Our founding fathers were clearly financially savvy. After all, they're literally on our money. Most of us meet with George ($1) and Abe ($5) every day, and a bit less frequently with Ulysses ($50) and Benjamin ($100). While the budget winds continue to blow in Olympia, you'd best keep a tight grip on every buck you've got. Negotiators have just two weeks left to sort out the state's operating budget.
House Democrats pass state spending plan
Our current two-year operating budget spends less than $38.2 billion. House Democrats want to increase this amount to more than $51.2 billion by 2019-21. The massive spending plan arrived in the House in the form of a striking amendment to Senate Bill 5048 on March 31. As I described in a previous update, it's attached to an $8 billion tax increase over the next four years. The proposal was voted out on a 50-48 party-line vote. In an attempt to improve the legislation, House Republicans offered 41 amendments. Only six were accepted, including one I offered for the shellfish industry.
Help for our Oyster farmers
Imagine your once profitable oyster farm is now plagued with thousands of shrimp burrows. In order to control the infestation, you need a permit from the Department of Ecology, which is issued – then withdrawn, and now seems to be stuck in a bed of bureaucratic process-molasses.
Oyster farmers are contending with burrowing shrimp that love to eat up their oyster beds. In order to get rid of these pests, farmers use pesticides that kill the shrimp, but leave the oysters safe for human consumption. Imidacloprid is a material designed to mimic the properties of nicotine, a powerful neurotoxin commonly found in tobacco. Although there is a range of pesticides farmers can use, Imidacloprid is the most benign to humans. By choosing this option, they hope to save their harvests, and keep their oyster crops safe for customers to consume.
Oysters generate tens of millions of dollars in our local economy. The loss of these oyster beds can add up to thousands of dollars for farmers and have devastating impacts on their bottom line. My amendment doesn't stop the good work of the Department of Ecology in evaluating the use of Imidacloprid, but it does prevent them from dragging their feet. It requires the Department of Ecology to complete their evaluation, so our farmers can get back to work. Read more about Amendment 336 (adopted) here.
Count, tally and report
Numbers serve a practical purpose. We depend on numbers to make sense of the world. Every number tells a story. My amendment for the Department of Fish and Wildlife would help them tell the story of the fish in Grays Harbor, Pacific and Wahkiakum counties. We need more insight and transparency about their work.
Amendment 368 would have required the Department of Fish and Wildlife to ensure the hatcheries in our region produced an annual number of fish that is equal to or greater than the annual average number of fish they have produced over the past twenty years. This common-sense proposal turned into a controversy as some interest groups suddenly objected to restoring our hatcheries. I surveyed the House, counted votes and likely votes and concluded it was best to withdraw this Amendment now—so that it will have a better chance to pass later. We won't be finished with this issue until our hatcheries are back in high production.
Other amendments I offered included:
- Amendment 332 to allocate $5 million to the Naselle Youth Camp. Rejected by a vote of 48-48, 2 excused.
- Amendment 354 directing the Department of Commerce to prioritize funding for sober-living housing before low and no-barrier housing. Rejected.
House capital budget vote this week
The capital budget is often referred to as the “bricks and mortar” budget. It pays for infrastructure projects across our state. The House proposed a largely supported, bipartisan construction budget of $4.15 billion. More than $1 billion would be invested into schools across the state. As a member of the Capital Budget Committee, I was able to work with other members to identify projects for the 2017-19 biennium. Because of the large investments in education this budget cycle, there was less budget to allocate. But, we managed to get several important projects for our region into the proposal. Click here for a comprehensive list of all the capital budget projects for the 19th District.
Timber industry bill heads to governor's desk for signature
Timber it a large part of our communities history. Encouraging private and public sector cooperation for this industry is crucial. My bill makes an adjustment to the expiration date to report timber purchase data to the Department of Revenue. By extending the date in three year increments, accommodations can be made for changes in market condition fluctuations and tax policies. Recently, the Senate approved my proposal. The bill is now on its way to the governor's desk for signature. Read more about House Bill 1148.
Why is the capital gains income tax proposal still alive?
The struggle continues. Several people are scratching their heads over the capital gains tax proposal introduced this year. Voters have rejected a state income tax on ten separate occasions. But, like the night of the living dead, the tax zombies keep coming. This proves one very important thing. Zombies really do only eat brains, which is why the idea of capital gains tax is alive and well at our state Capitol.
During these final days of the regularly scheduled 105-day legislative session, it's even more important that I hear from you on crucial policy issues. Please feel free to contact me with your comments, questions or concerns. Thank you for the honor of serving you in Olympia.