Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2022 legislative session began on Monday, Jan. 10. Similar to last year, the majority of the session will be remote with committee meetings and floor votes occurring online. While this is not what I wanted, it is what the majority party has decided. Your involvement in your state government is crucial to ensuring our collective voices in Eastern Washington are heard. Here are ways you can stay engaged and active in state government:
- The Ledger – a legislative news aggregator
- Capitol Buzz – Daily news clips
- How you can be involved in the legislative process
- How to comment on a bill
- Committee Sign-In – Remote Testimony
Key issues for me this session
Emergency powers reform. While I agree the executive branch must have emergency powers to streamline processes and guide the state through immediate and unforeseen emergencies, we have been under one-man rule for nearly two years. By refusing to call a special session to deal with this important issue over the past 18 months, the governor and the legislative majority have allowed a defacto abdication of legislative authority and oversight. This is wrong. We need clearly-defined rules governing emergency powers and serious limits on scope and length of time they can be enacted.
Repealing the long-term care insurance act and payroll tax. When Democrats passed this mandatory long-term care insurance program in 2019, we said it was expensive, unfair, not a good bargain for the consumer, and certainly not something the public wanted. Nearly 63% of voters agreed. Problems with the way the law is currently written may not be fixable. While I'm happy the governor and majority party have agreed to delay implementation of the program, the fact is, we should repeal it in its entirety. Key points of the original program I dislike are:
- another government-mandated, “one-size-fits-all” plan;
- high-cost, low-return program that no financial professional would ever recommend to their clients;
- people who work in WA but live in Oregon or Idaho will not be able to use what they've paid for;
- you could spend 20 years paying into the program but if you retire to another state, you won't see one dime;
- the plan is not solvent; it was designed to have high participation rates from high-wage earners, but these are the ones (over 460,000 to date) that are opting out of the program and finding insurance on the private market.
Largest budget surplus in state history. According to the most recent economic and revenue forecast, even after almost two years of lockdowns and restricted economic activity, Washington is looking at a four-year budget surplus of about $8.8 billion, with another $2.2 billion in various reserves, and about $1.2 billion in unspent emergency stimulus funds. I believe it is time to give some back to the taxpayers in the form of meaningful property tax relief. Much of this surplus has been fueled by the skyrocketing housing market, which in turn leads to dramatic increases in property taxes. With inflation increasing as well, it's getting more difficult to keep pace with the escalating costs of daily necessities.
The chart below shows how the state biennial budget has ballooned since I started in Olympia in 2017 and has doubled in 10 years. This is clearly unsustainable.
Fixing problems stemming from shortsighted law enforcement reform bills. Last session's HB 1310 and HB 1054 created many problems for law enforcement around the state, including police pursuits and dealing with mental health situations. Violent crime is at a 25-year high and property crimes continue to increase as drug addicts steal to fuel their habit. Now is the time to refocus our efforts to help keep our families and communities safe.
Funding transportation needs without raising taxes. With more fuel efficient vehicles and EVs on the road, the gas tax has lost much of its buying power over the years. We need to change how we fund our local and state transportation needs without continually relying on gas-tax increases. Washington already has one of the highest gas taxes in the nation. Click the link above to learn more about how we plan on doing this. You can also read my opinion piece here in today's Spokesman-Review.
These are the key issues that I'm focused on this session, but there are certainly many more. Please stay informed and stay involved.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the state House of Representatives.