Washington state's 66th legislative session is underway. For the next several weeks, lawmakers will be at the state Capitol debating and discussing the initial round of bills. The 105-day session is scheduled to end April 28.
In odd-numbered years, like 2019, the Legislature meets for a longer duration to review, debate and approve the state's three main spending plans: the operating, transportation and capital budgets. The bulk of the session will be focused on those plans, fiscal policy and, of course, taxes.
Hold on to your wallets. It's a budget year.
More taxes (again)
Once again, a hefty increase in state spending has been proposed by the governor. His operating budget calls for $10 billion in additional spending. That adds up to an overall total of $54.4 billion—an increase of about 22 percent over the current operating budget. To pay for it, he's pushing (again) for a state capital gains income tax, a change to the state's real estate tax, and an increase to the business and occupation (B&O) taxes on many professional services.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the governor's proposal is that the state will be collecting an additional $4 billion of revenue in 2019-21. Yet, despite this sizeable financial windfall, the governor's budget requires an additional $9 billion from taxpayers over the next four years.
Capital gains income tax: is it, or isn't it?
The governor has proposed a 9 percent capital gains tax on investment earnings over $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for households. The governor calls this an “excise tax” not an income tax. He's doing that to avoid Article VII of our state constitution, which prohibits graduated income taxes.
Here's the problem. This is not an excise tax. It's an income tax.
A bit of clarification: the webpage for the IRS defines an excise tax as “as taxes paid when purchases are made on a specific good…often included in the price of the product.” A recent article by the Washington Policy Center explains it best. After contacting the IRS and they asked: is a tax on capital gains an income or an excise tax? The IRS supplied the following answer:
“You ask whether
Voters have repeatedly said “no” to an income tax in Washington state. It's a mystery why the governor, and others, keep pushing the same tired, old ideas that keep getting rejected time and time again. But, here we go again.
Another attempt at a carbon tax
Here's another one. Even though voters rejected I-1631, the carbon fee initiative, the governor and his advisors have reformatted, adjusted and “re-dressed” carbon taxes for another legislative go-around. In fact, a big portion of the governor's proposed operating budget targets climate action and other programs he claims will reduce carbon pollution.
These investments in environmental priorities represent his focus on fashionable, “feel good” policies that don't address many of the urgent issues facing our state today like the decertification of Western State Hospital, the early release of 3,200 felons, public school safety, and the economic damage caused by increased protections for the marbled murrelet.
Here's a look at some of my policy bills
In budget years, it's best to introduce policy bills early. That's why before session began, I pre-filed the majority of my bills. The proposals I drafted reform and, in many cases, reduce the scope of laws already on the books in this state. Here's a quick look at a few of them:
House Bill 1024 would put some restrictions on how state agencies store personally identifiable information in their databases. This type of information is a target for hackers and identity thieves. My bill would require the state to purge any information they are not immediately using. Although this would apply to information obtained to secure a concealed pistol license, in many cases, the information used to obtain other types of licenses, such as a drivers license, business license, or even a beautician license can potentially be stored indefinitely by the state.
House Bill 1035 would put a uniformed, armed security officer in every school in the state. The SRO program already exists, but it has never been properly funded. Providing the money needed for SROs is one of the most important things we can do, right now, to make our schools safer. A uniformed presence is not only a deterrent to violent activity, but if a violent event does occur, an SRO is already on site, trained and ready to respond.
House Bill 1038, would allow public and private schools to authorize employees to carry a concealed firearm on school campuses. Sadly, it can take law enforcement several minutes to respond to a violent event. Armed teachers and staff can immediately move to protect students if the unthinkable happens. Having that kind of on-site response is reason enough to move forward with this policy.
Another bill I'm getting ready to drop would provide incentives to school districts using best practices for crime prevention in new construction and major remodeling projects. Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is a set of principles used to discourage criminal behavior through architectural design. Along with increased safety, this multidisciplinary architectural approach promotes a more positive learning environment. These changes can make a dramatic difference in school safety. My bill would give schools incentives to use CPTED without requiring them to do it.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state issues. Better yet, if you are planning a visit to Olympia, come see me. I welcome your feedback and questions. My contact information is listed below.
Thank for the privilege of serving you in Olympia!