Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Perhaps the most egregious policy canard floated by tax-hikers this session were claims our state needs more revenue. With a $2.8 billion budget surplus, we could easily fund all of our state's priorities without raising taxes. To borrow a phrase from the illustrious lyricist Jay-Z: we “got 99 problems, but money ain't one.”
Here's the truth: The substantial revenue growth supplied by our healthy economy simply was not sufficient to advance the numerous policy additions made by the majority party. Without considering the long-term impact, this “taxmageddon” approach to lawmaking produced one of the most costly legislative sessions in Washington state history.
Tax falsehoods were amplified through the use of “title only” bills. Title only bills are essentially blank checks—empty placeholders that allow text to be inserted later in session. These “ghost” bills circumvent the transparency protection under our state's constitution that requires new legislation to be introduced at least 10 days before the close of session (Article 2, Section 36).
Apparently, allowing legislators—and the public—time to review and comment on tax increases would have interfered with their agenda. So they skipped it. These “bills” were heard and passed out of committee, and then brought to the House floor for a vote within less than 24 hours. Political gimmicks like this not only cut the public out of the process—they erode trust.
We got our first glimpse at the 808-page budget bill just one day before we were to vote on it—day 104 of the 105 day session. Despite Washington's epoch revenue growth, the newly enacted 2019-21 operating budget increases taxes by more than $5.5 billion over the next four years. These include:
- a petroleum tax increase that will raise the price of gas;
- a new graduated real estate excise tax (REET);
- increased taxes for travel agents and tour operators;
- increased business and occupation (B&O) taxes on banks;
- a 20 percent B&O tax increase for certain services;
- B&O changes for international investment management companies;
- a new vaping tax; and
- sales tax nexus changes;
Other notable taxes are changes to the non-resident sales tax exemption. This will hurt many border communities. Very few out-of-state customers will use the new remittance refund program—they will simply shop elsewhere. Click here to watch a video of my floor remarks on how this will hurt retailers. They also approved a bill that raises the levy lid for school districts—an estimated $1.4 billion increase in property taxes.
There's more. The substantial revenue growth supplied by taxpayers simply couldn't satisfy the policy beast. They also imposed a payroll tax for long-term care which, between 2021-23, will collect an additional $1.3 billion from wage earners.
Other deeply disappointing changes were the cuts made to Medicaid reimbursements and increased B&O taxes for health care providers. The tax-pro majority has placed rural health care in a death grip. Independent clinics and physician-owned practices will be squeezed out of the market. These closures will deprive people of options and cut rural communities deeply. If you've got money to spare, this won't be a problem. But the poor, elderly, sick and ailing will be unable to get care close to their homes.
There is some good news…
The state's 2019-21 transportation and capital budgets were bright spots this session—completed on time and without big tax increases. Unlike the operating budget, these spending plans were truly created in a bipartisan manner.
We were able to secure more than $97 million for the communities of the 19th District in the state's “brick and mortar” capital budget, including the following projects:
- Coastal Community Action Program – $3.1 million
- Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay Sedimentation – $464,000
- Ilwaco Boatyard modernization – $458,000
- Port of Illawco – $545,000
- Long Beach Police Department – $705,000
- Naselle High School vocational wing – $258,000
- Naselle Primary Care Clinic – $216,000
- Naselle SD flooring – $237,000
- Seaport Landing Aberdeen – $349,000
- Tam O'Shanter Park phase 2 – $1.03 million
- W. Kelso affordable housing and community facility study – $258,000
- Long Beach safety improvement project – $225,000
- Grays Harbor College – $1.75 million
- Lower Columbia College – $2.9 million
- Aberdeen Hoquiam North Shore Levee – $10 million
- Community flood assistance – $3 million
- Flood retention and airport levee – $12 million
- Westport dredge materials – $250,000
- Willapa – Long Beach safety improvement – $225,000
Click here for a complete list of community projects. Choose the 19th District from the pull-down menu on the top right-hand side. Click “view report.”
I work for you throughout the year!
Although the legislative session has ended, I work for you throughout the year. Please feel free to call my office if you have questions, comments or concerns about state government. My contact information is listed below.
It is an honor to serve you!