9th District lawmakers: Progressive agenda of taxes, environment, police reform, overruns real priorities of Washingtonians in 2021 remote session
The 2021 legislative session is now in the history books, finishing on Sunday evening, April 25. It was truly a session like no other in the history of the state, conducted remotely behind computer screens where we sat for some days as long as 18 hours, listening to testimony, debating issues and voting on bills in the virtual committee rooms and virtual House and Senate floors.
Even before the session began Jan. 11, Gov. Inslee and majority Puget Sound Democrats based their priorities on a national progressive agenda that formed from the pandemic, protests and a new Democratic Congress and president taking office.
Common themes we heard from the other side centered on racial equality, social and environmental justice, changing sentences for criminals, disarming the police, starting down the path for a state income tax, eliminating fossil fuels, and the immediate need of addressing the “imminent threat” of climate change.
Here are a few of many bills passed that stir our concerns:
- Senate Bill 5096 imposes a 7% income tax on capital gains income exceeding $250,000 from the sale of long-term assets. We believe supporters are using this as a pathway for a statewide income tax on all Washingtonians.
- Also heading to the governor's desk is a new low-carbon fuel standard mandate (House Bill 1091) and a measure (Senate Bill 5126) to enact a complex cap-and-trade system in Washington as part of Gov. Inslee's climate change agenda. We are concerned these bills will significantly increase the price of fuel and energy, and will cost the average household an additional $1,400 a year.
- More than a dozen police reform bills include a ban on chokeholds, a higher bar for when police can resort to deadly force, and making it easier to decertify an officer. While we were able to prevent defunding of police, some of these measures make it more difficult and dangerous for police officers to do their jobs.
- We entered the session under the governor's emergency rule. It is disappointing nothing has changed as Democrats rebuffed our efforts to reform the governor's emergency powers and reopen Washington.
- A 2021-23 operating budget spends $58.9 billion in state funds, an increase of $7 billion (13.6%) over the current biennium. We are concerned Democrats transferred $1.8 billion from the constitutionally-protected rainy-day fund and raised taxes, including a state income tax on capital gains, a new tax on your cell phones, and doubling the document recording fees, even though revenue has grown more than $4 billion over the previous biennium.
There are good things that came from the 2021 session. We passed a capital construction budget that provides $55 million for local projects across the 9th District. Unemployment insurance reforms will help prevent increases on local employers at a time when they are struggling, and need help the most. House Bill 1168 creates a dedicated fund to prevent wildfires and provide for forest management.
Sen. Schoesler's Senate Bill 5454 will provide temporary property tax relief for people rebuilding their homes damaged or destroyed by wildfires last September. His other measure, Senate Bill 5198, will allow continued operations of shared ambulance services in Farmington and Garfield.
Rep. Schmick's House Bill 1096 will ensure continued Washington State Health Insurance Pool coverage for medically fragile enrollees. And Rep. Dye's House Bill 1114 encourages utilities in urban heat island cities, like Seattle, to implement tree-planting and cool-roof methods to reduce heat and provide energy conservation.
You can read more about our bills and other legislation from our websites:
Please remember we work for you throughout the entire year. You can find our contact information from our websites listed above. We encourage you to call, write or email us with any questions about legislation or state government.
It is our honor to serve and represent you.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, and Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, represent the 9th Legislative District.