Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has interrupted our normal lives as we know it. It is impacting our communities, state and countries around the world. There are many questions and concerns circulating, so I want to make sure you have access to accurate information and helpful resources. House Republicans have put together a webpage with extensive information. Click: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources to check it out. Subsections include:
- General information
- Contact information
- Recent announcements
- Employers & employees
- House Bill 2965
- RCW 43.06.220
- In the news
- National resources
- Global perspective
We are continually updating the website. If you have any questions that cannot be answered, please let me know and I will be happy to guide you in the right direction.
Last night, the governor announced a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. The proclamation:
- requires every Washingtonian to stay home unless they need to pursue an essential activity.
- bans all gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes.
- closes all businesses except essential businesses.
COVID-19 legislative action
One of the last bills we passed this session directs $200 million to assist with the COVID-19 response. House Bill 2965 takes $175 million from the rainy day fund for state and local agencies to fight the disease and another $25 million to aid businesses that have shut down because of COVID-19.
The legislation also allows the state Board of Education to grant emergency waivers to high school students who won't be able to meet certain graduation requirements if their schools are closed for an extended time period.
These are difficult and uncertain days for so many. Please be safe and smart. We will get through this if we stick together.
Despite it being a supplemental operating budget year, the House majority party passed a budget that increased spending by about $1.3 billion over the four-year outlook, bringing spending to about $53.5 billion for 2019-21. That is an increase of nearly 20% over the last biennium. When the governor signs this operating budget into law, state spending will have increased nearly 73% since 2013.
In February the state's revenue forecast revealed a surge in new tax revenue and a $2.4 billion budget surplus. The majority party elected to spend most of that. With the increase in spending over the last few budget cycles and COVID-19 outbreak, I am very concerned we are looking at very tough budget decisions in the near future. While House Republicans have questioned the sustainability of the last few budgets, now is not the time to play partisan politics. We will have to work together to get through these difficult financial times.
The supplemental capital budget is an important piece of our legislative process in advocating for projects that will benefit the communities in our district. It contains bricks and mortar type projects for our K-12 schools, colleges, local governments and community projects where funding may be difficult to come by. It also focuses on stewardship projects protecting our farmlands, waterways and environment.
This year's budget addresses priority areas such as mental health and early learning. We were also able to secure funding for projects in the 15th District including:
- Interstate 82 Exit 33A Yakima City Landfill;
- Rod's House multi-use facility;
- Noah's Ark Homeless Shelter;
- Yakima County Care Campus Conversion Project;
- Sunnyside Airport Hangar Maintenance Facility; and
- South Yakima Conservation groundwater management.
Please let me know if you have any questions on these projects.
The supplemental transportation budget passed with just one “no” vote. Both parties and chambers worked together to address the challenges due to the shortfall caused by I-976. However, they were able to prioritize special needs transportation, ensure projects were taken off hold that had been paused by the governor, and make a minimal impact to preservation and maintenance.
Republicans had asked that the will of the voters be honored by implementing $30 car tabs into law. While we were not able to get it through the legislative process, on March 12 a judge ruled that I-976 would likely survive legal challenges and take effect. We still need to wait and see how the Department of Licensing and Department of Revenue move forward on this issue.
Legislation to assist pear industry
My House Bill 2524 passed the Legislature unanimously. It 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 used for other agricultural products. The governor should be signing this bill into law in the near future.
This interim will be a little different with the COVID-19 outbreak. I still urge you to contact me with any questions, concerns, or comments you may have regarding the legislative session, state issues or information on COVID-19.
Stay safe and stay healthy. We will get through this.
It is an honor to serve the 15th District.