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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

After a whirlwind 60-day session that began in January, the Legislature adjourned the 2024 session Thursday evening, March 7. I am glad to be back home in the district and farming once again. However, it is also an honor to serve you and our neighbors across the 9th Legislative District.

I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on this session in this email update and the takeaways from it. As mentioned in a newspaper article penned with me this week by my seatmates, Sen. Mark Schoesler and Rep. Joe Schmick, the 2024 session was a mix of successes and disappointments. You can read that article here.

Governor signs Dye bill allowing the use of saved water within the Columbia Basin Project

With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Jay Inslee recently enacted legislation I authored that improves the use of state water resources for farming and permits the utilization of conserved water within the area of the Columbia Basin Project.

House Bill 1752 authorizes the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to apply for and obtain approval for water rights modifications. It also provides farmers flexibility as new pumping systems are developed to save the Odessa Aquifer.

New irrigation technology allows farmers to know exactly how much water is going into that soil and precisely how much water the plants need and get. This bill brings our water law in alignment with the current technology that is saving millions of gallons of water. It will allow more acres to be served by large public irrigation systems under construction without impacting the watershed. It also allows the infrastructure we are building within the project to be used with maximum efficiency so none of the land that could be irrigated is wasted.

Learn more:

Sergeant at Arms Johnny Alexander talks with Rep. Mary Dye as the House prepares to adjourn sine die.

The costly Climate Commitment Act

As the ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee, I have been working to shine the light on the incredible bureaucracy of the new Climate Commitment Act (CCA) and how it is reaching deep into the pockets of Washingtonians who can least afford it.

Did you know that the hidden gas tax from the CCA that Washington motorists are paying is now supporting 285 new state employees?

It’s a rare thing to hire more than 250 people to accomplish a task.  For some perspective, consider that 14 Washington counties have two or fewer private sector employers with more than 250 employees, and three counties have no such employer. It is truly staggering how many state employees it takes to administer grants, programs, and rules for a carbon market given that Washington state contracts for a third party to administer and operate the market (WCI, Inc.). We have 285 people just to spend the money and write rules, not to run the actual carbon auctions.

Before the enactment of the CCA, the entire staffing level at the Department of Ecology (DOE) was 1,856 FTEs. The CCA boosted that level by nearly 15 percent. Not all 285 new staff are at that agency. Others are at the Department of Commerce and the Washington State Department of Transportation, but the increased staff level is significant. This additional hiring sets a new baseline for future state budgets that will be responsible from hereon in to pay for these careers and benefits.

Moreover, there’s no proven direct connection between increased employment levels and environmental improvements. Nor is there any accountability with the $2 billion received from the carbon auctions that have increased Washington’s fuel prices by more than 50 cents a gallon. Grants funded by the CCA for public transit agencies do not require any measurement to determine if ridership has increased. Grants from the CCA for rooftop solar on community buildings do not require any reporting on whether the panels are supplying electricity that displaces fossil-fuel-sourced electricity. CCA grants for public EV charging stations require no reporting on the number of vehicles served. And commitments to direct 40% of funds to overburdened communities remain impossible to verify because those populations are identified on a case-by-case basis, rather than mapped definitively.

One of the three citizen initiatives to the Legislature that majority Democrats refused to hold public hearings on was Initiative 2117. This initiative would repeal the costly Climate Commitment Act (CCA) and prohibit future carbon auctions. It now will be on the November ballot for Washington voters to decide.

Other issues in the House Environment and Energy Committee

I also spent a great amount of time on this committee during the session fighting policies that could make your life more difficult and expensive. Washington state has an affordability crisis and legislation should not be passed to make it worse.

We were able to stop House Bill 2049 which would have transferred control of the recycling system from private sector recyclers in our local communities to the state Department of Ecology (DOE). While I support recycling, this bill would have enacted a fee on producers of paper and plastic packaging to fund operations of a “producer responsibility organization” administered by the DOE to control recycling efforts, instead of the packaging producers. The cost of this new recycling system would be added to every packaged item you purchase, making Washington an even less affordable place to live.

