Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week, Gov. Jay Inslee is signing the last of the 300-plus bills sent to him by the Legislature during the 60-day session that ended March 8. There's a mixture of really good and really bad legislation that came out of the 2018 session, which ended without a special session for only the second time since 2009. I wanted to take a few minutes to provide an update, including my future plans.
Wins in the 2018 session. . .
Hirst fix and capital budget
Within the first two weeks of the session, which began Jan. 8, we successfully negotiated a solution to the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision and passed both the fix and a capital budget.
As you may recall, Hirst stopped economic development in many parts of rural Washington and had the potential to cause a huge tax shift to those who own properties with access to water.
The Hirst fix, Senate Bill 6091, grandfathers in existing wells and removes the mandate the state Supreme Court imposed on counties to find legal, available water. This is a win for property rights in most parts of Washington state.
I was disappointed, however, that the majority party blocked our efforts to provide relief to the Skagit River Basin. Water rights have been tied up there since the Swinomish Indian Tribe won a 2013 lawsuit, even though it is one of the most water-saturated areas in the state. I discussed my concerns about this is an earlier email update that you can read about here.
Once a Hirst solution was passed, it opened the gateway for passage of the state's capital construction budget. More than $24 million is appropriated for projects in and around the 39th District. You can see a list of those projects in my Jan. 25 email update.
Toward the end of the 2018 session, we also passed a supplemental capital budget. This plan allocates $6.6 million for 39th District projects, including $1.6 million to help the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization begin work for a behavioral health facility in Sedro-Woolley. $1.5 million for a new library in Sedro-Woolley, $603,000 for development of Pressentin Park in Marblemount, and $275,000 for the Arlington Innovation Center to support business start-ups.
No carbon tax, no capital gains income tax
Less than 24 hours after the 2018 session began in January, Gov. Jay Inslee took to the House rostrum to urge the Legislature to pass a $3.3 billion carbon/energy tax. The governor's own policy staff said that under his tax proposal, consumers could expect to pay a 4 to 5 percent increase in electricity, a 9 to 11 percent increase in natural gas, and higher gasoline prices by as much as 18 to 20 cents per gallon. Very little of the revenue generated would be used to reduce carbon in Washington. Instead, it would be deposited into the general fund.
In February, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council gave its quarterly report and the news is positive. Washington state is expected to bring in an additional $1.3 billion — and that's without tax increases. That put the state into a $2.3 billion surplus over the next four years.
My Republican colleagues and I fought hard against increased taxes. The revenue surplus made it difficult for proponents to convince anyone that tax increases are needed. Simply put, they are not! We successfully defeated both proposals.
Supplemental transportation budget includes money for U.S. 2 safety, district paving projects
I'm pleased to report we secured nearly $5 million in the supplemental transportation budget for several important projects across the 39th District, including:
- $2 million for safety projects on U.S. 2.
- $1.8 million for paving on State Route 20/Alta Vista Drive to State Route 9.
- $707,000 for widening on State Route 522 from the Snohomish River Bridge to U.S. 2.
- $492,000 for paving the I-5/State Route 531 ramp.
- $212,000 for widening State Route 531 in the Smokey Point area.
Supplemental operating budget spends too much, saves too little
I was disappointed Republicans were shut out of the budget negotiation process by majority Democrats in the House and Senate. We didn't get to see the supplemental operating budget proposal until hours before voting on it. That's the first time in five years the budgeting process was not conducted in a bipartisan manner. I voted against the measure, not only because we had little voice in the process, but because of several other concerns, including:
- It increases spending by 14 percent over the 2015-17 operating budget proposal.
- It is unsustainable and leaves the state vulnerable in an economic downturn.
- Democrats used a budget gimmick to stop $700 million from going into the state's Rainy Day Fund, even though economists say Washington has an 88 percent chance of slipping into a recession within five years.
- The projected unrestricted ending balance on June 30, 2021 is just $103 million — out of what will be a $49.4 billion budget.
- No property tax relief was provided during the 2018 spike, when it is needed the most. Republican proposals to provide meaningful property tax relief this year were bottled-up in committees. A meager, one-time property tax cut is provided in 2019, which equals about $90 on a $300,000 home.
I'm proud that over the past five years, we've worked together — Republicans and Democrats alike — to pass some of the most bipartisan state operating budgets in the history of Washington, including an additional $7 billion directed into K-12 education.
Unfortunately, that changed in November during the election which not only gave Democrats in the Senate a one-vote majority, but created single-Democratic party control of all the bases of power in the Legislature — the House, Senate and the governor's office. As a result, we saw a record amount of legislation introduced during the short 60-day session — nearly 2,400 bills. Legislation that would have never passed a bipartisan Legislature was moved swiftly through the process by Democrats and sent to the governor, such as:
Forced unionization of family-care workers
- Senate Bill 6199 – Will likely force individual in-home care givers, including those caring for a disabled or elderly family member, to join a union and pay union dues. The bill circumvents a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against forced unionization of in-home caregivers by allowing the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to contract out for provider wages to a third-party entity. In this case, that entity happens to be the Democrats' political ally, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Republicans tried to read emails on the House floor from home-care workers in their districts who were opposed to joining the union, but we were repeatedly gaveled down by the House Speaker. Since we were not allowed to have a true debate on the bill, we elected not to vote – so the final vote was 50-0. Listen to our radio report on this bill.
- Senate Bill 6037 – “The Uniform Parentage Act” allows women to be paid to serve as surrogate mothers. What has been done out of altruistic giving and compassion now turns into a financial transaction. House Republicans offered 14 amendments that would have shielded women and children from exploitation. Unfortunately, our amendments were rejected on party lines.
- Senate Bill 6219 – Requires any health plan that covers maternity services to cover abortions. This was signed into law earlier this week. I voted against the measure.
A note of thanks. . .
When I was first elected as your state representative in November 2002, I had no idea I would be serving in Olympia for 16 years. I came to the Legislature to best serve the public I represent and to do what I could to make the 39th District and Washington state a better place to live, work and raise a family. Most of all, I wanted to listen to you and provide a reasoned voice in Olympia for you.
It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve our district. I've worked to keep taxes low, provide greater opportunities for our job creators and small businesses, protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners, preserve private property rights, improve safety through projects on some of our most dangerous local roadways including U.S. Highway 2, and sought better accountability with your tax dollars. Serving as House Republican leader since 2013, I've tried to bring all sides together on some of the most divisive issues, injecting common sense, finding common ground, and ensuring respectful discussions and debate.
My two sons and daughter were still young when I first came to the Legislature. They've watched their father spend the first months of each year away from home in Olympia serving the public. Although they are now grown up and no longer living at home, it was difficult last year being away in Olympia for seven months. It's time to return to my family and my wife, Janis. I have stepped down from my position as House Republican leader and will not seek re-election, but will serve out the remainder of my term as your state representative.
I wish to thank the House Republican Caucus and my fellow Republican members for their trust in me and their support as leader. I leave the caucus in the good and capable hands of its newly-elected leader, Rep. J.T. Wilcox of Yelm.
I wish to thank our talented staff who have provided amazing help to me over the years. I wish to also thank the other members and leaders of each of the caucuses in Olympia, many of whom graciously extended their friendship to me. Most of all, I wish to thank you, the citizens of the 39th District, who have entrusted me year after year to represent you and given me this great opportunity to serve the communities and the state I love. God bless you all.
In your service,