Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are down to the wire with 10 days remaining of the 2021 legislative session, scheduled to adjourn on April 25. I wanted to provide an update of our activities in the Legislature and encourage you to stay informed and involved.
A remote session
It has been a very different and difficult session than previous ones during my time in office. Rather than being together in committee rooms and on the House floor, we have spent hours daily in front of a computer screen remotely considering, debating and voting on bills.
I believe this has emboldened majority Democrats from the Seattle area to bring up some of the most expensive, burdensome and extreme bills for passage this year because they do not have that face-to-face and in-person contact with us in the minority party. Nevertheless, my Republican seatmates — Sen. Mark Schoesler and Rep. Joe Schmick — and I have fought hard on your behalf to protect your wallets, your gun rights, to reopen businesses and the economy, to get people working again, and to preserve the common values we share across the 9th Legislative District.
For the past two weeks, we've been working all day, into the evening, and on weekends to deliberate and pass Senate bills in order to meet the Sunday, April 11 cutoff. That was the deadline for all bills to be passed out from their opposite chambers. Those bills that did not pass are now considered “dead” for the session. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from the cutoff.
During the session, I have been working remotely from an office at the Garfield County Hospital in Pomeroy where I have better internet connectivity. Some of our days have been as long as 17 hours in front of a computer screen. During mid-session, Kerri Sandaine of The Lewiston Tribune came to visit me and then wrote an article about our online legislative session. You can read it here.
Between now until we adjourn April 25, lawmakers in both the House and Senate will be considering last minute changes to those bills still alive. If a House bill goes to the Senate and is passed with an amendment, it must come back to the House for concurrence. If the House disagrees with the amendment, a conference committee made up of members of both the House and Senate may negotiate the bill into legislation agreeable by both chambers. Then the negotiated bill must pass both chambers to be sent to the governor.
If it seems complicated, it is. However, our system of government is intentionally set up this way to ensure all proposed bills are fully vetted and approved by both the House and Senate before being sent to the governor.
Governor rolls back three counties to Phase 2, including Whitman
I am very disappointed Gov. Jay Inslee has decided to roll back Whitman County to Phase 2, along with Cowlitz and Pierce counties, beginning tomorrow, April 16. The governor made the announcement Monday in a press release.
As part of the rollback, these counties will have to lower capacity for indoor spaces like restaurants and fitness centers to 25% occupancy, down from the current 50% cap.
We've worked hard to get Washington state reopened. We need all of the state fully reopened to Phase 4. However, the governor has yet to even identify Phase 4, and now he's pushing part of our district back to Phase 2. This is a major blow to our local employers and families who are trying to stay working.
Earlier this week, our House and Senate Republican leaders, Rep. J.T. Wilcox and Sen. John Braun, issued a joint statement saying:
“The communities of Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman counties need to know that Republicans stand with them and disagree with the governor's decision to move their counties backward. The governor is punishing people who have followed the rules and it will have devastating consequences for many families and businesses. Through no fault of their own, people in these counties will now face more challenges and uncertainty in the weeks ahead. No county should be moving backward in our state's reopening plan.”
I agree. Hopefully, it is only a temporary setback.
Dye's urban cooling bill among first Republican bills to be signed this year
I'm very pleased to report the Legislature passed and the governor signed House Bill 1114 into law last week. The bill provides incentives to plant large species shade trees on the west side of buildings or install reflective roofs to reduce the need for air conditioning during hot days. Tree planting would also help reduce air conditioning costs and lower power loads for utilities on hot summer days.
The bill is needed to help reduce heat in our coastal cities that is retained from rooftops, pavement and other heat-absorbing materials. This is known as “urban heat island effect.” Seattle is ranked 10th in the nation for its urban heat island effect. These human-made canyons absorb heat, which not only drives up the costs for residents who use air conditioning, but create warm stormwater and sewage drainage that flows into Puget Sound, resulting in algae and risking fish populations.
The bill is modeled after a successful tree planting and cool-roof program implemented in 1991 by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California. More than 600,000 trees have been planted in the Sacramento area since the program took effect, and the utility estimates that customers are saving as much as 40% on their cooling costs in the summer.
Learn more about this bill:
- House approves Dye bill to help cool heat-emitting cities like Seattle.
- Dye bill to help cool heat-emitting cities gains Senate approval, heads to the governor
- Legislators OK Dye's tree bill – The Lewiston Tribune
- Capitol Report – Radio: Tree bill becomes law
- Governor signs Dye's tree bill to cool urban heat-emitting coastal cities in Washington
Washington state has three budgets: operating, transportation and the capital budget. The biennial operating budget pays for most day-to-day operations of state government. The transportation budget pays for roads, public transit, and related investments. The capital budget supports construction, acquisition and maintenance of public schools, higher education facilities, state buildings, public lands, parks and other assets.