Two other concerning bills passed the Legislature.

  • House Bill 1589 provides Puget Sound Energy (PSE) with unique regulatory treatment and incentives to switch its customers from natural gas service to electric-only service. Under this plan, it will be the first utility in the United States to have the authority to blend the gas line of business and the electric line of business into one rate base and shift that cost to electric-only customers when the utility decommissions its gas services. This means electric-only customers will start subsidizing the decommissioning of gas infrastructure even if they were never served by it. This will also mean higher electrical prices as the utility builds more wind and solar generation (unreliable sources) to fill in the gaps created by the loss of gas services. PSE gas customers will also be forced to pay thousands of dollars to transition their appliances and heating systems to electric. Total costs to PSE customers for this transition are estimated at as much as $10 billion. PSE is a Canadian/Dutch investor-owned monopoly utility. This bill is its answer to complying with the Clean Energy Transformation Act while protecting its stockholders from the costs of the policy.

MEDIA: Learn about the impacts of House Bill 1589:

  • Giving California control of our energy policies: Senate Bill 6058 would link Washington’s carbon market to California and Quebec. If California and Quebec decide to reduce the number of carbon allowances for auction, it could make those allowances more expensive and force fuel and energy prices even higher in Washington state. This bill has also been delivered to the governor.

MEDIA: Learn why linkage under Senate Bill 6058 is a terrible plan:

I was also disappointed that majority Democrats refused to allow a public hearing on House Bill 2040, also known as the Carbon Auction Rebate or “CAR” Payment Program. This measure I co-sponsored with Rep. April Connors, R-Kennewick, sought to provide rebates to registered vehicle owners in Washington state of up to $214 per vehicle to help offset the high prices of gasoline in Washington state as a result of the Climate Commitment Act (the state’s cap-and-trade program) and provide relief to struggling Washington families.

Initiatives to the Legislature

Every session seems to take on a unique theme, such as funding education, expanding health care, protecting water rights, etc. In this session, much of the focus was on the six citizens’ initiatives that garnered enough signatures to be certified by the Secretary of State’s office and introduced to the Legislature.

Three of the initiatives passed with strong bipartisan support. They include:

  • Initiative 2113: This initiative will allow our police officers to use the “reasonable suspicion” standard to pursue criminals rather than “probable cause” in the 2021 law passed by the majority party.
  • Initiative 2081: This initiative will create a Parents’ Bill of Rights that will increase transparency and ensure that public schools must share with parents any records relating to their children and instructional materials.
  • Initiative 2111: This initiative will prohibit further efforts to impose a state and local personal income tax. With our state’s affordability crisis, this will protect people from any plans from the majority party to impose personal income taxes at any level.

The passage of these initiatives lifted our spirits in a very difficult session and reaffirmed that the citizens of this state still have the power to affect meaningful changes in policies.

Despite our calls for public hearings on all six initiatives, the Democratic majority did not allow legislative committees to consider the other three initiatives. They included:

These three initiatives will now advance to the November ballot and Washington voters will decide if they pass or not. For more information, click here.

Supplemental budgets

The state has three budgets: operating, transportation, and capital. These budgets are on two-year cycles. Last year, the Legislature approved the three budgets for the two-year fiscal cycle that ends June 30, 2025. In the short 60-day session, we amend those spending plans, which are then called “supplemental budgets.” A supplemental budget represents mid-course corrections to the two-year spending plans to account for changes that have happened since we originally adopted those budgets last year. This year, we passed supplemental operating, transportation, and capital budgets.

Supplemental operating budget

The supplemental operating budget approved by the Legislature this session increases spending by $2.2 billion, bringing state spending to $71.95 billion, as you can see in the chart above. The $140.93 billion represents all funds, including federal funding. As the chart demonstrates, state spending has more than doubled over the past 10 years. Has your family’s budget doubled in 10 years?

