Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we enter the final days of this legislative session I want to express my sincere thanks to all the constituents who have contacted me over the past several months. It has been my highest honor to represent the citizens of the 18th District. I appreciate the emails, text messages and phone calls I've received regarding a variety of important issues facing this state. As the session winds down, I plan to continue communicating to constituents via this electronic newsletter every few weeks. I encourage you to keep in touch and let me know what's on your mind.
In the week ahead, the Legislature is scheduled to negotiate a final operating budget, transportation budget and capital budget. I will vote no on all of the final budgets if any new taxes on Washington citizens are included. When I was running for office, I signed a taxpayer pledge against new taxes and I intend to keep that promise. In the best of times and in the toughest of economic times, government must prioritize spending and live within its means without raising taxes. If we finish our business on time, the session will end on April 28th.
Transportation Tax Package – Version 2.0
About a month ago, the majority party in the House trotted out its first $10 billion transportation tax package which was soundly criticized by citizens, newspaper editorial writers, bloggers and legislators across the state. This week, the same party made a second attempt at a reduced yet still bloated $8.4 billion transportation tax package.
Here's a rundown of some of the $8.4 billion in new taxes they are proposing:
- New 10 cent per gallon gas tax
- New gross weight fees on commercial vehicles
- New passenger weight fee increases ($15-$35)
- New $5 vehicle registration fees
- New $12 title transfer fees
I don't believe there are enough votes in the legislature to pass a ten cent gas tax today that is the major component of the proposed $8.4 billion transportation tax package. In 2005, Washington Legislators passed a bipartisan 9.5 cent gas tax to fund dozens of important transportation projects around the state. It's important to note that back in 2005, Washingtonians were only paying about $2.50 for a gallon of gas. Today, we are paying around $4 a gallon and because of this, another 10 cents is going to be a tough sell. Please send me a quick note and let me know if you think more taxes is the right answer to fund new transportation projects in Washington.
This new transportation tax package includes $450 million for the flawed Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project. The Washington State Wire reported this year's transportation debate in Olympia is being “snarled by the CRC.” There's a lot at stake as the new governor has made the CRC one of his top priorities. Governor Inslee was desperate enough to bring U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to Olympia last week, but his pleas to agree to the current bridge design fell on deaf ears in the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus and with House Republicans.
Transportation and engineering experts have pointed out there are simply too many flaws in the current CRC design to garner the support it needs to move forward. Even more important, the community which includes a vast majority of citizens in the 18th District have been very clear in their opposition to this project. To that end, I offered an amendment to the transportation operating budget on the House floor earlier this week that aimed to halt all funding on the current bridge design.
My amendment directed the Washington State Department of Transportation to produce a supplemental environmental impact statement that would include the study of a third bridge alternative, remove light rail from any new bridge project, direct a new design which meets the needs of current and future river users with adequate height clearance, and state that Washington and Oregon must contribute equal amounts to the project. Further, my amendment directed that Washington must not pay for any part of the project in the state of Oregon other than the bridge structure and landings. As a member of the minority party, my amendment failed along a party line vote. I was still proud to offer the amendment and speak out in favor of it on the house floor. In doing so, it sends a clear message to the Senate that House Republicans are steadfastly against the current flawed bridge design.
Good News Bill
I'm happy to report Senator Ann Rivers' Senate Bill 5099 passed out of the House on Wednesday, a few hours before the cutoff deadline at 5pm. Her bill provides an exemption for cities and counties from having to convert all their fire trucks and other emergency response vehicles to 100% electric and biofuel engines before 2018.
Sen. Rivers' bill became a huge priority for me in the environment committee that I sit on. With this bill, cities and counties all across the state can apply for these exemptions and thus save tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary fleet conversion costs. ESB 5099 gives cities and counties a measure of local control, some relief and a moderate path forward toward reasonable rules.
All that's left is for the Senate and House to agree on a few details which were added to the bill and it will head to the governor for his signature. As a former member of the Camas City Council, I know this bill's passage is a huge relief to the cities of Camas, Washougal, Battle Ground, Ridgefield, LaCenter and Yacolt in my district.
Run for Local Office
Candidate filing week begins on Monday, May 13th and closes on Friday, May 17th. I encourage qualified candidates to step up and run for local office. Serving on a City Council, School Board, Fire District or Cemetery District is a great way to get involved and have a positive impact on your community. This year, there are dozens of seats that will be on the ballot in Clark County. For more information about those races, go to ClarkVotes.org.
I have been invited to be a panelist for the Clark County Auditor's “Candidate Workshop” scheduled for Thursday, May 9, 6:30 p.m. at the Clark County Elections Office, 1408 Franklin Street in downtown Vancouver. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the nuts and bolts of successful campaigns. I hope to see you there.
New District Office Open House
Please join Garrett Delano, my legislative assistant, and I at an open house at our new Legislative District office on Friday, May 3rd from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Our district office is located at 415 NE Cedar Street, Suite A in downtown Camas, near the corner of Fourth Avenue and Cedar Street. Refreshments will be served and I hope you can join us. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (360) 786-7812.
As always, it's a pleasure to serve you.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"