Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week, Rep. Terry Nealey and I hosted a telephone town hall conversation with those of you in district. More than 500 people joined us for the hour-long call and 17 constituents asked us questions live. In the days since, we have returned more than 40 voicemails and questions. It was exciting to be able to reach out to so many of you and talk about current issues in the Legislature and matters close to your life.
Today marks the 52nd day of the 60-day legislative session in Olympia. On Feb. 17, the House voted to suspend voter-approved Initiative 960. I voted 'no' because I believe too many taxpayers are struggling right now; what we need are jobs to generate revenue for the state, not increased taxes. You can watch my speech fighting for the Taxpayer Protection Act here and read more about the debate here.
Last week, we got a glimpse at budget and tax proposals in the House and Senate.
The House supplemental budget proposal would address the $2.7 billion supplemental shortfall with:
- $857 million in new taxes in one year alone;
- $641 million in federal dollars;
- 653 million in state spending reductions;
- $236 million in state budget transfers; and
- $311 million from state reserves.
If passed, the tax packages we are seeing will amount to the largest tax increase in state history. While the governor wants to raise $759 million by increasing taxes on candy, soda, bottled water, household cleaners, gas and tobacco products, the Senate proposed an across-the-board sales tax increase by 3 cents on the dollar, which could raise up to $918 million in taxes. The House released its tax proposal yesterday, which would increase taxes $853 million by going after professional services, janitorial services, candy, bottled water and tobacco products as well as looking at repealing several tax incentives. While some call these tax “loopholes,” they provide employers incentives to locate in Washington and create job opportunities. These tax proposals only give consumers a reason to buy online or across the border, and give employers an incentive to move to another state, something our district knows about all too well.
You can find more information about all the budget and tax proposals here.
The House is considering a bill to require state employees to take unpaid time off to achieve budget savings. However, the same savings can be realized by freezing pay for middle management positions, something that is currently protected under collective bargaining contracts. While it's not easy to do, we must look at how we can “share the sacrifice,” so to speak, so we can continue to care for our most vulnerable and not use tax increases to balance our budget.
On a lighter note, I am pleased to have Melissa Schmitz and Myanna Harris, both freshmen at Kennewick High School, with me in Olympia this week. The young ladies served as pages in the House of Representatives, serving an important function delivering documents to legislators throughout the capital campus. I hope they are able to take back what they've learned in page school about how government operates and continue to stay involved in the process.
As always, don't hesitate to contact my office. I love hearing from you, and it's an honor to serve you in Olympia.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000