Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There's less than one week left in the 2018 legislative session. As the clock winds down, legislators' schedules will mostly be consumed with floor action for the remainder of the session.
During this time, I encourage you to continue staying in touch with my office. You can send me an email anytime at Mike.Volz@leg.wa.gov or give me a call at (360) 786-7922. I'd also encourage you to visit tvw.org. TVW, sometimes referred to as Washington's version of C-SPAN, allows you to watch committee hearings, press conferences, and floor debates. You can watch live on TVW or on the go using their new app. Learn more here.
House supplemental budget proposal calls for capital gains income tax
On Monday, the House voted on party-lines to approve a supplemental operating budget proposal that would rely on a capital gains income tax, raid the state's rainy day fund, and borrow from our future by way of an apportionment shift. Republicans voted 'no.'
Proponents of the budget say we need more tax revenue in order to provide property tax relief to those experiencing sticker shock over their property tax bills. That's simply not true. With the state expecting $1.3 billion more in revenue over the next four years, there's no reason we shouldn't be able to provide property tax relief this year!
The final supplemental budget is still being negotiated, and I will continue fighting for lowered property tax rates and against unnecessary taxes.
There have also been calls this session for a controversial sugar tax and a carbon tax. Before session began, the governor was pushing his carbon tax proposal. According to his own staff, the proposal would significantly increase the costs of gas, electricity, and natural gas. Gasoline prices would increase by 18-20 cents per gallon, and the cost of electricity and gas would increase by 5-10 percent. It would also hike the costs of groceries and other family necessities.
Though the governor has touted the bill in the name of fighting climate change, his proposal's overall impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be nearly immeasurable. According to economist Benjamin Zycher, if Washington was to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions today and permanently, we would only see a twenty-five one-hundred-thousandths of a degree temperature reduction by 2100. And given his proposal has close to 70 exemptions, his plan's impact on carbon reduction would be far less than that.
Thankfully, it seems the carbon tax bill is dead, at least for this session.
A note on record property tax increases
“Why are my property taxes going up?” That's a question many of you have been asking the past few weeks.
Though the answer varies depending on where you live and your property's assessed value, everyone is seeing an increase this year in the state portion of their property taxes. That's because the McCleary education-funding plan the Legislature passed last year called for a levy swap — we increased the state property tax rate and decreased the amount school districts could collect in local school levies. This was necessary in order for the state to fulfill its constitutional obligation to amply fund education and end its overreliance on local levies.
However, local levy changes will not be in effect until 2019, which is why so many are seeing higher-than-expected statements.
I voted against the education-funding plan. While it makes some wonderful investments in our schools, I couldn't justify placing an additional burden on the backs of hardworking taxpayers. Plus, between the years 2019 and 2021, about half of the school districts in the 6th District will see an increase compared to what they would have seen under current law in those corresponding years.
I'm optimistic we'll see some form of property tax relief emerge from Olympia before the session is over, but the question remains whether it'll make an impact this year.
Republicans stand their ground on union-dues bill
Yesterday, House Republicans made a rare and unprecedented move on the House floor — we declined to vote on a bill. The legislation before the body was Senate Bill 6199, which would allow the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to no longer pay individual home care provider wages and contract out to private third-parties. Doing so would cost taxpayers $6 million more per biennium, exempt communication between the employer and the union from public disclosure, and would force family members caring for their loved ones to pay as much as $1,000 a year in union dues, circumventing the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court case Harris v. Quinn. It puts the financial interests of one powerful union (SEIU) ahead of the rights of more than 30,000 workers, and does nothing to benefit those receiving care. The Seattle Times editorial board penned an editorial urging lawmakers to reject the bill. You can read it here.
Joy from Enumclaw, an individual provider for an elderly woman and her 33 year-old son, had this to say about the bill:
I don't want my pay rate to be decreased. I work 24/7 for my son either actively or just being on-call, and I don't want someone micromanaging me and my life and time. I want to keep the option to opt out of the union so I can keep my hard-earned money instead of giving 3.2 percent to the union to use for their political agenda and salaries…Caregivers are scarce as it is now. More changes would drive people away from wanting to do this job.
Any time Republicans attempted to mention the union, or expose the fact individual providers would be forced to unionize and pay dues, the House majority shut down debate, gavel after gavel. It was the most overzealous form of censorship I've ever seen from a legislative majority. It's our job as the legislative branch to debate policy, and since we were being hindered from doing so, we abstained from voting on the bill.
So you don't have to watch the full three-hour debate, listen to this two-minute special report from the Washington House Republican broadcast studio:
Thanks for reading this legislative update! It's an honor serving you.