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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As the gavel fell at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, the 2024 legislative session reached its conclusion. It was a lightning-fast, no-nonsense 60-day session, wrapping up soon after the passage of the state’s supplemental operating and transportation budgets earlier in the day.

Throughout the session, both the House and Senate introduced more than 1600 bills combined. A total of 382 bills passed the Legislature. That’s remarkable for a short session!

In this update, I’ll share some of the big breakthroughs, nitty-gritty details on the budgets, and highlight a couple of defensive wins that prevented the passage of some really bad bills.

  • Click here to watch my recent TVW interview about the wins and achievements of this legislative session.

Three citizen-driven initiatives become law

Over the past few years, people across Washington state have felt the sting of some terrible policy decisions coming out of Olympia. But in January, thousands of citizens across our state decided enough was enough. As the author of all six initiatives introduced during the 2024 session, I’m thrilled that these citizen-driven proposals were brought straight to lawmakers for action, tackling these problems head-on.

And guess what? When the Legislature approves an initiative, it skips the governor’s desk altogether. With three out of the six proposals getting the green light by the Legislature, that means three new laws will soon come into effect in our state. Now, that’s a major win for all Washingtonians!

Let’s take a quick look at all three recently approved initiatives

First on the list is I-2113. Since the passage of a series of “law enforcement reform” measures in 2021, crime rates in Washington have risen dramatically. Of particular concern were restrictions on vehicular police pursuits, which emboldened criminals to flee, sometimes with tragic consequences.

However, with the passage of I-2113 this session, officers will regain the ability to pursue suspected criminals. This marks a significant victory for public safety, providing law enforcement with the tools they need to keep our neighborhoods safe. While there’s still work to be done to support law enforcement, this represents a big step in the right direction.

Moving on to I-2081, a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which may be the most significant of the recent initiatives. This initiative reaffirms that parents are the primary stakeholders in their children’s upbringing. It’s important to note that I-2081 doesn’t change the actions schools or healthcare providers can take; rather, it requires parents or legal guardians to be kept informed about such actions.

Moreover, I-2081 promotes government transparency by requiring certain state and local agencies to be more open about their practices, particularly concerning children. This new law strikes a balance in public policy, empowering stable and healthy families while respecting existing legal doctrines.

Finally, I-2111 codifies Washington state’s longstanding tradition of prohibiting state and local personal income taxes. Washington has never formally levied a state or local income tax, aligning with the state’s culture and traditions. I-2111 reaffirms this stance, ensuring that such taxes remain prohibited. This not only mirrors the desires of the people but also bolsters our economy by advocating for tax reform that will attract more businesses to our state.

Three remaining initiatives go to the November ballot

Unfortunately, during the 2024 session, Democratic leaders chose not to allow the remaining three initiatives to go through the public scrutiny of the legislative process. They refused to hold public hearings on I-2117, a repeal of the Climate Commitment Act; I-2109, a repeal of the capital gains tax; and I-2124, an opt-out of Washington’s long-term care retirement program. All three initiatives will go to the November ballot.

  • Learn more about all six initiatives.

Supplemental budgets

As you may already know, the state operates with three primary budgets: operating, transportation, and capital. In even-numbered years, lawmakers implement changes to the existing spending plans, known as “supplemental budgets.” These adjustments allocate funding for the latter part of the state’s two-year budget cycle, essentially serving as course corrections or modifications to the originally enacted biennial budgets.

Capital budget

Let’s start with the good news first. Through the combined efforts of Sen. Jeff Wilson, Rep. Joel McEntire, and me, we secured over $26.3 million for local projects as part of this year’s statewide construction and infrastructure spending plan.

Olympia’s supplemental capital budget is the most bipartisan and well-negotiated of the state’s three budgets. It’s built from the local level up. I just wish more things we do in Olympia were like that. These capital budget allocations will enhance the quality of life in our district’s neighborhoods, and represent the best use of taxpayer money.

