Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's hard to believe only 12 days remain of the scheduled 105-day session. Lots of things are moving fast in Olympia as we count down to sine die on April 23. Here's an update.
Competing operating budget proposals pass their respective chambers
Senate Republican operating budget proposal
- It appropriates $43 billion, an increase of about $5 billion (13 percent) over the current budget cycle.
- $1.3 billion of that increase is directed toward K-12 education to help satisfy McCleary court ruling requirements (fully funding education).
- It would implement statewide levy reform by replacing levies with a new flat tax assessment as a state portion of the property tax. In every school district across the 18th District, there would be substantial property tax savings. Other than these changes, there would be no general tax increase. (See my last email update to find out how your property taxes would be affected.)
- It would leave the state's Rainy Day Fund intact with nearly $2 billion, and an ending fund reserve of about $138 million to deal with any unforeseen issues.
House Democrat operating budget proposal
On Monday, March 27, House Democrats released their state spending plan. House Bill 1067 reached the House floor Thursday afternoon in the form of a striking amendment to Senate Bill 5048. It was voted out on a 50-48 party-line vote just after noon Thursday.
I offered two amendments:
- Amendment 374 would have required the Department of Fish and Wildlife to prohibit gillnet fishing in the lower Columbia River. (I wrote an opinion-editorial on this issue in January.) The amendment was ruled by the Speaker to be outside the scope and object of the bill, meaning the proposal was not compatible with the bill title.
- Amendment 372 would have required the Department of Corrections to pay workers compensation premiums for inmates participating in certain correctional industries programs and providing an appropriation of $403,000. This would have enacted the policy of House Bill 1227, a measure I sponsored that would restore the ability of inmates to participate in work-release projects for local governments. Unfortunately, the majority party rejected my amendment.
In fact, out of the 41 amendments proposed by Republicans to improve the House Democrat budget proposal, only six were accepted.
Here are some notable items about the House Democrats' spending plan:
- It appropriates $45 billion, an increase of about $6.5 billion over the current budget cycle.
- It would increase state spending by 34 percent for the 2019-21 budget cycle. In terms of dollars, that would boost spending from our current two-year operating budget of $38.2 billion up to more than $51.2 billion for the 2019-21 budget cycle. It would also mean our operating budget would increase by $20 billion over an eight-year period.
- This budget would also increase K-12 education funding by about $1.3 billion.
- It would rely on as much as $8 billion in new and additional taxes over four years, including: a 20 percent increase on business and occupation taxes for service, retail, wholesale and manufacturing; an increase in the real estate excise tax; a 7 percent capital gains income tax; imposing a sales tax on bottled water, and; repealing the non-resident sales tax exemption.
- It would spend down the state's Rainy Day Fund to $1.6 billion and leave only $12 million in ending fund reserves for any unforeseen issues.
As you can see, there are major differences in both budgets, most notably, the tax increase proposals and the enormous spending in the House Democrats' budget plan.
Budget negotiators are meeting again this week. However, with both plans on the opposite ends of the spectrum and time running short, it may be quite a challenge to craft a bipartisan agreement before the final day of session, April 23.
Pike's license cheat enforcement amendment approved in House transportation budget
In addition to the operating budget plans, we are also working on our two other spending plans – the transportation and capital budgets. I'm pleased to report the House Transportation Committee voted to accept my amendment to the transportation budget that would keep our Washington State Patrol License Investigation Unit (LIU) in Clark County.
Washington loses about $16 million annually from new residents who break the law by not registering their vehicles after they move here from other states. LIU enforcement against license plate cheaters has resulted in $460,000 of taxes generated to the Department of Licensing within the past year. The Department of Revenue has also collected $118,000 in new taxes as a result of LIU referrals.
The transportation budget was approved by the House Transportation Committee on March 29 with a near-unanimous vote. The full House will be voting on it tomorrow (Wednesday) evening.
Pike bills awaiting Senate action
I have two bills awaiting action by the full Senate:
- House Bill 1504 would add rail dependent uses to definitions within Growth Management Act resource lands. This would help to bring new businesses to Clark County and all of Eastern Washington. Current restrictions have made it impossible to site companies in rural areas along the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, where large underutilized parcels are available. This measure would open up those lands along our short-line railroads for development and new jobs.
- House Bill 1606 would require cities and counties to hold a public hearing prior to raising car tab fees and other tax increases through Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs). TBDs have authority to levy some tax increases without a public vote and to raise other fees and taxes without a vote of the people. HB 1606 would add an extra measure of accountability and public transparency to provide citizens with the opportunity to provide input ahead of these tax increases.
Keep in touch!
Please feel free to contact my office any time with your questions, comments and suggestions on these or other legislative matters. My contact information can be found below.
Thank you for allowing me to serve and represent you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"