Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last year, after the session in my 2018 Legislative Report, I shared my concerns about the level of spending coming out of Olympia. I also had heard from many of you about your worries of our state government spending.
Unfortunately, as the Legislature adjourned on Sunday night, April 28, not only did the majority Democrats pass an operating budget that increases spending substantially, they also chose to raise taxes by $5.5 billion over the next four years.
New and increased taxes
Here is a breakdown of the tax increases passed by the majority party.
- A B&O tax surcharge on services that will impact 90,000 employers and raise costs for consumers.
- A new, graduated real estate excise tax (REET) that will restrict housing supply, increase rents and harm our economy.
- A B&O tax increase on large banks that will result in costs being passed on to customers.
- Ended sales tax exemption for Oregonians, which will drive away business from our Clark County businesses. This could have a devastating impact on our Southwest Washington businesses. Rep. Larry Hoff's and my column submitted to the Vancouver Business Journal on this issue a couple weeks ago can be found here.
- A higher tax on petroleum products that will increase the price gas.
- Senate Bill 5313 will increase property taxes for families across the state by modifying the amount local levies can collect for K-12 enrichment programs.
Operating budget is unsustainable
When I came into the Legislature, the state operating budget was around $33 billion. The budget passed this year by majority Democrats is $52.4 billion, an increase of almost $8 billion or 18 percent. As you can see by the chart, our four-year budget outlook is projecting a budget approaching $57 billion – almost doubling the state budget from 2011-13. Not only is this unsustainable, but it is setting us up for very tough financial times if we have any type of economic downturn.
Lack of transparency
The last week of session was particularly frustrating. We were voting on “title-only” bills – policy bills that contain no language. We were voting on tax increases well after midnight. The public galleries were closed and I am sure most people were sleeping. We should not be doing the people's business in the dark of night.
You, the taxpayers, should have ample time to testify or provide input, especially on the budget and tax revenue legislation that will directly impact you. The 808-page operating budget was not made available to the public until approximately 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, and we passed it on Sunday night.
To make sure we do not have to experience this again, I am working on legislation to address some of the transparency, or lack thereof, issues. Legislation I plan to introduce in 2020 would:
- eliminate the use of title only bills;
- provide mandatory notice and waiting periods before legislative action; and
- open more legislative committees to the public.
Click here to listen to my KVI interview on how the session ended.
For more read: Olympia's culture of secrecy reveals itself — again (Crosscut).
Clark County projects in the capital budget
While Republicans were left out of the operating budget negotiations, the Legislature passed a strong, bipartisan capital budget with some notable projects in Clark County, including:
- $4.7 million for Terminal 1 waterfront development in Vancouver;
- $2 million for the Wisdom Ridge Business Park in Ridgefield;
- $1.75 million for the Tenny Creek assisted living facility in Vancouver;
- $1.5 million for the Brezee Creek culvert replacement and East 4th St widening project in La Center;
- $994,000 for the Seaquest – Mt. St. Helen's Visitor Center;
- $500,000 for the Battle Ground YMCA;
- $584,000 Schmid ballfields phase 3 in Washougal; and
- $75,000 Washougal River waterfront development.
The capital budget is the result of collaboration with our local government and entities. The projects are a good investment in our Clark County communities.
Two bills pass the Legislature unanimously
The governor has signed two of my bills into law this session.
House Bill 1208 will streamline the certified public accountant licensing process, and reduce barriers to entry. The Board of Accountancy and the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants both testified in favor of the legislation.
House Bill 1284 will allow local governments to invest in long-term funds with the Washington State Treasurer's Office. Investing with the office allows local governments to take advantage of the treasurer's investment expertise.
Legislative work during the interim
I will be spending a lot of time over the interim working with community members and developing legislation that would modernize and simplify our occupational licensing structure in Washington State. While the state does have an interest in protecting public health and safety, occupational licensing has proven to be a steep barrier to entry for those looking to improve their station in life. We need to make sure the training requirements for occupational licensing are sufficient to protect the public, but not prohibitive to the potential applicant. The state should work to encourage entry into the workforce, rather than put up economic barriers. This legislation would also include a look at reciprocity between states, and how we can help new Washingtonians to properly apply their existing training and licenses, and be productive members of our economy.
Keep in touch
The legislative session has adjourned, but please remember I am your state representative year-round. I have received many visits, emails and phone calls from constituents this session. I want to thank everyone for their input on the wide range of legislation before us this year. Your feedback is important to me.
This interim, I look forward to meeting with constituents, touring schools and facilities, speaking with groups or organizations. I am also available to answer your questions, listen to your ideas and help you navigate problems with state government.
Please feel free to contact my district office to schedule a time to meet or speak to your group or organization. My district office phone number is 360-723-0704.
I look forward to seeing you in the 18th District this interim.