E-News: Senate passes better budget for our state


budget day

March 31, 2023

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

For the second Friday in a row, the Senate Ways and Means Committee is working the late shift.

A week ago we were handling bills related to the Senate budget proposal. This time it’s because of the 2023 session calendar: Wednesday was the deadline for the Senate policy committees to complete their work for the year, and as a result, dozens of bills that come with a price tag have moved forward from those committees to our budget committee.

As budget leader for the Senate Republicans, I’ll also be putting some hours in tomorrow, but I expect the Ways and Means committee as a whole will be able to have the next two days free, since we’re going long this evening.

This week’s report will be on the shorter side, between a quick update on the budget situation and some of the major public-safety bills. But first, more fallout from the court ruling from a week ago that upholds Washington’s tax on capital-gains income.

One of the largest employers in our area, Fisher Investments, is moving its corporate headquarters away because of the court ruling. Founder Ken Fisher had threatened as much back in 2010, when a “high earner” income tax was put on the ballot. Who knows if Initiative 1098 would have survived a constitutional challenge anyway – but because it failed by 28 points, Fisher’s headquarters stayed in Camas. Now the HQ is being moved to Texas, where Fisher already has a presence. Thank you, justices.

No one should be surprised if other employers in our state follow suit. After all, to quote what a large law firm in our state posted on its website this week, on how Washington residents might plan for the tax: “Taxpayers might consider changing their residency status….”

Senate budget sails through; House would spend much more
Having had a significant role in shaping the Senate’s proposed operating budget, despite being from the minority side, I felt it was appropriate for me to be among the “yes” votes when the budget came to the Senate floor.

My decision was made easier by the fact that the Senate budget wouldn’t require a tax increase, leaves a respectable reserve and doesn’t represent a double-digit spending increase like the past couple of budgets.

I figured a couple of other Republicans might join me. But the fact that the budget vote ended up being 40-9 – meaning 11 out of 20 Senate Republicans said yes – goes a long way to justify the 100-plus hours we put into the bipartisan budget-development process.

As a historical note, the Senate budgets in 2013 and 2015 passed with 38-10 votes. The Senate budget adopted in 2017 came out 39-10. I wonder if and when a Senate operating budget ever received 40 votes, but that’s something to research during the off-season.

The strong “yes” vote for the Senate budget is important because the House operating budget would spend a billion dollars more, and without the significant funding for K-12 learning loss that ours includes. Also, while the House budget proposal balances without new taxes, it has yet to come to a vote on the House floor, and we’re hearing rumors that an increase in the real-estate excise tax could creep in. That would be bad, as there is no need for more revenue, and Democrats would be increasing housing costs at a time when Republicans are working to bring them down.

Either way… after the Senate and House have each approved budgets and begin negotiating toward a compromise, the fact that so many senators support the lower spending level could tip things our way, and make a real difference for taxpayers.

House committee undercuts Senate’s stronger drug-possession measure
The “Blake fix” passed by the Senate to strengthen Washington’s drug-possession law is much worse off now. On Tuesday the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee changed SB 5536 in ways that undo most of the good in what we approved. The committee chairman’s amendment rolls it back to the standard in current law, meaning possession would still be a misdemeanor, and does away with mandatory minimums… like sentences and sanctions.

Without a new policy to replace the law passed in 2021 – it was intentionally written to expire in July – the Supreme Court’s Blake decision effectively becomes the law of the land, and possession of hard drugs will become legal in our state. That would be even worse than the weaker law enacted two years ago. Frankly, it’s hypocritical of Democratic legislators and the governor to talk about combating homelessness if they are unwilling to support a law that would help get people into life-saving drug-treatment programs.

On a more positive note, that same committee moved the police-pursuit bill (SB 5352) forward this week with fairly minor changes. Now its fate is realistically up to just one person – the Democratic speaker of the House. Considering 20 members of the House Democratic Caucus sponsored a good pursuit-reform bill, only to see the speaker block a floor vote, let’s see what happens with the Senate bill.

I voted no on SB 5352 when it came out of the Senate earlier this month, because the restrictions in it would still not get at the auto-theft epidemic in our state. However, if it came back to the Senate I would consider voting for the bill, as some improvement is preferable to none.

Second Amendment showdown coming to Senate floor
I wouldn’t expect anti-firearm Democrats to agree, but their bills to infringe on Second Amendment rights are really about public safety. Who wouldn’t view their ability to defend themselves as a safety or security matter?

Yesterday the worst of the anti-firearm bills, House Bill 1240, was pulled to the Senate voting calendar. That means we could be having the debate and vote as soon as this next week. Certainly before April 12, the deadline for the Senate to act on House legislation (and vice versa).

HB 1240 is the proposal that would prohibit everything about modern sporting rifles – which Democrats like to call “assault weapons” – except for owning them. The arguments I heard in support of the bill when it came to our Law and Justice Committee confirmed, again, how anti-firearm supporters won’t do enough homework to figure out exactly what their proposals would and would not do. If you don’t understand the anatomy of firearms enough to know which part does what, maybe you shouldn’t try to push laws that are based on a knowledge of firearm anatomy!

Neither HB 1240 nor the other bills being pushed this year – HB 1143 and SB 5078 – would end the shootings we see reported almost daily in the media. They would simply make law-abiding people less able to defend themselves and their families against criminals.

Here’s a question I’d like the Democrats to answer: In 2021, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence moved Washington up to the 10th spot nationally for laws regulating firearms. Democrats in our state piled on more firearm laws in 2022, like the limit on the capacity of firearm magazines. Yet in January, The Alliance for Gun Responsibility admitted “our region continues to experience record levels of gun violence.” If all those new firearm-regulation laws aren’t reducing “gun violence” in Washington, why not? And then, tell me: what is the real goal of these bills?

Senate supports my bill to extend tax preference to food processors
While the Senate operating budget for 2023-25 doesn’t offer the significant tax relief I’ve been calling for, it does include a trio of modest tax-relief policies. One is represented by my Senate Bill 5277, passed today by the Senate with a unanimous vote.

SB 5277 would extend the preferential tax rates on Washington’s dairy, fruit and vegetable, and seafood processors until 2035. That gives these important employers an additional measure of certainty about tax rates, and the overall cost of doing business in our state.

The other bill of mine that moved this week (out of the eight that are still “alive) is SB 5672, regarding support for Washington’s Auto Theft Prevention Authority.

This organization was established in 2007 “within” the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, so to speak. Besides making recommendations to the Legislature and the governor about dealing with auto theft in our state, the group also allocates money from an account to support programs (efforts by prosecutors, for example) to prevent auto theft.

My bill is about stabilizing the funding; it’s now been sent to the Rules committee, which puts SB 5672 just one step from a full House vote.


I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government.

Yours in service,

 1 Lynda signature

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

To read this e-newsletter in other languages, click here to visit my Senate news page and find the “Select Language” menu in the upper left corner!