Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Washington state budget writers received good news this week. Despite the devastating economic impact of the pandemic on individuals, families, and businesses across the state, tax collections are ahead of expectations. The overall financial picture is positive. Wednesday's quarterly projection of the upcoming revenue predicts a financial windfall of more than $3.2 billion.
Last June, at the start of the pandemic, the state was facing a $9 billion budget deficit. However, the last three revenue forecasts have essentially put us back at pre-pandemic revenue levels. The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council's latest numbers revealed that compared to the November report, state collections are up about $1.34 billion for the rest of the 2019-21 biennium and up another $1.95 billion for the 2021-23 biennium (totaling about $3.29 billion over the four-year outlook).
Additionally, the federally funded American Rescue Plan will bring about $7.1 billion in recovery dollars for local, county, and state governments, and about $3 billion in COVID relief for K-12 schools, higher education, and childcare.
Why are some legislators asking for more in taxes?
With state government no longer facing any type of a budgetary shortfall, tax increases are not only unnecessary but downright ludicrous. There's more than enough money to satisfy the priorities of state government, the needs of people, and even lend a helping hand to small businesses.
Instead of looking for ways to empty people's pockets, with proposals like Senate Bill 5096, the unconstitutional income tax on capital gains, lawmakers should prioritize financial relief for struggling individuals, families and businesses.
Voters had turned down income tax proposals several times over the years. One of my biggest concerns with the capital gains proposal is that it's the first step toward a full-fledged state income tax. Given the latest revenue forecast, we don't need this or any other taxes.
The House Capital Budget Committee considers the state's priorities for the construction and repair of public buildings and other long-term investments. As the ranking member for the committee, I can tell you we've been working late into the evening for several weeks now to create a plan for the state—and we are very close to the finish line.
The 2021-23 capital budget will be historic in terms of funding. Please stay tuned. I'll be announcing information on the proposed capital budget, including 12th District projects, sometime next week.
12th District Virtual Town Hall
Along with Rep. Keith Goehner, we'll be hosting a virtual town hall meeting on Tuesday, March 23, starting at 6 p.m. We'll share an update on bills approved or defeated in the House or Senate and other information on the 105-day session.
Getting K-12 students back in school
Getting children back in school is a huge priority for me this session. Since the shut-down, the disruption of normal routines, reduced contact with peers, concerns over getting ill, and the financial hardships suffered by many families have exacted a toll on students across the state. In fact, according to the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, higher rates of suicide-related behaviors in children appear to have corresponded with the stay-at-home orders and school closures.
That's why I was pleased to see the governor's emergency proclamation requiring schools across the state to reopen. I fully support his decision for students, teachers, and staff to return to in-person instruction. With the right health and safety requirements in place, schools can open with a low risk of virus transmission. Schools will be expected to provide an in-person learning option that equates to at least 30% of instructional time by two key deadlines:
- April 5: All students in kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade (depending on the school district) must be offered a hybrid option.
- April 19: All remaining K-12 students must be offered a hybrid option.
The social isolation due to the COVID shut-downs has been devastating to K-12 students. We're starting to see the very real effects of not allowing children to have contact with one another, their teachers, or even taking part in physical activities. With the CDCs recently revised physical distancing recommendations of 3 feet between students and removal of physical barriers, there is no more reason to delay.
Recently, Republican leaders have been urging the governor to adopt the CDC guidelines of 3 feet into his reopening plan. I'm hoping he does so. It's time to get our children back in the classroom.
Supreme Court ruling on felony drug possession
In a stunning and dangerous decision, the Washington State Supreme Court recently declared the mere act of finding an illicit substance on someone's person or on their property is no longer an arrestable offense. Essentially, the ruling in the case of the State v. Blake decriminalizes the possession of all drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine.
I've heard from law enforcement from across the 12th District about how damaging this ruling has been. As law enforcement officials scramble to deal with the aftermath of the court's decision, legislators have been working hard to respond with solutions. As early as next week, House Republicans will introduce a package of bills to address the public safety issues caused by the court's decision.
Stay in touch!
I encourage you to stay involved in the legislative process by following House Republicans on Twitter and Facebook or visiting The Ledger. Finally, please bookmark my legislative website, where you can find my latest press releases, video updates, interviews, and more.
It is my honor to serve and represent you. If you have questions about state government or legislation, contact me. I'm happy to help.