Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have passed the halfway point of the legislative session. The short session is moving quickly.
Things have changed very little since last session. We ended the 2019 legislative session with massive spending and tax increases. Unfortunately, the first bill passed this session, House Bill 6492, expands the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax to even more businesses this year.
Democrats fast-tracked the bill through the Legislature to fix the problem they created by fast-tracking the workforce education entitlement bill last year. It was poorly written, and after the law took effect, more students signed up for scholarships than predicted, and the Department of Revenue recognized problems with the implementation that led to reduced tax collection.
House Bill 6492 expands the tax increase to another 4,400 businesses. The B&O tax increase now affects a total of 14,000 businesses and 886,000 employees. It took them just three weeks to introduce the bill, pass it in both chambers, and have the governor sign it on Monday.
Low-carbon fuel standard
The House majority party has also passed the low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), House Bill 1110, aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by authorizing the state Department of Ecology (DOE) to create a clean fuels program “by rule.”
This bill would drive up the cost of gas and goods while doing very little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I opposed this bill for a number of reasons:
- It could increase the cost of gas by 57 cents per gallon and diesel 63 cents per gallon, and not generate any new revenue for transportation infrastructure.
- It puts a financial burden on those who can least afford it and impact rural families who have to drive long distances to work, school and medical appointments.
- It would hurt our economy. The unintended consequences for businesses such as increased shipping costs would put us at a competitive disadvantage. The Puget Sound Regional Transportation Fuels Analysis Final Report states this would result in job loss in Washington.
- Finally, voters in Washington state have defeated similar proposals at the ballot box.
Instead of Olympia ignoring the will of the voters again and passing a law that will negatively impact our rural families, greatly impact transportation costs and not improve our transportation system, let's find a solution that will work for all sides.
The bill passed by a vote of 52-44, with all Republicans and five Democrats voting “no.”
My bills moving through the House
House Bill 1661 passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 13. This bill would establish institution-specific contribution rates for the Higher Education Retirement Plan Supplemental Benefits (HERPSB) and provides for a biennial schedule for the rates to be revised by the Pension Funding Council (PFC).
House Bill 2524 would add pears to the definition of “agriculture products” under the state Agricultural Marketing and Fair Practices Act. This would allow pear prices to be negotiated between growers and processors. This is a similar practice for other ag products. This process would give farmers the ability to get full value for their crops. The bill has made it through the Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Appropriations committees. It unanimously passed the House today, (Wednesday, Feb. 19) and is now headed to the Senate for further consideration.
I want to thank everyone who participated in the survey Rep. Jeremie Dufault and I mailed out before the session started. The top five most important issues selected were:
- oppose tax increases – 41%
- save our dams – 10.7%
- access to health care 10.5%
- public safety – 7%
- veterans – 6%
Your feedback and input is important to me as we debate and vote on legislation impacting our communities and Washington state. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
I recently had the privilege of sponsoring Sam Jensen, a student from Zillah High School, in the House Page Program. Sam did a great job! I hope he enjoyed his time in Olympia.
Thank you for taking the time to read my email update. And thank you for allowing me to serve you in the state Legislature. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.