Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We've been very busy debating issues and bills for the past three weeks as we headed to the house-of-origin floor cutoff on March 13. More than 350 bills were passed from the floor of the House and sent over to the Senate during that time. The Senate sent us more than 325 bills.
Join us tomorrow (Thursday, March 21) for a telephone town hall meeting
With less than 40 days remaining in the regular session, which is scheduled to end April 28, my seatmate, Rep. Joe Schmick and I felt this is a good time to reach out to citizens in the 9th District and hear your views.
Rep. Schmick and I are holding a telephone town hall tomorrow evening (March 21) from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and we'd like you to join us. Very simply, all you have to do is call us during that hour at (509) 394-4742 and stay on the line to join us in our community conversation with folks across the 9th District. We will be giving a legislative update and answering your questions. If you have a question, all you have to do is press the STAR (*) key on your telephone keypad. We hope to hear from you!
Committee consideration of opposite chamber bills
Now that the first main floor sessions are behind us, the committee hearing process has started all over. In committees, we are hearing Senate bills and our House bills have been referred to Senate committees for consideration. The next major deadline is April 3. That's the date policy bills from the opposite chamber must be passed from their respective committees, or they are considered “dead” for the year. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from the deadlines. The entire process is actually meant to kill bills and make sure only those that have a majority approval from both the House and Senate reach the governor.
Revenue forecast reveals massive revenue increases
Today, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its quarterly report, which shows that our state is expected to bring in an additional $1 billion between now and the end of the budget cycle in June 2021. While part of this increase is attributed to a one-time increase in the state's property tax rate and an internet tax loophole closure, much of it is due to a strong state economy, particularly in the Puget Sound region.
Earlier this year, Gov. Inslee called for $3.7 billion in new tax increases, including a capital gains income tax and an increase in the state's business and occupations tax. Majority Democrats have also discussed increasing the real estate excise tax.
With this enormous additional revenue, we don't need tax increases. We just need to set priorities in the budget. House Democrats are expected to release their operating budget proposal next week. Today, their budget leader said he would be relying on “new revenues” to fund that budget. With the state so flush with your tax dollars, isn't it time to possibly give some back, rather than asking you for more?
Low carbon fuel standard would hurt families, truckers, agriculture and others
Gov. Inslee is running for president on a “green agenda.” The problem is that he wants to take more “green” from your pocketbooks. My House Republican colleagues and I fought on the House floor for nearly three hours against House Bill 1110, a measure that would create a California-style low carbon fuel standard in Washington state.
To meet the bill's goal to “reduce the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to each unit of the fuels to ten percent below 2017 levels by 2028,” analysts predict it would add 17 cents a gallon to the price of fuel. To meet the bill's goal of 20 percent by 2035, it would add 34 cents per gallon at today's prices. Of course, it is difficult to know gas prices 16 years from now, but this does give a sense of the cost.I'm very concerned this would be an expensive burden for our hurt rural families to have to drive long distances for work, school, doctor's appointments and events.
Not only would this raise the price of gas, but the cost of goods that must be transported would also increase. It's a regressive tax that would put more financial burdens on those who can least afford it.
If we really want to have an impact on carbon reduction in Washington, how about better forest management? That would reduce wildfires, which are the major cause of carbon in our state.
Oil train bill would rob family jobs
I am also concerned about a measure heard yesterday in the House Environment Committee. Senate Bill 5579 seeks to stop the offloading of crude oil coming by rail from North Dakota to our refineries.
The bill's sponsor testified he's concerned about derailment of trains in Spokane, where he lives. However, federal law controls rail transport, so the ban would not stop the movement of crude in his district.
Workers from multiple refineries testified against the bill, saying it is not based on sound science. They also added it would not increase safety, it would result in a greater carbon footprint, and most of all, it would jeopardize hundreds of family wage jobs. These “feel good bills” don't feel very good after you've heard testimony from a father whose son is ill, the medical bills are piling up, and he expects to lose his job if and when this bill passes.
Columbia Basin Irrigation Project – Finish it now or eat dust
If you didn't get a chance to read my article to the East Washingtonian entitled, “We must act now to finish the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project or eat dust,” I encourage you to do so by going to this link.
Sen. Jim Honeyford and I have proposed bills in both the Senate and House respectively which would seek the bonding authority of $500 million to help launch the other half of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. Public hearings were held earlier on House Bill 1889 and Senate Bill 5136, but unfortunately, they've not yet passed out of their committees. We are still holding out hope, because these are fiscal bills that would be necessary to implement the budget.
Come visit your state Capitol!
I always enjoy receiving visitors from the district. This week, I had the honor and privilege to meet with Benton-Franklin Fair and Rodeo Queen Haley Cook of Burbank.
Others dropping by included:
- Michelle Beckman, Whitman County
- Palouse Mayor Michael Echnove
- Palouse City Clerk Kyle Dixon
- Columbia Basin College President Rebekah Woods
If you're planning a visit, please contact my office so we can make arrangements to meet with you. It is my honor to serve you!