Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is supposed to be the final week of the scheduled 105-day session. Unfortunately, the Democrat majority party has dragged its feet on the state operating budget. Although the last scheduled day of the regular session is this Sunday, April 24 (Easter Sunday), it seems certain the Legislature will be going into a special session since we still have not taken final action on the operating, transportation and capital construction budgets. It's expected the House will adjourn Friday afternoon (or possibly earlier) in advance of the Easter holiday. Whether the governor calls an immediate 30-day special session with lawmakers returning next week, or if she waits until budget agreements have been reached to call the Legislature back, is still unknown.
Regardless, I personally think it is inexcusable that the Legislature has not finished its work on time. My House Republican colleagues and I were ready from the beginning of session to roll up our sleeves and get to work on solving our state's budget problems. Unfortunately, the Democratic majority waited until after the March 17 revenue forecast before writing a budget that came out April 4. That budget passed the House on April 9, but the Senate took no action until last night – less than a week from adjournment. In the meantime, we've taken few votes on the House floor as there seems to be no incentive for the majority party to finish on time.
A special session will cost nearly $16,000 for every day that lawmakers are at the Capitol. At a time when the Legislature is struggling with balancing a two-year budget, we should not be spending more money for a special session.
I want to know what you think on these and other issues. So I'm trying something new – an online survey for readers of my e-mail update. I invite you to try it. Please read below for more details.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve you!
Some legislators seek more ways to increase taxes and fees
If you read the opinion editorial I wrote that was in last week's e-mail update (“Washington has a SPENDING problem, not a REVENUE problem”), you know the state is expecting nearly 14 percent more revenue over the next two years than the previous two years. That's nearly $4 billion more! Yet some lawmakers in Olympia are not content with that increase. They want MORE of YOUR money!
Legislation has been introduced in the House that proposes more than $910 million in higher state and local taxes. However, voter-approved Initiative 1053, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes, is preventing these proposals from advancing. Unfortunately, there are 70 fee bills in the House that would increase fees by $402 million. Fee increases are not subject to the two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
The House Transportation Committee voted last week to approve a measure that contains 90 fee increases with a cost to taxpayers of about $122 million in 2011-13. It also includes a steep increase on driver's license renewals. I voted against the fee proposal, House Bill 2053.
Over in the Senate last week, 14 lawmakers came up with the following tax and fee proposals:
- Senate Bill 5944 – Offers a referendum to give voters the option to decide whether the closure of tax incentives should count as “raising taxes” under Initiative 1053 and therefore be subject to the two-thirds vote requirement for passage in the Legislature.
- Senate Bill 5945 – Would increase some B&O tax rates by 25 percent and repeal tax incentives for investment income of non-financial firms and for mortgage interest earned by banks ($338 million tax increase).
- Senate Bill 5932 – Would eliminate the B&O tax exemption on membership initiation dues or fees for all businesses other than non-profit organizations ($4.5 million tax increase).
- Senate Bill 5946 – Would increase taxes by $15 million for business owners and corporate officers, and
includes increasing the B&O tax, use tax, public utility tax and other excise taxes.
- Senate Bill 5947 – Would end certain livestock tax exemptions, effectively raising taxes by $2.5 million.
- Senate Bill 5816 – Would eliminate certain tax incentives, including on mortgages, airplanes, cosmetic surgery, and coal generation.
- Senate Bill 5926 – Would impose sales taxes on out-of-state shoppers who shop in Washington.
- Senate Bill 5937 – Would raise the state sales and use tax by an additional 1 percent.
Supporters say these bills will close “tax loopholes.” As I noted in my opinion editorial, Washington doesn't have tax loopholes. We have tax incentives to create jobs. Every time a tax incentive is repealed, it puts jobs in jeopardy. With more than 320,000 people out of work, Washington cannot afford to lose more jobs. Instead, we need to get Washington working again! (See our jobs proposal)
Rather than looking for more ways to separate you from your money, the Legislature needs to pass a budget within EXISTING revenue that forces the state to live within its means.
TAKE MY ONLINE SURVEY!
Throughout the session, I've sent this e-newsletter with my views on the various issues affecting the 39th District, including the budget. However, I really want to hear from you. I have created an online survey with eight budget and revenue questions. This is my first online survey, so I invite your participation. If it works out well, I will consider more surveys in the future.
Please go to this link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Kristiansen2011Survey – or click on the graphic at the right.
The survey will be open until May 4. I will be providing the results in a subsequent e-mail update. Thank you in advance for your answers.
In your service,