Dear Friends and Neighbors,
State lawmakers are now more than halfway done with the 2021 legislative session. Both the House and Senate have reached a major deadline – house of origin cutoff. This means bills that did not pass out of the chamber they originated in are now dead for the remainder of session unless they are deemed necessary to implement the budget. As a result, both chambers were on the virtual floor almost every day for over two weeks passing bills over to the opposite chamber before time ran out.
The House passed 216 bills off the House floor. Those policies will now go to the Senate for further consideration. Seven bills have already arrived on the governor's desk for signature or are waiting on further action by his office.
In this update, I'll talk about a few bad policies that passed off the House, or Senate, floor; provide a budget update; and give a recap of where our state stands in our COVID-19 recovery efforts.
Recap | House of origin floor debate
During floor action, we had our share of impassioned speeches on the House floor. In my video update, I cover a couple of bills that sparked some earnest debate. I also talk about my amendment to House Bill 1372 to bring the Marcus Whitman statue currently housed in Washington D.C. back to Walla Walla.
In my video, you briefly heard me talk about a few bad policies that advanced during recent floor action. Let me provide you with a little more detail on each of those bills.
Forced lease renewals. House Bill 1236 would require property owners to renew residential leases after the term has ended. This burden on rental housing providers forces them to go through complicated and expensive legal proceeding with uncertain outcomes to terminate leases in most situations. This bill will lead to housing shortages and higher rents for tenants. Maintaining an adequate stock of rental housing is a critical component of supporting affordable housing. My seatmate, Rep, Mark Klicker, and I wrote a joint op-ed on this issue. You can also watch a video mashup of our floor speeches on this bill by clicking here.
Low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). While responsible stewardship of our environment is so important, we need to ensure we're introducing policies that balance environmental and economic health. House Bill 1091 would enact a low-carbon fuel standard and authorize the state Department of Ecology to create a clean fuels program, which could eventually increase the cost of gas and diesel. I've consistently maintained that climate issues need to be addressed on a federal level, so we don't economically disadvantage our state. This policy is swiftly moving through the legislative process this session. You can read my op-ed on this issue by clicking here. You can also watch a video mashup of our floor speeches on this bill by clicking here.
Income tax on capital gains. A push for a state graduated income tax on capital gains continues to move through the legislative process this session. Senate Bill 5096 would impose a 7% income tax on capital gains $250,000 and greater. Not only is a capital gains tax prohibited by our state's constitution – and likely to be challenged legally if passed – it's an incredibly volatile way to collect revenue. This bill recently passed the Senate chamber with bipartisan opposition nearly passing with a final vote of 25-24. The House Finance Committee recently had a public hearing on this bill, and I anticipate we will probably see this bill advance to the House floor soon. I will keep you posted.
Budgets and taxes
Our state tax collections continue to be strong and resilient. The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released and adopted its latest state revenue forecast. As compared to the November 2020 forecast, Near General Fund-Outlook (NGF-O) revenue increased by $1.34 billion for 2019-21, and by $1.95 for 2021-23. This provides approximately $3 billion in additional revenue over the next four years. This current forecast takes us back to pre-pandemic revenue levels. This is good news.
It is important to note that even during the pandemic, the state's revenue collections continue to increase year after year. Clearly our tax situation is strong.
While this is good news for our budget writers, there are still many individuals, families, and businesses in financial crisis due to the pandemic and the massive hardships of the last year. As we move into the final weeks of the 2021 session, we should focus on continuing to help those who need it most.
With the combination of substantial amounts of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act coming to our state, and the positive revenue outlook, there's no need to raise taxes on anyone or anything. Our discussion moving forward should be about providing relief to working families and businesses – not on finding new, or old, ways to implement and raise taxes.
Reopening Washington | Moving to Phase 3
As vaccination rates, and availability, continue to increase, and COVID-19 cases continue to decrease, Republican legislators have pushed for the governor to ease his pandemic restrictions and to begin moving the entire state into the next phases of his reopening plan. While the governor and his office criticized the Republican plan, I'm happy to say his office recently adopted the majority of our recommendations.
Beginning on Monday, March 22, every county across the state will move to Phase 3. Under this phase, indoor spaces, like restaurants, can have 50% occupancy with up to 400 people for indoor and outdoor activities, such as concerts and high school graduations, as long as physical distancing and masking remains enforced. Outdoor events with permanent facilities can have 25% occupancy for spectators. Once the state has been in Phase 3 for three weeks, the governor will reevaluate and determine if we are ready to continue moving forward.
Please reach out to my office at any time to set up a meeting, ask questions, or have a conversation about the issues that matter most to you. Even in this virtual world, my door is always “open.” My contact information can be found at the bottom of this email.
I also encourage you to bookmark the following links. These are good resources to keep you up-to-date and to stay informed about your state government.
- My legislative website. Here you will find my contact information, news releases, archived email updates, and more.
- TVW. The state's own version of C-SPAN. This is where you can watch all of the committee and floor action.
- The Washington State Ledger. This is our legislative news aggregator with information related to state government, public policy, and the legislative process.
- Washington State Legislature website. Here you will find committee and floor schedules, bill information, and how you can testify and/or provide input on a bill.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!