Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Immediately after the Legislature adjourned March 11, the governor called us back into a special session to come to a consensus on the budget and proposed taxes. Despite having 60 days to come to an agreement, the majority party in the House and Senate failed to adopt a supplemental budget to close the $2.7 billion spending gap.
Before the session began, my Republican colleagues and I were hopeful the majority party would reach across the aisle to work on a budget. We offered ideas where we could find efficiencies. I believe as soon as The Taxpayer Protection Act was suspended, which required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase taxes, the majority party set a course to increase the budget without any meaningful government reform.
Did you know?
- Every day we are in special session we could pay for eight people's health insurance on the Basic Health Plan for an entire year.
- Every three days we are in special session could pay one teacher's salary.
- One day of special session could have paid for 178 criminals to be incarcerated.
- If special session lasts seven days ($126,000) as the governor has stated, we could have paid for:
- 18-25 college need grants to four-year universities; or
- 47 need grants to Washington's community colleges.
My greatest concern is the massive tax increases the majority wants to pass to make up for the spending gap. Several of the taxes are targeted at agriculture, one of the largest employers in our state:
- increasing the hazardous substances tax will hurt growers with a hidden gas tax and will increase the price of fertilizer and plant protection materials;
- limiting a tax exemption on sprays and fertilizers only used with organic products will punish those who cannot afford to be certified organic;
- increasing taxes on canned meat products will hurt our local food processors and the jobs they provide; and
- increasing the use tax on truckers hauling out of state will have a chilling affect on our trade with neighboring states.
Since our district borders Oregon, I'm also concerned about a proposal to end the sales tax exemption for Oregon residents shopping in Washington. While at first it only seems fair to tax all shoppers the same, this exemption has helped our retailers in Southwest Washington tremendously. Ending this exemption may jeopardize jobs and several of our local shops who depend on Oregon residents crossing the border.
Though I don't know how long the Legislature will be in a special session, I will keep you updated on the budget and tax proposals. And as always, feel free to call or e-mail my office with questions, concerns or suggestions.
It's an honor to serve you.