Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After a 60-day regular session and 30 days in a special session, the Legislature finally adjourned April 13. Both legislative sessions were dominated by the state operating budget, which has a $2.8 billion shortfall. Two different approaches emerged to solve this problem.
The first proposal focused on raising taxes, relying on federal dollars and transferring state funds dedicated to other purposes. The second solution, which I supported, sought to provide fiscal responsibility by restructuring state government to make it live within its means, and by focusing on job creation in the private sector, which would help to generate revenue WITHOUT tax increases.
Unfortunately, majority Democrats chose the first approach – raising taxes by nearly $800 million in the coming year and $1.7 billion in the following two years.
I voted against the tax increases because I'm very concerned they will further damage our local business climate, hurt families — including senior citizens — and prolong the economic recession.
The coming tax increases will add to the prices associated with veterinarians, optometrists, dentists, graphic artists, attorneys, accountants, hair stylists, architects, direct sellers, real estate agents, banks and credit cards. There will also be tax increases on soda, candy, gum, cigarettes and beer.
I'm especially concerned about several tax increases that could directly affect senior citizens – many who live on a limited income.
Here are some examples:
- BOTTLED WATER: Beginning June 1, sales taxes will be applied to bottled water. Some senior citizens use bottled water for medical reasons, such as for CPAP therapy.
- PUD ELECTRIC BILLS: Some public utility districts will be taxed at a higher rate, which means customers could be paying higher electric bills.
- ECONOMIC INCOME: The legislation includes a business and occupation (B&O) tax increase on economic income. This applies mainly to investment companies. While it is not a direct tax to seniors, people who have investments or a 401K retirement plan may be paying higher transaction fees as investment firms pass along the costs to their customers.
- CANNED MEAT/FRUIT: If you consume Spam, Vienna sausage, canned chili, fruit cocktail, or some soups, you may be paying higher prices. Processors of these items will be charged a higher B&O tax rate, and most likely those charges will be passed to the consumer.
Every Republican in both the House and Senate voted against these tax increases. Unfortunately, we did not have the votes to prevent this tax package from passing the Legislature.
The supplemental operating budget funds 69,000 enrollees in the state's Basic Health Plan. It also assumes federal funding may help to pay for enrollment. If federal funds are not received, the budget reduces enrollment to 65,000.
Seniors may also be paying more for long-term care. Boarding home fees are increased from $79 per bed to $106 per bed. Nursing homes will also see a license fee increase from $275 per bed to $327 per bed.
For these and other reasons, I voted against the supplemental operating budget. I believe it spends too much, relies too heavily on tax and fee increases, and little was done to prevent our state from deeper deficits in the future.
I am pleased to report the Legislature approved a bill I sponsored that allows retired firefighters to work as volunteer firefighters if they so choose. House Bill 2823 will help our rural fire districts benefit from the experience of someone who has retired from a life-long career as a firefighter.
Although I am disappointed in the outcome of the 2010 legislative session, I remain as committed as ever toward working for a stronger economy and a better quality of life for all Washingtonians.
Please contact my office anytime you have questions, comments or suggestions about state government.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
In your service,