Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Budget negotiations continue to progress at a slow pace, as Democrat and Republican budget leaders from the House and Senate have yet to reach an agreement on what the final budget spending number should be. Once that's determined, the real negotiations will begin.
Many are frustrated with the fact we are now in a second special session, as am I, but if there's a silver lining, it's that House Democrats have withdrawn their demands for $1.5 billion in tax increases. They are still asking for a $550 million tax hike through the implementation of a new capital gains tax (effectively an income tax), but at least they're starting to realize their position in favor of billions in new taxes is untenable.
As I mentioned in my previous updates, the state is bringing in an additional $3.2 billion in revenue for the 2015-17 budget cycle, so new taxes are unnecessary. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to live within our means as a state while investing in key priorities.
The second special session is scheduled to end on June 27, and I sincerely hope an agreement on the operating budget is reached by then. It is past time we finish our work.
Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association tour
Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association's (PNDSA) soil health and cover crop tour in St. John. PNDSA is a non-profit association formed in 2000 to support the adoption of environmentally sustainable and economically viable direct seed cropping systems.
My degree is in plant science and crop management, so I was fascinated to learn more about how new seeding technologies are helping farmers save time and money, as well as reducing their fertilizer usage. With so many farms in the 9th District, it was exciting to see how these kind of advances are helping our farmers, who work so hard every day to provide for the seven million residents in our state. One of PNDSA's mission statements is “saving time, saving money, saving the farm.” I love that mission statement, and will be thinking of it often as I draft and support legislation that helps our agriculture industry.
PNDSA recently rolled out its “farmed smart” certification program, and just enrolled its first farmer last week. They are doing great work, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to attend their tour. Below are some photos I took during the tour.
In the photos on the top row, research is being done to measure the pH in a one-foot soil core. In the middle photos, Dr. Dave Huggins uses a tool to measure soil pore size. On the bottom right is a photo of a microbe respiration test for carbon dioxide collection, which Gov. Inslee specifically asked about when we met to discuss agricultural developments and environmental issues across the state.
Touring a new business in Ritzville
I was recently in Ritzville, where I toured the brand new Whiskey Gap Distillery, which opened last month. The distillery is owned by Brandon and Tricia Egbert, and produces whiskey and gin using Washington-grown materials. Washington has more craft spirit distilleries than any other state, which is remarkable considering there were none in the state before June 2008.
Right next door to Whiskey Gap is a store called Uniquely Washington, which sells specialty foods, local arts and crafts, Washington wines, beers, spirits, and more. The business is owned by Dennis Chamberlain, who shared his excitement about how people are once again looking at Ritzville as a place to establish their business. I am always encouraged when new businesses open because it means some economic confidence is returning to the community.
Ritzville has been hit hard by recessions, and has seen a lot of businesses close down. The fact these two businesses are working together to grow is very exciting to see. And this is also why we must do everything we can as legislators to encourage entrepreneurship and investment. High taxes, increased regulations, and big government stifle these things, while incentives and a strong business climate do the opposite. I look forward to continuing to do everything in my power as a legislator to help foster small business growth in the 9th and around the state.
Please continue to get in touch with me with your questions, comments and concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (360) 786-7942.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.