|With Senate Republican Caucus Chair Judy Warnick of Moses Lake during a break in voting this past week.
April 17, 2023
Hello Friends and Neighbors,
Tomorrow is “tax day” in America – as April 15 fell on a weekend and today is a holiday in Washington, D.C. – and along that line, 20 Democratic senators in Olympia are threatening to raise your property taxes!
I’ll get to that, but first, an update about where we are in the 2023 session. Last Wednesday brought the next-to-last deadline – the “cutoff” for the Senate to act on bills passed by the House, and vice versa.
The final phase of this 105-day session began last Thursday. It’s focused on what the calendar calls “matters necessary to implement budgets” and “differences between the houses” and runs all the way through this coming Sunday, when we’re scheduled to adjourn.
The differences between the two houses on a bill are often easy enough to iron out. This morning, for example, the Senate voted to “concur” (agree) with the changes made by the House to SB 5278, my bill to get more home-care aides trained and certified. That completes the Legislature’s work on the proposal and sends it to the governor.
I introduced SB 5278 because the so-called “silver tsunami” of people who are aging and will need in-home care is already upon us. We know from a performance audit conducted last year that many who want to become certified home-care aides lose interest and give up because it’s too difficult to access training and testing.
Then there are the disputes that require more attention. Take my bill to establish a new funding source for the state’s Auto Theft Prevention Authority (SB 5672): while the Senate and House both passed the bill unanimously, the version passed by the House had been changed in ways that basically took out the best part of the Senate version.
I’ve recommended that the Senate “do not concur” (disagree) with the changes made by the House, rather than go along with a policy that I see as being much less beneficial on a topic as relevant as auto theft.
Instead, I convinced the Senate to blend the text of my bill into a bipartisan House bill that covers similar policy ground. We’ll know this week whether that move will get the better policy into state law.
Look out: Democrats want $12 billion property-tax increase
In 2001 the voters of Washington put a 1% limit on the annual growth of property taxes. Six years later, after the state Supreme Court ruled that the law created by Initiative 747 was unconstitutional, legislators met in a special session to pass a measure that reinstated the 1% cap.
Early in this session a group of Democratic senators proposed lifting the limit to 3%, but did not move that bill ahead. Last Wednesday, which in practical terms was the final day to introduce new bills, 20 of the Senate’s 29 Democratic member revived the effort to lift the cap by filing Senate Bill 5770. It would, according to the state Department of Revenue, cost taxpayers $12 billion over 10 years.
Replacing the 1% limit with a 3% cap would cause property taxes to go up. The Legislature can’t control whether local governments raise their property tax, but the state collects property tax also, and that would increase automatically under this bill.
Even though the bill came sailing in very late in the session, well after the Senate and House both passed their operating budgets on the negotiating table, it would be a mistake to view this as a stunt. Only four Democratic senators sponsored the capital-gains tax bill in 2021; but as I mentioned above, 20 Democrats are sponsoring SB 5770, and as a property-tax hike it would affect far more people than the capital-gains tax.
Also, legislative Democrats have a history of approving big new taxes at the last minute, as our state’s banking industry learned in 2019. That was done through a proposal which was not made public until there were only 48 hours left in the session!
Reducing the cost of living is a Republican priority for 2023. Raising property taxes would take our state in the wrong direction, and more to the point, higher property taxes translate into higher housing costs, for homeowners and renters alike.
Democrats speak of wanting “affordable homes for every Washingtonian,” yet with this bill, they say property taxes aren’t high enough. That sounds like double-speak to me. Here’s part of a statement I issued after learning about SB 5770:
“Governments can always find more ways to spend the taxpayers’ money, but come on – state government already takes more from the people than it needs, and local governments can’t plead poverty either… A survey by the Tax Structure Work Group created by the Legislature found people dislike property taxes even more than even an income tax. I keep introducing legislation to lower property taxes for everyone by exempting the first $250,000 value of a home from the state property tax. The Democrats keep killing it…
“The Democrats got their capital-gains tax. Their deeply unpopular payroll tax, which was delayed for reasons we can all guess at, is back on track for collection starting in July… The Democrats keep claiming Washington’s tax code is so regressive, then they support a scheme to triple the growth rate of a regressive tax. On top of that, they drop hints in the bill that the tax would go to support public safety and criminal justice… as though they’re the party of law and order. Unbelievable.”
The text of SB 5770 also suggests the tax would be used to help support special education. I’ve mentioned recently how the Senate operating budget would give a big boost to special ed, and while we should look for opportunities to provide even more support, it is wrong to tie special-ed services to the passage of a new tax. Like any students, special-ed students are covered under the Legislature’s “paramount duty” to provide for basic education. It’s wrong for the Democrats to use them to try justifying an unjustifiable tax increase.
