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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The coronavirus pandemic is changing all of our lives in ways we never imagined. Our hearts go out to those in veterans' homes, the elderly and others who are more susceptible to bad outcomes due to COVID-19. Each severe illness and death is heart wrenching. But it looks like we have flattened the curve in our state and especially here in Spokane. Click here for a county-by-county breakdown of coronavirus statistics.
In addition, small businesses, employers and workers in every sector of our local economy are being placed in financial harm like never before in our generation. While I believe the governor's initial quarantine actions were most likely justified given the information we had at the time, I believe we must now do more to get Washington working again.
The fact is, eastern Washington is not western Washington. I believe it is possible to adapt a regional, decentralized county-by-county restart plan rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. I am encouraging the governor and his staff to allow counties to have more say in their own economic reopening.
In fact, I worked with my legislative colleagues several weeks ago to introduce our Legislative Republicans' Safe Economic Restart Plan. Our plan includes immediate, legislative and long-term (6-12 month) options. Here are just a few ideas:
- Exempt small businesses from paying sales and B&O taxes for one year
- A moratorium on all state agency rule making not related to the coronavirus
- Allow economic operations to resume in economic sectors that fit one or more of these criteria: low-risk, personal health, environmental protection, aid to elderly/physically challenged, alternate quarantine locations, assisting businesses with tax-related requirements, or property protections.
- Offer state government assistance to the many small businesses in Washington that do not qualify for federal emergency-assistance programs
But that's not all. You can read more about our plan here. While the governor didn't accept our ideas initially, there were several media stories about our proposal:
- Republican lawmakers release plan to reopen Washington's economy amid coronavirus (The Seattle Times)
- Challenging Inslee, GOP lawmakers release plan to restart the economy (The News Tribune)
- Legislative Republicans unveil “safe economic restart plan” (The Daily World)
- Inslee facing increasing pressure to allow homebuilding and other sectors to reopen (NW News Network)
Budget problems and tax increases…
The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council came out with an unofficial updated revenue forecast this week. The news is dire. Our $1.7 billion budget surplus is turning into a $7 billion budget shortfall. While some legislators are talking about a possible state income tax, I don't believe that's the answer. We've already endured nearly $10 billion in tax increases (which I did not support) at the state level in the last two years. You can learn more about those tax increases here.
I don't believe we can tax our way out of this budget shortfall. I anticipate a special legislative session sometime this summer or early fall. Our state budget is not going to look the same after we're through. There are going to be difficult choices with tough decisions to get spending back in line with what taxpayers can afford. However, as a reminder, our state spending was already unprecedented and unsustainable BEFORE the pandemic. The chart below reflects the operating budget as it passed the Legislature this session.
Additional coronavirus information…
I encourage you to visit our COVID-19 website here. It is updated daily and has a lot of useful information. Also, some of you have contacted me about the governor's authority during emergencies. Here are some helpful links:
- Summary of coronavirus (COVID-19) proclamations issued by Gov. Inslee
- Summary of coronavirus (COVID-19) clarification letters issued by Gov. Inslee
- FAQ on Governor's authority during an emergency
- The Legislature's role in temporarily waiving statutes and regulations
I have spoken with so many of you – neighbors, small business owners, pastors, employees and family members. I want you to know I hear your frustrations and I share you concerns. We are doing everything we can at the state level to keep people safe and healthy while at the same time pushing the governor to allow for a regional approach to reopening the economy. I know you want to get back to work. I think it's time to trust the citizens to be smart and mindful of others as we continue practicing social distancing and wearing masks. It is time to get Washington working again.
2020 legislative update
My 6th Legislative District seatmates and I mailed out a 2020 legislative update recently. If you want to read a digital version, click here. While the COVID-19 pandemic is dominating much of the news and our focus, there is important information in our update, including the sex education bill, property tax legislation, keeping our communities safe, and more. I encourage you to check it out.
Election year restrictions
Because this is an election year, this will be the last email update from me through November, unless we go into a special session. But that doesn't mean my work on your behalf stops. I am a legislator – your voice in Olympia. My office is here to assist you.
Thank you for your support and for staying involved. God bless and take care of yourselves, your family and your neighbors. We will get through this together.
427 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(509) 456-2750 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000