Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I wish I had better news to report. Unfortunately, the Legislature adjourned early last Friday and the governor called us into a special session at 10 a.m. Monday morning. The special session is scheduled to last 30 days, and while I will continue to be optimistic for a May 23 adjournment, there have been murmurings since the beginning of the year that it could take several special sessions for lawmakers to come to an agreement on a new, two-year operating budget.
As budget negotiators begin conversations to hash out a deal, a majority of lawmakers, including myself, have returned home. Given we are members of a citizen legislature, many of us have jobs aside from being a state representative that we will be returning to. Please know that while the regular session has ended, my job as your state representative continues year round. If you have any questions or thoughts about current legislative action, or have ideas for next session, please don't hesitate to reach out.
Disagreement on taxes launches Legislature into overtime
Two budget proposals sit on the table right now — one from House Democrats and another from Senate Republicans. I'm reluctant to call House Democrats' bill a real proposal because they've yet to pass a tax package to pay for their plan. Despite record revenue growth as indicated in the latest forecast, they want to raise taxes by $8 billion over the next four years. Among these new and increased taxes would be an income tax on capital gains and a 20 percent B&O tax increase that would harm essential services to families, like day care, hospitals and more.
What concerns me is this 'enough is never enough' trajectory we seem to be on. House Democrats' budget increases state spending by 17 percent for the next budget cycle, and by 15 percent in the 2019-21 budget cycle. Our state spent less than $39 billion in 2015-17 and roughly $31 billion in 2011-13, and House Democrats want to spend more than $51 billion by 2019-21. That's a $20 billion increase in less than a decade. I know families and businesses, the ones responsible for providing government with tax revenue, have not seen growth in their income at that level.
In my latest video update, I talk about the two budget proposals, as well as my thoughts on the session, what my plans are upon returning home, and how you can stay up to date on the latest from Olympia. Watch it here or by clicking below.
All in all, neither proposal is perfect. The final budget will likely be a hybrid of the two plans, with input from all four caucuses. Stay tuned for more updates as special session progresses.
Regular session accomplishments
Aside from failure to reach an agreement on a new operating budget, not all efforts were lost this year. We were able to pass a new, two-year transportation budget that will bring a number of needed projects to the 6th Legislative District. You can find a list of those projects by clicking here and selecting the 6th Legislative District.
The Legislature successfully passed several reforms to the Growth Management Act (GMA), including a bill that will provide rural counties and cities more flexibility under the GMA to spur economic development. You can read more about the bill here.
In addition, House Republicans passed a measure to provide more regulatory fairness to Washington's small businesses, a bill to help address our state's teacher shortage, and more.
As far as legislation I sponsored goes, I'm happy to report my bill to help counties maintain open spaces, streams, habitats, and other lands is awaiting the governor's signature. House Bill 1820 would allow counties to use more of their existing property tax revenues to maintain lands purchased under a county's conservation futures fund, which counties currently use to acquire and preserve lands for conservation and public recreation. Spokane County and others need more flexibility with the existing funding mechanism to accommodate maintenance needs so families can remain safe while recreating on these lands, add walking trails and maps, and provide adequate protections for habitats.
I also successfully imposed a striking amendment (which replaces everything after the title of a bill and inserts an entirely new bill) on House Bill 1648, which will give county treasurers more flexibility to accept partial property tax payments and help control the costs of tax foreclosure. This will help homeowners catch up and stay current on their taxes while remaining in their homes. My amendment was born from my House Bill 1991, which I sponsored at the beginning of the year.
For a list of all the bills that passed during the regular session, click here.
Spokane office to open May 2
Next Tuesday, May 2, my legislative assistant, Phil, will be opening my district office in Spokane. I'm looking forward to having my legislative office in district during the interim so I can be more accessible to 6th District residents. Here's the address and phone number:
827 West First Ave., Suite 423
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 456-2750 — please note this number will not be available prior to May 2.
If you would like to meet with me at the office, please call or email ahead of time to make an appointment. You can also visit my website at RepresentativeMikeVolz.com for additional office updates.
We've yet to hear when lawmakers will be called back to Olympia to vote on a final budget, but when we do get the call, I'll provide another update on what's included in the final budget.
If you have questions or want to contact my office prior to the district office opening, please do so by using the contact information at the bottom of this email.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you.