The current fiscal cycle ends June 30. We need to pass new budgets before the Legislature adjourns on April 25 to fund these operations for the next two years.
Operating budget proposals
In February, my House Republican colleagues released a 2021-23 operating budget framework that would fund priorities for working families, growing students, vulnerable populations, small businesses and all Washingtonians — with NO cuts to vital services and NO new taxes. Normally, the minority party doesn't write budgets, but we did so, to show that it could be done responsibly without asking citizens and businesses for more of their tax dollars, especially as many people are hurting during the pandemic shutdowns.
The Democrats' budget proposals in both the Senate and the House went in a completely opposite direction, increasing spending by nearly 13% over the current biennial budget (see the chart above) and basing their budgets on tax increases, including a capital gains income tax.
Over the Easter weekend on Saturday, April 3, House Democrats brought out their $58.2 billion operating budget proposal. We debated for several hours, offering amendments that were mostly rejected by the majority party. The bill passed 57-41 with all Republicans voting no. The measure is now in a conference committee and will come to the House floor for a vote, most likely just before the Legislature adjourns April 25.
New taxes unnecessary, but Democrats still want an income tax
Nearly $500 million of spending from a new capital gains income tax is built into the House and Senate Democratic budget proposals. Let's remember Washington voters have rejected an income tax 10 times and the capital gains tax proposal is likely unconstitutional. Even more important, a new tax is unnecessary. A revenue forecast on March 17 revealed that Washington will be taking in an additional $3.2 billion over the next four years without raising additional taxes. Also, the state is expected to receive nearly $12 billion in federal COVID stimulus funds. So why would we ask citizens for more of their own hard-earned money when the state is awash with plenty of dollars? The fact remains, state government does not have a revenue problem — it has a SPENDING problem!
- Read my East Washingtonian opinion editorial: Billions of incoming state revenues prove Washington doesn't need a capital gains income tax – March 19.
Capital construction budget
A bipartisan House capital construction budget proposal includes more than $5.5 billion for statewide construction, repair of buildings, parks, infrastructure, and other projects in our communities.
For the 9th District, nearly $39 million is provided for local projects, including money for the Malden and Othello water systems, preservation restoration of the Pullman Depot Heritage Center's Northern Pacific Railway Depot, modernization of the Tekoa Junior/Senior High School and the St. John School District, funding for the Clarkston Club Athletic Field renovation and renovation at the Colfax pool, and improvements at Washington State University's Clark Hall Research Lab and replacement of Johnson Hall.
The bipartisan capital budget passed April 2 and is now in conference, with an expected vote within the next two weeks.
The proposed House transportation budget would spend just over $10.9 billion for the 2021-23 budget cycle. Much of the spending continues the highway projects started under the Connecting Washington program enacted by the Legislature in 2015, including widening of I-90 Snoqualmie Pass to Easton ($116 million), continued construction of U.S. 395 in the North Spokane corridor ($194 million) and U.S. 12/Walla Walla corridor improvements ($93 million).
Transportation package, low carbon fuel standard and cap and trade
A transportation package may be coming forward, however, we have not yet been provided details and it is changing minute by minute. The latest plan, proposed by Senate Democrats, known as “Forward Washington”, would raise 33 taxes and fees to pay for the proposal. This includes a 9.8 cent fuel tax increase, a statewide special transportation benefit assessment on new construction, food delivery fees, and much more. There is also a “per mile funding system” that gets started for electric and hybrid vehicles. The fee will be 2 cents per mile starting June 1, 2026 and increase to 2.5 cents per mile July 1, 2029. It may also be the foot in the door to a road usage charge or “pay-per-mile” plan.
The bills related to the Senate plan include:
- SB 5481 – Transportation funding bonds – $5.5 billion;
- SB 5482 – Bill appropriating the funding; and
- SB 5483 – How the revenue will be generated.
As of now, the transportation package is linked with the two climate-change bills wanted by Gov. Jay Inslee. The low carbon fuel standard, House Bill 1091, and the cap and trade program, Senate Bill 5126. (Read more about this in the next article below.)
Voters have rejected carbon-pricing schemes in the past (I-732 failed 59%-41% in 2016; I-1631 failed 57%-43% in 2018), but the governor and the majority party are still trying to get this through the Legislature.
