Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Tomorrow, Rep. David Taylor and I will be holding a telephone town hall. We'll be using a new technology to reach out to you in the 15th District. With more than 6,000 square miles in our legislative district, it is difficult for us to reach as many of you with traditional town halls. The call will take place Thursday, Feb. 25 at 6:50 p.m. – 7:50 p.m. You will have an opportunity to ask questions of us or just listen into the community conversation from the comfort of your own home. If you would like to participate, call toll-free (877) 229-8493, then enter pin number 15540. We look forward to talking with you about issues that affect you.
Last week, I wrote you about the suspension of Initiative 960, also known as the Taxpayer Protection Act, and how I would be fighting to protect not only the two-thirds requirement for tax increases, but also the transparency provisions in the voter-approved initiative. I did not support the measure to overturn the initiative, and you can view my speech on the House floor here. After more than 10 hours of debating, the majority in the House voted to overturn the initiative 51-47. The Senate finalized passage of the bill yesterday and the governor is scheduled to sign it today at 4 p.m.
The same day the House voted to overturn Initiative 960, the governor unveiled her proposal for $759 million in tax increases:
- MTCA/hazardous substance tax – rate increase to 2.0% – $148 million
- Tax on bottled water sales @ 1 cent per ounce at wholesale – $ 135 million
- Soda tax @ 5 cents per 12 ounces at wholesale – $94 million
- Cigarette tax from $2.025 to $3.025/pack – $ 89 million
- Impose sales tax on candy and gum – $28 million
- Reverse DOT foods decision – $154 million
- “Close tax loopholes” – $112 million
Many of these are unreliable income sources as folks will cross the border, order online or quit using these products. The largest portion of her tax package is tripling the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) tax, which applies to petroleum products such as gasoline, household cleaning products, insect repellant and commercial fertilizers. Though proponents say the tax is used to clean up waterways, funds that already exist for that purpose were swept into the general fund last year. In addition, there is a lack of scientific proof that these specific products are the largest contributors to contaminants in Puget Sound and other waterways.
The Senate Democrats yesterday announced they would seek a 0.3 percent increase in the sales tax as well as other tax increases. I believe a sales tax increase would hurt our economic recovery and only bring instability to more jobs.
The House Democrats also yesterday unveiled their budget proposal to solve the $2.7 billion shortfall. They propose:
- $857 million in new taxes;
- $641 million from federal dollars;
- $653 million in state spending cuts;
- $236 million in state budget transfers; and
- $311 million from state reserves.
This amounts to solving 32 percent of the budget shortfall with tax increases, while only 24 percent would be solved with spending reductions. This continues the failures of past budget practices, that did not make any significant reform with how government delivers state services. I believe we can balance the budget without making draconian cuts and without tax increases. We can have a leaner, smarter government that provides the same services taxpayers expect and the services the most vulnerable need.
Did you know?
- More than 77 tax and fee bills have been introduced in the House, totaling $3 billion for the 2011 fiscal year alone.
- $707,999 has been spent since 2007 on consultant contracts related to climate change (Dept. of Ecology).
- $1,207,305 is spent yearly on salaries and benefits for 13 positions dealing with climate change and air quality (Dept. of Ecology).
- A $1 billion sales tax increase alone would cost Washington 14,800 jobs (Washington Research Council).
- A $1 billion business & occupation tax alone would cost Washington 15,100 jobs (Washington Research Council).
- The last tobacco tax increase in Washington resulted in $2.5 million less than government predicted (Washington Policy Center).
In the coming weeks, the House and Senate will be passing bills that are known as “necessary to implement the budget.” This means in order to make a reduction in the budget, certain policy bills must be passed to direct agencies how to make changes.
Water rights application bill killed in the House
Last week, the House debated House Bill 2591 to increase fees for water rights applications. I was opposed to the measure. Proponents said it would allow the Department of Ecology to speed up water rights processing requests, but I believe it would only impose extraordinary fees without the guarantee of water. The bill would also greatly expand the authority of the Department of Ecology to limit exempt wells. I was pleased to see the House put the bill down, hopefully permanently, as the debate abruptly ended without a vote that day. You can watch the debate here:
As you can see, a lot has been happening in Olympia. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. It's an honor to serve you.