2021 session recap: More taxes, more climate mandates, emergency powers, and major police reform
The final gavel has dropped, and it's been a long and often difficult process because of such an unusual year created by COVID 19. We have enjoyed representing and serving the people of the 16 district and we worked hard to represent it the best we could. Although there were some good bills this year the legislature passed some very problematic bills that will hurt Washington families.
Unnecessary taxes. Despite our opposition, new taxes were imposed on the people of Washington. The biggest addition is the income tax on capital gains (Senate Bill 5096). Not only is this tax unnecessary, but it's also unpopular, unreliable, and likely unconstitutional, meaning it will be challenged in the courts.
At a time, when many Washingtonians are still struggling from the governor's restrictions, we don't need to burden them with additional taxes. State government has more than enough revenue to fund every item in the new operating budget without increasing taxes and still have a surplus. Considering the original capital gains proposal was far broader and a higher rate, we believe the ultimate goal behind this bill is to implement a form of a general income tax.
Voters have already said no to income tax 10 different times in our state history. Currently, this tax affects individuals that accumulate over $250,000 of income through investments. However, as history has proven, once the foot is in the door, taxes generally expand in scope.
Unfunded climate mandates. Both the House and Senate have passed a “Low Carbon Fuel Standard” (LCFS) bill, House Bill 1091, which means the cost of fuel will be going up. This is a regressive tax that will hurt people in rural areas the most. It will have little to no effect on our environment. However, it creates more unnecessary bureaucracy and places additional costs accrued by businesses that is eventually passed onto consumers. This is a bad bill that will hurt low-income and hard-working families.
In addition to the LCFS, a cap and trade tax, Senate Bill 5126, was passed even though voters have already rejected carbon-pricing policies several times. Despite the bill's intentions, it would have very little reward. Washington state emits less than three-tenths of one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we eliminated every car, truck, train, plane, and boat, the impacts to global greenhouse gas emissions would still be less than three-tenths of one percent! This cap and trade plan will hurt the entire state while doing almost nothing for the environment.
Unchecked emergency powers. Many of us have been fighting for emergency power reform since day one of the 2021 session. Even a few of our Democratic colleagues have expressed concern over the governor's unchecked emergency power during this pandemic. However, despite numerous attempts to give the Legislature a greater voice during emergency situations, all those efforts were rebuffed. As session ends, we are still under a state of emergency and still under the rule of the executive branch, with no checks or balances. This is not how our state government was designed to operate.
Unbalanced police reform. Another major issue this session was police reform. The Legislature passed several bills aimed at greater police accountability. We agree that change is needed, and we fully support accountability, but several of these bills went too far. Instead of finding the proper balance, many of these bills have severely hampered law enforcement officers' ability to respond to emergency situations by eliminating important non-lethal tools.
Despite united Republican opposition, both houses passed House Bills 1310, 1054, and 1267, and Senate Bill 5051, all of which will make it much harder for our peace officers to do their job, meaning public safety will decrease, putting our communities and citizens at greater risk.
We also worked on legislation that benefits and impacts our District. House Bill 1143, sponsored by Rep. Rude, authorizes water rights currently banked with the Walla Walla Watershed Partnership to be transferred to Ecology's trust program. The Partnership is set to sunset in June and this bill provides protection for water right holders for the next two years while a 30-year plan is developed for the Walla Walla Basin.
Sen. Dozier also passed legislation this year regarding water. Senate Bill 5230 is twenty years in the making and brings an agreement to the distribution of water in the Pasco Basin. The bill provides authority for the Department of Ecology to enter into agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation to create a ground water permitting program like those in the Quincy and Odessa areas. This is the next step in regulating the water that has accumulated due to the Bureau of Reclamation's diversion of water that can now be utilized for agriculture, irrigation, or other non-potable uses.
Rep. Klicker sponsored the crucial funding for the Martin Luther King Center for youth in Pasco. This is an important center for youth from all walks of life. The plan is to use the money to refresh the outdated center and modernize it for children and teens in the area. The much-needed renovation will make the center a valuable asset for all kids in Pasco for many years to come.
Now that session has ended, we look forward to meeting with you in-person again around the 16th District. We are here to listen, and we want to hear from you. Please visit our websites for contact information.
It's truly an honor to represent you and be your voice in the Legislature. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.
Editor's note: Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla, Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla and Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, serve the 16th Legislative District.
As published in The Dayton Chronicle and Prosser Record-Bulletin