There are estimates that if all three proposals pass (gas tax increase, low carbon fuel standard, and cap and trade) gas prices could increase up to 64 cents a gallon by 2028 or almost double what we currently pay in state and federal gas taxes in Washington state.
Environmental and energy bills present uphill challenge
I was honored when House Republican Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox appointed me in December as the ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee. He was looking for someone who could lead our caucus through some of the most challenging bills of the 2021 legislative session.
Since taking office in 2013, Gov. Jay Inslee has pushed his climate change agenda. Year after year, those policies have been defeated in the Legislature — and for good reason. They are expensive to every individual in the state of Washington and would have little effect on our state's already clean environment.
This year, the governor reintroduced his policies — and they are as bad or worse than previous years. I wrote about these bills in a Feb. 5 article, “Washington can have a clean environment without cleaning your pocketbook.”
I'm proud of our House Republican team on the House Environment and Energy Committee, who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder to fend off some very expensive bills that would have been devastating to our middle- and lower-income families. We stopped a bill that would have prohibited a natural gas utility from offering new service to customers after July 1 of this year. A measure that would have required local counties to begin planning for a vehicle-miles traveled tax also died in the Senate, to our relief.
However, we still have a big fight on our hands before the end of the session as the Senate passed out both the low-carbon fuel standard mandate, House Bill 1091, and the cap-and-trade measure, Senate Bill 5126.
A public hearing was held Wednesday in the House Environment and Energy Committee on the cap-and-trade (or what we call “cap-and-tax”) bill. Out of the 1,594 people who signed in to testify or provide their views on the bill, 1,088 (68.25%) opposed the measure. During the one-hour 45 minute hearing, only 29 people got to testify on this multi-billion dollar measure.
I invite you to learn more about the governor's cap and tax carbon monetizing scheme in this article I wrote for the East Washingtonian newspaper: “Cap and tax — a government 'grand heist' of your money.”
Learn more about our Environment and Energy Committee activities:
- Feb. 9 – News release: Republicans speak out against bill that would ban natural gas usage.
- Feb. 9 – Video: House Republicans testify against job-killing bill that seeks to eliminate natural gas usage.
- Feb. 9 – Radio report: Republicans speak out against natural gas ban bill.
- Feb. 10 – Radio: Rep. Dye talks against bill banning natural gas with Dori Monson, KIRO.
- Feb. 11 – Capitol Report: A bad bill that ends natural gas usage in Washington.
- Feb. 12 – Radio: Dye concerned over energy costs from natural gas ban on KXL Radio.
- Feb. 15 – Radio: Rep. Dye joins KVI to share her opinion on recent energy proposals.
- Feb. 26 – Capitol Report: Fighting costly carbon-reduction legislation.
- Feb. 26 – Opinion Editorial: Look beyond the electrical outlet before decimating our energy economy.
- Feb. 27 – Video: House floor debate on low-carbon fuel standard.
- Feb 27 – News release: Despite strong Republican opposition, House majority passes low-carbon fuel bill.
- Feb. 27 – Video: Rep. Mary Dye explains why low-carbon fuel standards mandate is bad policy for Washington.
- Feb. 28 – Radio report: House Republicans fight for five hours against low-carbon fuel mandate.
- March 3 – Video: Why the low-carbon fuel standard mandate is bad legislation for Washington.
- March 12 – Capitol Report: Bad climate bills, ride share bills.
- March 17 – Video: Rep. Mary Dye discusses concerns about environmental justice bill.
- March 18 – Capitol Report: Energy policy.
- March 26 – Capitol Report: Cleaning up Washington's litter.
- April 2 – Capitol Report: Environmental Committee leadership.
Protecting your constitutional rights
As your state representative, I am sworn to uphold both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the state of Washington. On March 28, a bill came to the House floor that my Republican colleagues and I believe is unconstitutional.
Senate Bill 5038 would prohibit the open carry of firearms and other weapons, including knives, within 250 feet of permitted events, including the state Capitol. For five hours, Republicans argued the bill is ambiguous, not clearly defining exactly the 250-foot boundaries, meaning that anyone walking peacefully near a permitted event with a holstered gun, knife or other weapon could be charged with a gross misdemeanor crime.
Unfortunately, the measure passed 57-40, with all Republicans voting no. It is now in the Senate, but there has been no movement on the bill in two weeks. It's our hope the measure does not advance further as it is an assault on your constitutional rights.
Please stay in touch!
I will be voting on many bills between now and April 25 that could impact our local communities across the 9th District. It is critical to hear from you. Stay informed by watching the debates on TVW. Please call, write or email my office with your questions, comments, concerns and viewpoints on legislation.
It is an honor to serve and represent you!