Washington has a spending problem, and this budget continues to grow the state’s payroll and obligates taxpayers to those future costs.

There is some good news from this budget. I secured $1.8 million for monitoring and prevention of quagga and zebra mussels from Washington’s waterways. Conservative estimates suggest an invasive mussel invasion in Washington would easily destroy our salmon population and other native fish, and cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Our state is expected to bring in an additional $3.3 billion over the next four years. Yet, taxpayers are struggling. Fortunately, we were able to stop Senate Bill 5770, which would have enacted a major property tax increase. While this budget doesn’t increase taxes, it also does not provide tax relief for middle-class families. For these and other reasons, I did not support the supplemental operating budget.

Supplemental transportation budget

The bipartisan supplemental transportation budget, which I supported, provides an additional $1.1 billion for the maintenance and preservation of roads, highways, and bridges. It includes longevity bonuses for Washington State Patrol troopers who have 26 years or more of service. We also secured nearly $2.6 million in the transportation budget at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport for the completion of overflow parking and the rental car lot, and the purchase of glycol recovery vehicles mandated by the state.

Supplemental capital budget

I serve on the House Capital Budget Committee and Sen. Mark Schoesler serves as the Capital Budget Leader in the Senate. Along with our other seatmate, Rep. Joe Schmick, we negotiated and secured just over $30 million in this supplemental capital budget for local projects. This includes:

  • $10 million for the Knott Dairy Center digester at Washington State University;
  • $9.998 million for sports and recreation center energy improvements at Eastern Washington University;
  • $52 million for the Asotin-Anatone School District;
  • $5.75 million for the Odessa groundwater replacement project;
  • $2 million for projects at the Creston, Freeman, LaCrosse, Palouse, Pomeroy, Steptoe, and Wilbur school districts:
  • $1 million for Tristate Health Hospital in Clarkston;
  • $200,000 for Tekoa Parks and Recreation;
  • $187,000 for the Latah Water System rehabilitation project;
  • $120,000 for improvements at the Davenport Senior Center; and
  • $77,000 for the preservation and maintenance of the RTOP Theatre in Pullman.


Farm fuel exemption issue remains unresolved

As you may be aware, my seatmate, Rep. Joe Schmick, and I fought to secure farm, aviation, and marine fuel surcharge exemptions from the Climate Commitment Act (the governor’s cap-and-trade program). But when it went into effect in January 2023, the Department of Ecology (DOE) refused to honor that exemption, which meant farmers are now paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more for farm diesel. We have continued to negotiate with DOE to apply the exemption, unfortunately, without success.

The state Farm Bureau now estimates that nearly $200 million has been paid by farmers and the agriculture community for those surcharges.

In a measly effort to appease the agricultural community, the architects of the cap-and-trade program offered a $36 million paltry rebate that became $30 million in the state operating budget for farm fuel users and haulers of agricultural goods. Unfortunately, this would cover only a fraction of the farmers affected. That’s an insult to our hardworking farmers!

Under the law, the Department of Licensing must base payments on a signed attestation from farmers and other eligible purchasers who can show receipts with overcharged fuel costs. The amount of money someone gets will be based on how many gallons of fuel they’ve used, ranging from $600 for less than 1,000 gallons to $4,500 for more than 10,000 gallons.

We will continue to push for the full exemption. In the meantime, the Washington Farm Bureau has sued DOE, hoping to push the department to open rulemaking on the exemptions process. So this issue is still far from being resolved.

Read more from the DOE’s Interim Guidance on Reporting and Documenting Exempt Fuels.

I work for you throughout the year

Although the 2024 session has now ended, my service to you has not. I work for you throughout the year. Please contact my office any time you have questions, comments, or suggestions about legislation and state government. My contact information is below. It is an honor to serve and represent you and our neighbors across the great 9th Legislative District.

Sincerely,


Mary Dye

State Representative Mary Dye, 9th Legislative District
RepresentativeMaryDye.com
432 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
mary.dye@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7942 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000