19th District projects include:

  • Chehalis Wellness Center Renovation: $3 million
  • Quinault Indian Nation Wellness Center Expansion: $7.8 million
  • Raymond Manor Low-Income Senior Housing: $1.5 million
  • Coastal CAP Fire Remodel: $515,000
  • Commercial Platform Lift: $17,000
  • Kelso Rotary Park: $72,000
  • Lake Sacajawea Irrigation Pump: $200,000
  • Lincoln Creek Grange #407: $81,000
  • Wahkiakum PUD – Puget Island Water Source Project: $309,000
  • Lower Columbia College: Softball Facilities: $700,00
  • Julia Butler Hansen Property Analysis: $30,000
  • Cowlitz County PUD Landfill Methane Capture: $4.9 million
  • Berwick Creek at Labree Fish Passage Const – FBRB: $1.102 million
  • Erick Creek Fish Passage Project: $1.748 million
  • Scammon Creek at Graf Fish Passage Const – FBRB: $908,000
  • Middle Nemah River Phase 1 Restoration: $1.021 million
  • Willapa Estuary Juv. Habitat Assess Restoration: $1.8 million

Public Schools

  • Evaline planning grant: $16,000
  • Naselle Grays River Valley planning grant: $24,000

For a complete list of 19th District projects included in the capital budget, click here.
To review budget documents, click here.

Transportation budget

The supplemental transportation budget is putting an extra $1.1 billion on top of last year’s $13.5 billion, aiming to keep our roads in tip-top shape, enhance highway safety, and support the recruitment and retention of Washington State Patrol officers.

This plan involved a lot of teamwork across party lines. The discussions were intense, with challenges like revenue constraints and project demands putting pressure on us. But through hard work and bipartisan agreements, we managed to make some tough decisions and move forward together.

  • Read more about the transportation budget.

Operating budget

Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. I have several reasons why I don’t like this year’s supplemental operating budget overall. First, and most importantly, I’m disappointed that House Republicans weren’t included more in the negotiations. We represent significant portions of the state, and our communities deserve representation in these discussions.

Next, while the absence of new taxes in this budget is positive, it’s disappointing that there’s no tax relief for struggling Washingtonians. Lawmakers have had multiple opportunities to enact meaningful tax relief in recent budget cycles but have failed to do so. However, my decision to vote against this budget was primarily driven by concerns about taxpayer spending, as you can see in the chart below.

Over the past decade, overall state spending has more than doubled, which is troubling. For perspective: The 2014 supplemental operating budget increased spending by $200 million. The 2024 supplemental operating budget will increase spending by $2.2 billion. This level of spending growth is irresponsible and frankly, one of the best (and worst) examples of unsustainable fiscal policy in our state’s history.

Defensive wins

In the legislative arena, preventing a bill’s passage can often yield as much, if not more, positive results than securing approval. In the recent session, stopping two specific proposals proved to be significant victories that will have lasting positive impacts on people and communities statewide.

At the forefront of defeated bills is Senate Bill 5770, a troubling property tax proposal. This Democrat-sponsored bill sought to grant cities and counties in Washington the authority to triple the current 1% limit on property tax increases to 3% — imposing the largest property tax hike in our state’s history without a vote from the people. Blocking this bill stands as one of the session’s most significant wins.

We were also able to stop Senate Bill 5241, known as the “Keep Our Care Act,” which ironically did anything but “care.” This bill sought to impose strict rules on hospitals, clinics, and healthcare systems regarding mergers or purchases. It threatened competition and consumer choice, especially in rural areas. By using the state’s Consumer Protection Act, the bill would have restricted access to vital healthcare. Blocking it was another huge win this session.

More to come and thank you!

Before I conclude this update, I would like to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who reached out to me or came to Olympia for a visit. A special thank you goes out to those who testified on bills or topics important to our communities and state. Your voice is having an impact on Olympia!

Rep. Jim Walsh and Sen. Jeff Wilson visit with Pacific County homeschoolers in Olympia.

While I’m excited to be back home in Aberdeen, I want to remind you that even though the legislative session has ended, I’m your state representative year-round. Don’t hesitate to get in touch via phone or email (though email is easiest for me) anytime you have questions or need assistance.

Keep an eye out for my next update. I’ll be sharing more about the good and not-so-good bills passed this session.

Thank you for the honor of serving and representing the 19th District!


Jim Walsh

State Representative Jim Walsh, 19th Legislative District
428 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7806 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000