Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is difficult to believe October is around the corner. Summer went by fast and the 2024 legislative session will be here before you know it. I wanted to provide you an update on some important issues emerging from this summer.
Washington gas prices among the highest in the nation
For several weeks this summer, Washington state had the highest gas prices in the nation, competing with California for the top spot. How bad was it? According to some media outlets more than one-third of Washington residents canceled their summer travel plans over high gas prices.
The governor has blamed the oil companies. However, if you look at the chart below, you can see the high fuel prices are in direct correlation to the implementation of the cap-and-trade policy, or Climate Commitment Act, that took effect in January.
How does our price compare to our neighbors? Idaho’s gasoline prices are nearly a dollar-a-gallon less than Washington. Even Oregon is nearly 34-cents-a-gallon cheaper.
House Republican legislators have introduced a plan to provide relief to motorists from these unaffordable prices.
For more on the House Republican Carbon Auction Rebate (CAR) Payment program click here. I encourage you to learn more about why fuel prices in Washington state are so high. We have a new web page that answers many questions: How regressive Democratic policies increased Washington’s gas prices.
Increasing crime in Washington state
One of the top priorities in the 2024 legislative session must be public safety. Crime continues to increase in our communities, neighborhoods and across the state. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs recently released its Annual Crime in Washington Report. The report indicated Washington state just experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s, with increases in other major crime categories. Below are a couple of news stories from this summer on this issue.
- Homicides, violent crime up in WA as police staffing hits all-time low (The Seattle Times)
- Murders hit record, auto thefts soared in 2022, new figures show (Washington State Standard)
The crime report reflects that our public safety policies need more work and staffing levels are too low. Washington state is ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand residents. The Washington State Patrol (WSP) has 143 vacancies and local law enforcement agencies across the state are also short-handed.
Washington long-term care program started July 1
Was your paycheck smaller in the month of July? The WA Cares Fund, the new state-run, long-term care insurance program began this summer. The payroll deductions started for many Washington workers, including part-time and temporary workers. Those in the program are paying about 58 cents on every $100 of their earnings.
I am opposed to the payroll tax program. It is:
- Inadequate. There is a limited lifetime benefit of up to $36,500. That does not cover long-term care needs or costs for very long.
- Unfair. There is no guarantee you will get the benefits of the program. If you do not end up using the benefit, you forfeit all the money that was taken from your paycheck. Your spouse is not eligible for your benefit contributions. And, if you leave the state you lose your money and/or benefits.
- Unpopular. Voters voiced your strong opposition to the plan in the November 2019 general election. As nearly 63% of you at the ballot box said the long-term care payroll tax should be repealed in Advisory Vote No. 20.
Washington Republicans hope to make the plan optional in the 2024 legislative session. You should be able to decide what type of long-term care plan works best for you.
- WA Republicans propose making new long-term care tax optional (The Seattle Times)
- Washington Republicans propose opt out on long term care payroll tax (The Center Square)
For more on this issue click here.
Following state government news
You can follow what is happening with Washington state government all year. Below are some websites that will keep you informed.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating state government or agencies.
It is an honor to serve the great people of the 15th District.