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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Less than a week remains of the scheduled 105-day regular session in Olympia. While we are excited at the prospect of coming home, it appears lawmakers will, at some point, be returning to Olympia for a special session.
Budget plans – Some progressing, operating budget stalled
We have passed capital and transportation budgets with bipartisan votes. I'm hopeful those plans can be finalized this week, voted on and sent to the governor. Unfortunately, the individual Senate and House operating budget proposals are miles apart.
The Senate Republican budget proposal would replace levies with a new flat tax assessment as a state portion of the property tax. Some property owners in urban areas, especially those in the greater Seattle area, would likely pay a higher assessment rate than they do now, while some in rural areas with lesser property values (including those across the 18th District) would pay a lower rate under the Senate plan.
The House Democrat 2017-19 budget plan would rely on as much as $8 billion of additional taxes over the next four years on business and real estate, a new capital gains tax, a tax on bottled water and elimination of the non-resident sales tax exemption (which attracts many people from Oregon to shop in our local stores).
Both plans would increase K-12 education funding by about $1.3 billion. But as you can see, how they fund these plans and meet the McCleary requirements are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
You can get more information about these two plans from last week's email update.
Why we may go into a special session
While the House Democrats' spending plan is built on $8 billion of new and additional taxes, the problem is they will not bring their new tax bills to the floor for a vote. It's most likely House Democrats do not have enough votes within their own caucus to pass their tax increases. Senate Republicans say until Democrats pass their new taxes, there is not a firm figure upon which to negotiate. How do you negotiate a “wish list” that does not have the money to pay for it? So there are no negotiations between the two sides at this point to come up with a compromise operating budget plan.
We already have an additional $3 billion of revenue coming into the state without tax increases. I'm concerned the House majority party's tax plan would hurt our state's economy and stifle job creation. Senate Republicans have shown they can pay for the budget they've proposed without tax increases. Unfortunately, Democratic leaders in the House insist on a budget that would require raising taxes — except that they won't vote on the House floor to do it. That's why we most likely will be going into a special session.
I'm disappointed that a compromise operating budget plan is unlikely before April 23, the final day of the regular session. However, I am prepared to fight for a fair and balanced budget that does not take more of your hard-earned dollars to unnecessarily grow government when it already has more than sufficient revenue to take care of the state's priorities.
Let's increase jobs in Washington state, not taxes!
I'm very pleased to report the Senate approved a bill I authored that could bring hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs to Clark County and Eastern Washington.
House Bill 1504 would change the state's Growth Management Act (GMA) to allow new businesses that need large parcels to locate along the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad in Clark County and other short-line railroads in Eastern Washington.
The bill is needed because in Clark County and all over the state, the availability of rail-served land is scarce. Columbia River Economic Development Council President Michael Bomar testified that each year, thousands of new manufacturing jobs are turned away because under the current GMA, these parcels don't exist. The bill would change the law to allow agricultural, forest and mineral resource lands adjacent to short-line railroads to be developed for freight-rail dependent uses in Clark County and Eastern Washington.
The bill was slightly amended in the Senate, so it must return to the House for concurrence. Once that happens, it will be sent to the governor.
Listen to my interview with Lars Larsen about this issue.
I work for you throughout the year
Although the regular session comes to a close on Sunday, my work doesn't end. I am working to represent you throughout the year. I maintain an office in Olympia where my legislative assistant (seen above), Shelby Pelon, is happy to take your calls and answer your questions. Feel free to call my office any time you have questions and comments about legislation, or if you are in need of help navigating a state agency. We're here to help! My contact information is below.
Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving and representing you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"
469 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7812 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000