notice prior to a rent increase of more than 7.5%.
- HB 1692 – Eliminating drive-by shootings as a cause for elevating a murder charge to aggravated murder.
- HB 1681 – Modifying the eligibility requirements to vacate a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor conviction.
- HB 1767 – Adopting a targeted electrification plan that would result in large utility bill increases.
Even so, many bad bills continue making their way through the legislative process, including House Bill 1837. This proposal would overturn a vote of the people (Initiative 841 in 2003) to implement new, stringent ergonomics standards that go above and beyond federal OSHA regulations. House Republicans fought against this bill for nine hours last week, arguing it would increase labor costs, incentivize automation that would result in job losses, and make Washington a less desirable place to start or grow a business. Take a look:
Other bad Democrat bills that are still alive include:
- HB 1770 – Enacting net-zero energy reduction regulations to the state energy code for new buildings. This would make it harder for families to afford their first home. You can learn more about this bill here.
- HB 1705 – Banning gun enthusiasts from putting together their own firearms.
- HB 1630 – Establishing restrictions on the possession of weapons in certain locations.
- SB 5078 – Banning sales of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
- SB 5036 – Allowing criminals, including those serving life in prison, to apply for shorter sentences.
- SB 5722 – Creating requirements for the construction of “clean” buildings.
If you have any questions about these bills, please feel free to reach out to me. My email address is JT.Wilcox@leg.wa.gov, and my office number is (360) 786-7912.
Governor announces state mask mandates ending March 21
On February 10, Senator Braun and I sent a letter to the governor urging him to end the state's mask mandates. We wrote: “It is not just other states quitting their mask mandates; it is science and data saying we have already moved into a new phase with this disease. We ask you to trust the science and end the mandatory state mask mandates.” One week after our letter hit the governor's desk, he announced the mandates would be coming to an end on March 21. Senator Braun and I responded to his decision with the following statement:
“We stand by what we said last week: It's time to end state mask mandates now. Don't wait another month. If someone wants to wear a mask in public, it should be by choice – not by mandate.
“Washington continues to be an outlier on this policy, and it's causing great harm to our students' social, emotional and academic growth. Governor Inslee and Superintendent Reykdal not being on the same page last week caused turmoil in schools and put school districts in a difficult position. This policy has also been hard on our small businesses and workforce at a time they are facing other challenges.
“We are in the middle of a legislative session yet Democrats have no interest in having any debate on this or any of the other mandates that impact every school, business, and person across our state. Democrats have also made it clear that they will not pass real emergency-powers reform. The governor and Democrats are misreading the sentiments of Washingtonians on this issue and so many others, like public safety, housing and taxes. They continue to pursue yesterday's ideological agenda. Republicans will continue to listen and respond.”
It's now been 726 days since the governor declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID pandemic. It is past time that we meaningfully restore the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches.
Please continue staying engaged in these final two week of session. I encourage you to follow House Republicans on Twitter and Facebook, visit The Ledger, and sign up for text alerts from our caucus. Finally, please bookmark my legislative website, where you can find my latest press releases, video updates, interviews, and more.
Please also feel free to reach out to me any time with comments, questions, concerns, or anything else that's on your mind. My email address is JT.Wilcox@leg.wa.gov, and my office number is (360) 786-7912.
It is an honor to serve you.