Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2019 legislative session got underway on Jan. 14, and I wanted to provide you a brief update on the first few weeks.
First and foremost, we're tasked with crafting a new, two-year operating budget this year. Our state economy is performing phenomenally right now – we're seeing record revenue growth and have more than enough resources to fund our priorities. Despite this extraordinary growth, calls for new and increased taxes continue.
The governor recently unveiled his budget proposal, and in it are plans for a capital gains income tax, an increase in the service B&O tax rate, and graduated real estate excise taxes. I think this is detrimental and misguided. Economists warn our state is due for another economic downturn. When times are good like they are now, we need to be putting more money into our reserves and exploring ways to maximize your tax dollars, not slowing economic activity by proposing an even greater tax burden.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which considers the state operating budget, I'll be involved in many discussions concerning the 2019-21 budget. I'll be sure to keep you apprised of developments.
Democrat-sponsored bills would harm hairstylists, other independent contractors
A number of bills have been sponsored that would harm hairstylists, cosmetologists, and many other independent contractors throughout the state. Watch the video below to learn more about these bills and my thoughts.
Requiring state elected officials to take the high school assessments necessary for graduation
I've sponsored a bill that would require state elected officials and members of the State Board of Education (SBE) to complete statewide high school assessments required for graduation.
I say if it's good for the goose, then it's good for the gander. Proponents of standardized testing argue that these exams are a tool to hold schools accountable for academic performance, but I feel they unfairly penalize students. I'm all for rigor and encouraging students to be high-achievers, but allowing one test – one day out of their entire high-school careers – to determine their educational trajectory seems wholly unfair. Plus, too often we hear complaints from parents and educators alike who feel like they're teaching to the test instead of preparing students for higher-education opportunities and careers.
I've also signed onto bipartisan legislation that would decouple the standardized assessments from graduation requirements. You can read the bill here.
Getting mental health services for veterans on college campuses
Military veterans are among the most severely affected by mental health crises. In fact, research posted by the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research reveals 20 percent of the vets who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Reintegration into civilian life can be especially difficult for veterans returning to college. That's why I've sponsored a bill that would direct state and regional universities, and the state college to employ at least one, full-time mental health counselor.
The state Board of Health recently approved of the bill, claiming it has great potential to improve mental health outcomes for veteran students and staff.
You can learn more about the bill here.
House Page Program still accepting applications
During the legislative session, students ages 14 to 16 have a great opportunity to get a glimpse into their state Legislature by participating in the House Page Program. Pages gain unique insight about the inner workings of state government, and help lawmakers and staff perform their duties successfully. They also earn $35 a day during their week-long service.
Thank you for reading this e-newsletter! While I work in Olympia for the next few months, I encourage you to send me your thoughts as the session progresses. I can be reached at (360) 786-7922 or Mike.Volz@leg.wa.gov.
It's an honor serving you!