Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been roughly a week since the Legislature adjourned for the year. While there were some good things that came out of this legislative session, there was also plenty of bad. Perhaps the most concerning are the billions in tax increases that were approved that will hurt families and businesses throughout the state.
Legislature approves $52.5 billion operating budget, billions in tax increases
The 2019-21 operating budget increases spending to $52.5 billion and relies on $5.5 billion in tax increases over the next four years. Some of these taxes include:
- a 20% B&O tax increase for certain services;
- a progressive real estate excise tax (REET);
- increased taxes on banks;
- an increase in the hazardous substance tax; and
- a tax increase on travel agents.
The budget will also rely on revenue that is estimated to become available from changing the nonresident sales tax exemption to a remittance/refund program for Oregon residents. The switch is projected to generate $113 million over four years.
While this budget makes some good investments, I'm disappointed with the outcome overall. We came into this budget season seeing record revenue growth and a $2.8 billion budget surplus. It was, hands down, the best starting position budget writers have been in since the Great Recession. Despite that, the majority party chose to significantly raise taxes. I think we could have accomplished a lot, met our obligations, and funded our priorities without raising taxes.
Under this new spending plan, state spending will have increased by 17.5% above 2017-19 levels. This explosive growth in spending is unsustainable. If we continue to budget like the boom times will last, we'll be forced to make deep, painful cuts when a downturn hits. And according to many economists, that could come sooner than later.
New capital budget funds 16th District projects
The 2019-21 capital budget funds a number of important public works projects throughout the 16th District and Washington state. This budget does a great job of representing our shared priorities as a state. Nearly $1.1 billion is provided for K-12 school construction, $308 million will go toward bolstering our mental and behavioral health safety net, $175 million will provide for housing projects throughout the state, and more.
In addition, the following community projects will receive funding:
- $3.6 million for renovations and improvements at the Washington State Penitentiary;
- $1.75 million to help redevelop a Second Avenue office complex in Walla Walla to serve as a new community service center for Blue Mountain Action Council;
- $1.5 million to develop a comprehensive 30-year plan for all aspects of water management in the Walla Walla basin;
- $1 million to help develop a regional water system to supply drinking water in the Attalia Industrial Growth area near Wallula;
- $250,000 to expand Columbia County's Rural Health Clinic so it may accommodate dental services for Medicaid patients;
- $80,000 to help develop a new youth center in Dayton; and more.
For a full list of projects and more information, click here.
Remote testimony, and looking ahead to interim
With session now adjourned, I'm back in the 16th District for the next few months. As I take this time to reconnect with our communities and work on policy for the 2020 session, I encourage you to reach out to me with your ideas. You can do so by calling my office at (360) 786-7828 or sending an email to Skyler.Rude@leg.wa.gov.
One issue I will be working on this interim is expanding remote testimony opportunities in the state House. Earlier this year, the House approved a resolution I co-sponsored calling for the chamber to explore ways we can provide remote testimony opportunities in committee hearings. The Executive Rules Committee was directed to take up the matter by Oct. 1. The Senate has been providing remote testimony for a few years now, and if you've participated before, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Even though the Legislature is no longer in session, I am your state representative year round. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me with your thoughts, questions, and concerns.
It's an honor serving you!