Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week in the state House of Representatives it was budget week. House supplemental operating, transportation and capital budgets were unveiled and the operating and transportation budgets were passed. Those two budgets are now in what they call “conference” so budget negotiators can work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the spending plans.
The supplemental operating budget passed by House Democrats increases spending by about $2 billion over the four-year outlook (2019-2023), bringing state spending to about $53.8 billion for 2019-21. That would be an increase of 20% over the last biennium. Their proposed budget would also increase spending by about 75% since 2013. That is not fiscally responsible or sustainable.
With historic tax collections coming into state coffers, House Republicans offered two different budget proposals. One would have provided $1 billion in tax relief to working Washington families, implement voter-mandated $30 car tabs without disrupting any road construction projects, eliminate the sales tax on prepared food items sold at grocery stores and on certain personal necessities. We also offered a second proposal that would have provided property tax relief to you, the hard-working taxpayers. Unfortunately, the majority party voted both of the proposals down and passed their own spending plan on a party-line vote 55-39.
This was disappointing. House Republicans feel it is time for a tax break. After all, the tax revenue coming into our state is your money. Our budget surplus now stands at $2.4 billion. However, the majority party's proposal spends almost every dollar the state has coming in.
The transportation budget was much different. It was a bipartisan budget and passed by a vote of 97-1. Our transportation lead, Rep. Andrew Barkis, did a great job of proactively setting priorities, advocating for $30 car tabs and negotiating a responsible budget.
I know many of you are concerned about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and have questions and concerns. There is no reason to be overly alarmed, but it is also good to be prepared. The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It is spread in a similar way as the flu, such as coughing and sneezing.
Some precautions you can take include washing your hands frequently, avoid shaking hands and people who are sick, and do not attend any large gatherings if you are sick. If you are immune compromised or vulnerable, health officials said to err on the side of caution and avoid mass public gatherings.
If you have any questions call the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) at 1-800-525-0127 and press #. The following websites may also be helpful:
State Department of Health: How Can I be Prepared?
Yakima Health District: yakimacounty.us/2323/Human-Coronavirus
Yakima Health District phone number: 509-575-4040 or Toll Free: 800-535-5016
In the Legislature, we unanimously passed House Bill 2965, a bipartisan bill, to provide $100 million to state agencies and local governments so they have the necessary funding to respond to the COVID-19. It will also give the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) funding to increase nursing staff to help address this growing need. Since this money is coming out of the Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) or Rainy Day Fund, and it is a large amount, we placed some accountability measures into the legislation to ensure the money is being used as intended.
Please make sure to follow the DOH recommendations to keep yourself healthy and keep updated on the latest information via the links I provided. Do not hesitate to contact DOH or the Yakima Health District if you have any questions or concerns.
What is happening in state government?
The 2020 session is winding down, but I encourage you to continue to visit The Ledger. Not only will it keep you updated on the legislative session, but it is a great news source even after we have adjourned. The Ledger is a legislative news aggregator that includes news stories from around the state, videos, audio files and more. This is a great way to stay informed on a day-to-day basis.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this email update or any of the issue before us in Olympia.
It is an honor to represent you!