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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you had the opportunity to enjoy the 4th of July holiday with loved ones. This year, as I reflect on the nearly 250-year history of our great nation with my family, I am grateful for the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy. However, there are areas of concern in our state that I have been hearing about from constituents across the district.

In this month’s update, I want to highlight some areas of concern and share what many of my House Republican colleagues and I are doing to course correct where we can.

Smaller Paychecks

You have probably noticed that your paycheck is smaller. If you have not yet, you soon will. That’s because on July 1, the payroll tax to cover the cost of the new long-term care insurance program began collections. This program is a problem that House Republicans have strongly opposed since 2019 when House Bill 1087 to create the program  was pushed through by the majority party.

The legislation created a new payroll tax of $0.58 per $100 of earnings for virtually everyone working in Washington state unless they were fortunate enough to meet the narrow criteria allowing them to opt out. Unfortunately, the window to opt out if you did meet those criteria has now closed. The new tax will cost those earning $50,000 a year nearly $300 a year.

This unpopular tax that shrinks your paycheck is unfair and fails to provide an adequate benefit.

Unpopular –  In November 2019, voters in Washington overwhelmingly rejected the program when nearly 63% said in  Advisory Vote No. 20 that the program should be repealed.

Unfair – This new tax is another burden for people living paycheck-to-paycheck and trying to make ends meet during high inflation and soaring costs. Yet another regressive tax in Washington that hurts the families least able to afford it. If you never use the benefit, you forfeit all your contributions to the program. You can’t even transfer your unused benefit to your spouse. If you retire out of state, you lose all your benefits.

Inadequate – The limited $36,500 lifetime benefit is not even close to what one would need to cover the cost of long-term care. There are also questions about the program’s solvency, and there are already discussions about the possible need to increase the payroll tax in the future.

You can learn more about the program here

I cosponsored House Bill 1011 this past session to repeal this bad program, but majority Democrats refused to give that bill – as well as several others aimed at fixing some of the issues with the program – a hearing. I will continue to support efforts to repeal this tax and make it less bad, including a proposal in the state Senate to create a new opt out option. The public’s frustration over this tax has only gotten louder since it started being deducted from paychecks this month. I fully expect to continue efforts to repeal or fix this program to be a top priority in the 2024 session.

Alarming Rise in Gas Prices

I know we all feel the pain at the pump these days, especially here in our community. Last month, Washington state earned the unwanted designation of having the highest average gas price in the nation. We have seen a very slight improvement since then with Washington drivers now paying nearly $1.50 more a gallon at an average of $4.92 compared to the current national average of $3.63 a gallon, according to AAA Washington. This rapid rise in fuel costs was not only predictable but avoidable.

We are paying higher prices than other states because of state taxes and climate policies pushed by Gov. Inslee and adopted by the majority party in the Legislature.

For instance, in our state, gasoline is taxed at a rate of 49.40 cents per gallon. That is the third-highest gas tax rate in the country and accounts for more than 11% of what you pay every time you fill up your tank.

Additionally, the Climate Commitment Act, Washington’s cap-and-trade program from Gov. Inslee and the majority party passed by the Legislature in 2021 and implemented in January of this year. Affordable Fuel Washington reports gas prices in Washington state have spiked an additional 44 cents for gasoline and 54 cents for diesel fuel since the state launched the tax on CO2 emissions at the beginning of this year.

Check the latest average gas prices in Washington state here.

There are steps the Department of Ecology (DOE) can take right now to lower the price at the pump. Just last week, I signed onto a letter penned by Republican Sen. Chris Gildon to the DOE strongly urging them to take these steps to provide immediate relief to Washington drivers. I also expect more work to be done in the months ahead on potential legislation to address other issues that have allowed such an alarming rise in gas prices in Washington state.

Operating Budget Includes More Record Spending, Zero Tax-Relief

While I am proud of the bipartisan work done on the capital and transportation budgets this year, I am very disappointed in the majority party’s partisan process to pass the state operating budget.

Republicans were shut out of the operating budget negotiations by the majority party. We did not see the final 1,404-page operating budget bill until the day before we voted on it. That is not enough time to fully consider the most significant bill of the session

House Republicans had proposals for sales tax relief, property tax relief and to expand the Working Families Tax Credit. Not one of those proposals received support from the majority party.

