E-Newsletter: Red Alert! Vote on income-tax bill likely tomorrow!

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

Since 1934, the voters of Washington have been asked 10 times to create some sort of state income tax. They’ve emphatically said “no” each time, most recently in 2010 – by a landslide 64% majority.

I bring this up because on Wednesday, the latest income-tax proposal from my Senate Democrat colleagues was placed on our voting calendar. Yesterday we were given notice that the Democrats intend to vote on SB 5096 tomorrow!

There are SO many reasons to oppose SB 5096, but here are the few I mentioned on my official Facebook page:

I laid out most of the problems with this bill in my February 19 report, after  SB 5096 came out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. I’ll add another now: E-mails uncovered through a public-records request make it clear that the Democrat strategy is to get an income tax passed, knowing it will be challenged in court, then hope the current state Supreme Court will decide the tax is constitutional. That would be a reversal of a 1932 court decision, but then again, this is the same court that threw out the state’s felony drug-possession law last week.

I believe the voters should have the first right to challenge the tax, if it’s passed, by putting it on the November ballot. Then it wouldn’t reach the state Supreme Court. But SB 5096 is written in a way that would keep the voters from challenging the tax, should it be enacted. What does that tell you?

The supporters of an income tax like to claim it’s about making our state’s tax system less regressive. Senate Republican Leader John Braun, whose district includes a portion of Clark County, takes on that assertion in the latest edition of his Economic Sense policy paper.

One more thing: This proposal is not about generating more money to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other “emergency” situation. The revenues from this tax wouldn’t be available until April 2023 at the earliest!!! To me, SB 5096 is all about getting an income tax in place so it can be expanded to hit a larger number of people down the line.

(By the way, the income-tax bill is just one of the 21 new or higher taxes proposed by the majority this year – in spite of the fact that revenue from the existing tax code is continuing to grow, there is NO budget deficit, and our Senate Republican budget proposal shows we can do all sorts of good things without the need for more taxes. Click here for a list of the tax bills, which all remain valid until the end of the session because they could become part of the majority’s budget package.)

Republicans believe our state can open safely… now!
My report a week ago questioned why we hadn’t already seen Phase 3 of Governor Inslee’s latest restart plan. The restaurants and other employers and organizations under his restrictions deserve to know what’s next, and how to get there, yet the governor made it clear last week that he has no clue!

As Senate Republican budget leader I recently was interviewed for the “Capitol Focus” program hosted by the Association of Washington Business, to talk about our budget proposal. Click here to view it!

Other Republican leaders in the Senate and the House shared my concern that the Inslee economic restart has hit a dead end. That’s why we stepped forward yesterday with our own plan to get all communities in Washington fully open for both school and business.

The Republican “Open Safe, Open Now” plan returns decision-making authority to local officials, ending top-down state mandates. It requires all school districts in Washington to resume in-person instruction and opens all business activity in the state to 50% capacity, with 100% capacity possible within three weeks if COVID numbers are static or lower.

We need to free our schools, businesses, and organizations from the limbo they’re in, and give them a clear, predictable path to full operation. I was glad to have a part in bringing our sensible and practical plan forward. I encourage you to give it a read and let me know what you think.

Senate supports my school-restart legislation!
Last week’s e-newsletter reported on the introduction of Senate Bill 5464, to make access to in-person learning a right under state law. The new edition of my policy paper, Rational Steps Toward a Better Washington, goes into more detail about how SB 5464 would work, and also offer a new path for reopening public schools.

Yesterday a bill about funding student transportation came to the Senate floor, presenting me with a new opportunity to give districts incentive to reopen. I offered an amendment to SB 5128 that would link the funding to reopening — specifically, a district that meets the Department of Health requirements for in-person learning would not receive the transportation funding until it offers in-person learning.

My amendment passed with bipartisan support, which means we now have 35 members of the Senate on record as supporting a return to classrooms! It’s the first vote of this session on school reopening, and I hope there are more.

Time for another look at changing law on governor’s emergency powers
If the COVID-19 numbers continue trending as they are, it becomes harder to claim our state is still experiencing an emergency. However, that doesn’t mean Governor Inslee will terminate the state of emergency anytime soon – like in the 51 days before the scheduled end of the legislative session, which is April 25.

Here’s why my SB 5039, to make ALL of the governor’s proclamations subject to legislative review after 30 days, is deserving of a closer look: If the Legislature adjourns without making any changes to the law that grants emergency powers to Washington’s governor, as it stands right now, Governor Inslee could (and would) continue to control people’s lives to the same extent as he did throughout 2020.

Reminder – March 15 ‘Zoom’ town hall meeting
Don’t forget our “virtual” town hall is coming up from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 15. Rep. Harris, Rep. Kraft and I will report on the session and take your questions – while you remain in the comfort of your home. We’ll use the Zoom platform, and if you want to participate, please pre-register by clicking here. We’re limited by the technology to 500 attendees, so don’t wait to register!