March 11, 2022
Hello Friends and Neighbors,
This year’s legislative session ended last night, on schedule. There are a lot of things to unpack from the past 60 days at the Capitol, so this report will focus on just a few – and they’re among the most important. I’ll get to more over the next several weeks, as bills are signed. Most of the legislation passed this session will take effect in 90 days.
|Four members of the Senate have chosen not to seek another term, including Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick. She has served the 8th Legislative District since 2013 and become a dear friend!|
Also, I must apologize for an unforeseen scheduling conflict that will keep me from attending the 17th District town hall mentioned in last week’s report. I still want to meet with you, so stay tuned for a new date!
Budget enables tax increases, offers zero tax relief to families
The supplemental 2021-23 operating budget was the final bill passed by the Senate this session, late last night. Of course, it does some good things – there had better be something good among the 1,300 policy additions that have a price tag of $6.2 billion. The added investments in behavioral health are an example. So is the repurposing of some general-fund money for transportation – as Republicans have suggested for years.
That doesn’t change the fact that out of a $15 BILLION budget surplus, the majority Democrats couldn’t provide any true tax relief for the average Washington family. Here’s some of how I responded after the party-line vote that sent the budget to the governor’s desk:
Final budget update even worse for families, says Wilson
“This budget offered no direct financial relief for our state’s families when the Senate majority passed it less than two weeks ago. It’s gotten worse since then, as impossible as that sounds. The compromise adopted in the Senate and House today doesn’t even offer the free entry to state parks and fairs that the Democrats had been dangling in front of families.
“Inflation at a 40-year high, gas prices are rising to historic levels, and the majority is tapping the state’s 15-billion-dollar surplus to support a tax break for… the motion-picture industry. The budget adopted today adds five billion dollars in spending to the base budget passed last year, which is unheard of, yet there is zero inflationary or tax relief for the average Washington family…”
I’ve already heard some of my Democratic colleagues push back against the criticism of their budget. They want to portray things like an increase in state funding for childcare as being the same as tax relief. Sorry, no sale. When government says “Keep your money, spend it as you like, we don’t need it,” THAT is tax relief.
All will pay, only some will benefit from new transportation package
Our state has many transportation needs, and the so-called “Move Ahead” legislation pushed across the finish line by the majority party yesterday afternoon does respond to some of them. I was a firm “no” on the Democrats’ new package. Not only does it increase regressive fees on people around our state, but the new projects those fees would help fund are focused in the Puget Sound area, with few exceptions (like the replacement I-5 bridge over the Columbia). That’s the wrong approach, especially when Republicans offered a funding plan that would NOT raise taxes or fees.
The controversial export gas tax is gone from the legislation, but the Democrats are instead raiding the state Public Works Trust Fund to help make up the revenue they were hoping to grab from neighboring states. Bad idea!
Speaking of bridges – I’d secured $300,000 in the supplemental transportation budget adopted by the Senate on Feb. 25 for a study of a third bridge over the Columbia. That money was yanked from the compromise version of the budget, which was also adopted yesterday. I’m being told the reason the money was taken away is not the idea but the timing – there’s a desire to let the I-5 bridge replacement get farther down the road, so to speak, meaning it’s simply too soon for a third-bridge study. I can only take that explanation at face value, but let’s remember this was for $300K out of a $11.6 BILLION budget for 2021-23.
Criminals get a win in final hours of session
I’ve mentioned more than once how anti-police reforms adopted by the majority in 2021 have made the public less safe. Officers are hindered from pursuing and detaining suspects, and criminals know it. Democrats had committed to addressing the fallout this session, but they fell short – especially last night.
Senate Bill 5919, which clarifies the rules about vehicle pursuits, had already been passed by the Senate, after some strengthening by Republicans. The House majority weakened the bill, meaning it had to come back to the Senate for another look — but then the Senate Democrats wouldn’t even allow a vote on that! We tried several times yesterday and into the evening to get SB 5919 to the floor, because even the weaker version would have been better than nothing – all to no avail. Therefore, the vehicle-pursuit situation can’t be remedied until the 2023 session. That’s great news for criminals, and bad news for public safety. The majority leaders deserve all the credit… or blame… for that.
Republicans were responsible for making sure House Bill 2037, which clarifies the law regarding officers’ ability to use force in certain circumstances, got through this session. Unfortunately, that’s as far as the majority would go to fix the mistakes it made on public safety a year ago. I worry that these limited changes won’t be enough to keep both the public and our officers safe, and am sad to realize it wasn’t important enough to the majority that they would take that risk.
Yours in service,
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