Promotion

I am honored to share that I was recently chosen as the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. This promotion will give me a more significant role on the important budget committee and more of a voice. I will use every tool this new role provides to advocate for a fiscally responsible state budget that includes tax relief for the people of Washington state.

Public Safety Concerns

Shortly after my last email update, we returned to Olympia for a one-day special session to pass legislation for a new drug possession law in Washington before the prior law expired leaving no drug possession law on the books. I am happy to report, the special session resulted in the bipartisan passage of a new bill that ensures we avoid de facto legalization and is much better than the law that had been in place the past two years that led to the open-air drug use we have seen across our state. The bill we passed also improved from what the majority party had to offer in the 2023 session. All that said, I still have concerns over the new law’s reliance on the availability of statewide substance abuse treatment that does not yet exist.

This new law just took effect in July, and I will keep a close eye on how its implementation impacts our community, law enforcement and the state.

I expect more work will be needed on the drug possession law and more investment in treatment, but it will also be important to watch what happens on the prosecution front.

Overall, we need to see a visible difference in our community and the state for this law to succeed, so stay tuned.

We must also address the issue of mental health treatment in Washington. This month, a judge fined the state 100-million dollars for failing to comply with the eight-year-old Trueblood case order to provide timely competency evaluations to those potentially suffering from mental health issues who are held in jail but who have not yet been convicted of a crime. This is unacceptable and fixing the issue must be a top priority for the state.

READ: Learn more about the issues surrounding the Trueblood case here.

My Priorities

Finally, I want to share more about my priorities with you. In addition to my committee work and work as assistant floor leader this past session, I proposed several pieces of legislation.

House Bill 1535 – Washington is one of only four states that hands over unilateral authority to declare and maintain a State of Emergency (SOE), such as the emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when an SOE lasts months or even years – the Legislature must have a voice to represent the will of the people. This bill would do that by, among other things, allowing the Legislature to pass a concurrent resolution to end an SOE, and automatically ending an SOE after 60 days unless the Legislature extends it.

STATUS: No hearing scheduled in 2023, remains a priority in 2024.

House Bill 1814 – This bill was introduced in February 2023 as a preemptive measure to ensure state workers who lost jobs due to the governor’s COVID vaccination mandate were prioritized in the hiring process if and when the governor ended that mandate. Majority Democrats never gave the bill a hearing during the 2023 regular session. The governor finally ended the vaccine mandate for state workers on May 10, 2023, making it even more important for this legislation to be considered to help the nearly 2,100 state workers who lost their jobs. The loss of so many state workers over the vaccine mandate has caused widespread staffing shortages at multiple state agencies, including the Washington State Patrol and Washington State Ferries. Many agencies continue to struggle to fill their vacant spots. The legislation also would entitle former state workers rehired under the bill to pension credits for the time lost due to the vaccine mandate, provided they pay their normal contributions.

STATUS: No hearing scheduled in 2023, remains a priority in 2024.

House Bill 1601 – (Parental Rights) – I cosponsored this measure with fellow Republican Rep. Jenny Graham. The bill would have further codified certain parental rights to protect against intrusive government and protect the rights of parents to decide important matters for their children related to health care, education, and overall moral and religious training. This bill also never received a hearing from majority Democrats.

Even more concerning was the passage of Senate Bill 5599 by Democrats, which allows licensed youth homeless shelters and host homes to hide kids from their parents by not requiring the facilities to tell parents where their child is if the child is seeking protected health care services, including gender-affirming care and/or reproductive health services.

STATUS: No hearing scheduled in 2023, remains a priority in 2024.

WATCH: Rep. Corry discuss parental rights here.

Thank you for reading through this update; I hope you found it informative. If there are other specific issues, you’d like to hear about please do not hesitate to reach out. Remember, I work for you throughout the year, not just when the Legislature is in session. I encourage you to contact our offices whenever you have questions, comments, or suggestions about legislation or need help navigating state government.

Contact Rep. Corry’s office here.

I will have more to share with you next month, including details about an opportunity to visit face to face over a cup of coffee in the fall. For now, I hope you and your loved ones enjoy summer!

Sincerely,


Chris Corry

State Representative Chris Corry, 14th Legislative District
RepresentativeChrisCorry.com
122F Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
chris.corry@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7810 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000