Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We've entered the third week of the 2021 virtual legislative session. As expected, the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic tops the list for legislative agenda items. During the interim, House and Senate Republicans worked hard to urge the governor to call a special session. In fact, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concern over the governor's sweeping emergency powers during the pandemic—something unsuited for what has become a multi-year crisis.
Unfortunately, because the governor steadfastly refused to reconvene the Legislature prior to January, lawmakers haven't had an opportunity, until the past few weeks, to make any changes. After months of the executive office ruling by proclamations, it's a relief to see legislators working to provide solutions that can bring genuine relief to Washingtonians struggling amid the financial burdens imposed by the governor's restrictions.
That's why I found it particularly unsettling to see one of the first issues dealt with at the start of the 2021 session was Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402, which extends the governor's powers during a state of emergency. The resolution bundles 26 proclamations issued by the governor during the COVID pandemic and extends them until the end of the state of emergency, or until he or the Legislature rescinds the resolution.
As you can expect, I was a “no” vote. Surprisingly, so were three members of the House Democratic Caucus who joined with Republicans in opposing this resolution. Unfortunately, SCR 8402 still had enough votes to pass, 54 to 44.
Taxes, taxes and more taxes. Why?
When it comes to tax increases, I've got some good news and some bad news. First, the good news: Although there was a steep decline in state revenue at the start of the pandemic, our economy has slowly begun to recover. Steadily improving revenue numbers means legislators can balance the state's budget with no tax increases or deep cuts to state-provided services.
Now the bad news: The fact that we don't need more tax revenue has done nothing to slow tax-hungry Democratic legislators, including the governor. In fact, the governor's operating budget proposal contains more than $4 billion in new spending and virtually no cost-saving measures.
Democratic-sponsored tax increase proposals in 2021 include a graduated capital gains income tax, cap and trade, a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), and a three-dollar-a-month increase on health insurance premiums that will cost Washingtonians millions.
One of the most expensive items is the recently introduced $25.8 billion House transportation package, which includes an 18-cent increase in gas taxes and a new carbon fee on emissions that could result in about $1 of taxes for every gallon of gas purchased at the pump—giving Washington state the highest gas tax in the nation.
Supporters keep assuring the public these proposals will hit the wealthy more than lower-income brackets. The only problem is that isn't true—especially with gas taxes. Paying more at the pump will cut deeply into household budgets, forcing many to give up other necessities like housing, food, and education. The poor get poorer and the well-to-do just keep buying gas. This is especially true in Eastern Washington, where people often travel greater distances and have fewer mass transit options.
Here's the bottom line: I can't think of a worse time to raise taxes than amid a global pandemic. Washingtonians need relief now more than ever. After a rough year financially, people are eager to see lawmakers do something to help. That's why my number one priority for the 2021 session is economic recovery, especially for job-producing small businesses hurt by the COVID shutdowns. Individuals, families, and businesses need a helping hand right now, not more taxes.
I'm honored that earlier this year my Republican colleagues elected me as their assistant floor leader. Along with this assignment for the caucus, I was appointed assistant ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee. This committee oversees fiscal matters for the state, including the biennial operating budget, and other bills with large financial impacts.
Along with those roles, I will serve on the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee, which considers financial services and consumer protection issues. And finally, I will also be a member of the House Community and Economic Development Committee.
My goals for each of these committees are the same: Economic recovery and wise investments that help rebuild our communities. Lawmakers need to focus on what really matters: getting individuals, families, and businesses back on their feet.
Navigating the virtual 2021 session
On my website, I've included several links to help you navigate the virtual 2021 legislative session. Click here to see the list. In addition, attached below you'll find links to other resources, including one on how to testify remotely:
My legislative website | Here you will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, videos, opinion pieces, bills, and other information.
The Capitol Buzz | A weekday roundup of online news stories. Click on the link to subscribe.
The Current | An online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans. Click on the link to subscribe.
TVW | The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator.
Legislature's website | Bill reports, committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature here.
Let your voice be heard! Want to testify on a bill or other important public policy? Click here to do that. Need more information? Feel free to reach out to me directly if you need more details on specific bills or key public policy proposals.
My commitment to you will never change. I will do my utmost to represent the values of our district during this virtual session and beyond. Feel free to contact me if you have questions, concerns, or comments about bills being introduced or other state-government related issues.
It's an honor to serve you!