I’m watching to see if this bill is scheduled for a hearing before our Ways and Means Committee.
Bill on ‘protected health care’ is still an attack on parental rights
It’s been several weeks since I reported about Senate Bill 5599. That’s the bill which would essentially allow teenage children to disappear without their parents’ knowledge, with state government’s blessing, simply by showing up at a shelter or host home and claiming they are seeking “protected health services” such as what’s called “gender-affirming treatment.”
Host homes and shelters are required to report a teen’s whereabouts to parents or guardians except when child abuse or neglect is suspected. Under SB 5599, “protected health services” would become a second exception to the parental-notification rule.
The Senate’s majority Democrats passed the bill March 1 over unanimous Republican opposition. SB 5599 was changed slightly by House Democrats before they approved it last week, and that sent the measure back our way – while also putting it back on the radar of concerned parents throughout Washington.
Gender-affirming treatment is defined in Washington law as including “facial feminization” surgeries, mastectomies, breast implants, and more. As I reported in March, SB 5599 would not allow teens to undergo such surgical procedures without parental consent. However, Republicans are accustomed to seeing Democrats take an incremental approach to making controversial policies – a little this year, a little more next year, rather than going for a big change in one move. What will they try as a sequel if SB 5599 becomes law?
The changes made by the House to the bill would require a host home to notify the state Department of Children, Youth and Families within 72 hours after it takes in a teen under this proposed new exception. In turn, DCYF “shall make a good faith attempt” to notify parents and “offer services designed to resolve the conflict and accomplish a reunification of the family.”
Sorry, I’m not ready to trust DCYF that far. Besides, who’s to say what qualifies as a “good faith effort” on the part of a state agency? When asked by news reporters about SB 5599 last week, Governor Inslee seemed confused about what the bill would do – as proven by his references to how parents might have drug problems or have abandoned a child, as excuses for letting the state “step into the shoes of the parent.”
We hear over and over from the other side of the political aisle that a teenaged child’s brain is not fully developed. Therefore, at a time when a teen lacks the perception and judgment to make critical, potentially life-altering decisions, our state doesn’t need SB 5599 driving a wedge between vulnerable kids and their parents.
The ‘rest of the story’ about a story on the Washougal school levy
Last week a reporter for the Camas-Washougal Post-Record asked our 17th District delegation to comment about comments others had made online about the upcoming Washougal school district levy. I had not anticipated such a request – which the reporter acknowledged was on short notice – considering Rep. Harris, Rep. Waters and I are not residents of the district. I guess we were being approached primarily because of our party affiliation.
The representatives’ joint response was published in full in the resulting report. Much of my response was left out, so I’m sharing it here because people should have a sense of the support for K-12 that is happening at the legislative level, separate from the support school districts seek from their taxpayers.
People who wish to criticize a school district and/or oppose a levy are as free to speak or post or wave their opinions as those who support a school district and/or its levy. If they do so in a way that some find objectionable … well, that’s the First Amendment at work. It doesn’t matter whether the comments/positions are connected to Republicans or Democrats.
Beyond being a Republican senator representing Washougal, I’m a budget leader in our Legislature. To make informed decisions about what the Senate wants to see in the next state operating budget, I spent months digging into the details of the various expenditures that were being proposed. I would encourage the voters in the Washougal SD to also dig into the details and inform themselves about what the levy being proposed means for their family, household budget, community, etc., then act accordingly. But at the end of the day… if people vote a certain way strictly because of a comment on social media or a website, that’s a choice they are entitled to make.
FWIW, K-12 is one of the Senate Republicans’ three priorities for this session, and the Senate budget I helped develop would make some major investments in K-12, especially special education (something Republicans have sought for years) and also some $ to address “learning loss” from the pandemic.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to reach out to Glenn Kincaid and/or the CCRP directly – even though time is short – and give them an opportunity to explain or elaborate on what you are seeing online. I think your readers would appreciate it. And rather than ask me how parents in Washougal might react to comments on social media about the district and students, why not also ask them directly?
Legislators are prohibited from using official channels – like an e-newsletter – to encourage people to vote a certain way. But I definitely encourage Washougal voters to cast their ballots and make their voices heard, one way or the other. A reasonable voter turnout can only help to push back against bills like Senate Bill 5209, which would have government forcing citizens to vote.
Join us for a ‘virtual’ town hall May 3!
I know weekends can be particularly precious when the weather is supposed to be good. With that in mind, our 17th District delegation will hold its next town hall on a weeknight: Wednesday, May 3. And instead of asking people to leave their homes and meet us at a central location, we’re inviting them to join us virtually, using the Zoom platform, from 6 to 7 p.m. Save the date – and there will be more details in my next report!
I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government.
Yours in service,
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!