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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We are nearing the one-month mark for the 105-day session. This week in Olympia, along with my seatmate, Rep. Keith Goehner, I co-hosted a 12th District Virtual Town Hall. I want to thank everyone that took part in the meeting.

We discussed several key public policy issues, including the development of the state’s capital budget, the Growth Management Act’s (GMA) negative impact on housing growth, the latest on the majority party’s sponsored and supported tax increases, and much-need public safety reform.

If you could not attend, you can watch a recording of the event by clicking here.

The Capital Budget

I’m very proud of the work I’ve done over the years on the state’s capital budget. I’ve often said the capital budget puts people to work. Infrastructure and construction investments help grow our economy and keep our communities vibrant.

For those who don’t know, the capital budget is written by four members of the Legislature – one lawmaker from each of the caucuses. As the ranking member and primary Republican budget writer for the House Capital Budget Committee, it’s my job to prioritize building and infrastructure investments equitably throughout the state.

Committee members work hard to create a budget that Republicans and Democrats support. For the past several years, our budget has been approved unanimously in the House and the Senate. It’s the only 100% bipartisan budget written in Olympia.

Budget challenges

This session, the development of the state’s two-year capital budget includes several challenges. While affordable housing, programs for the homeless, and mental and behavioral health investments continue to be top priorities – there are several other critical infrastructure and construction needs throughout the state.

Along with meeting the state’s obligation to provide funding assistance to school districts undertaking new construction or modernization projects through the School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP), several other priorities need to be funded.

Some of the projects the committee is considering include investments in higher education facilities; upgrades to existing infrastructure; and several state agency requests, including hatchery improvements for orca whale populations, wildlife preservation projects, and ongoing salmon recovery efforts.

For the next several weeks, the committee’s bipartisan work will focus on examining each of those projects and determining the most urgent needs.

Borrowing billions to address housing

The governor’s recent 2023-25 budget proposal includes plans to borrow $4 billion to fund affordable housing and shelters over the next six years. He’d like to do this by issuing bonds outside the state’s debt limit.

If approved, the governor’s housing referendum would more than double the capital budget, taking it from $4.8 billion for the biennium to nearly $9 billion — the largest in state history.

I find the governor’s proposal problematic for a couple of reasons. Here’s why:

  • Under the measure, The Washington State Housing Finance Commission would spend $4 billion without legislative oversight. The money would go towards whatever housing efforts or criteria the governor defines. Although I’m compassionate about helping our fellow citizens in need, that essentially means more money for the homeless, with no accountability.
  • Next, we don’t need to go outside the state’s debt limit to pay for housing programs. Despite the pandemic-induced economic shutdown, the state’s revenue forecast remains strong. Instead of going into debt, the state government needs to live within its very ample means.

The amount of obligation debt is restricted by the state constitution. For the governor’s proposal to pass, lawmakers need to approve the measure this session. The question would then go to voters on the November ballot — requiring a simple majority to pass.

Police Pursuit Reform

Police pursuit reform has been making headlines across the state. That’s because under House Bill 1054, a sweeping police tactics reform law approved by the majority party in 2021, crime has skyrocketed.

Under the current law, police are restricted from pursuing suspects unless there’s probable cause the driver is impaired, they’re an escaped felon or have committed a violent or sexual crime.

Unfortunately, rather than making people safer, that reform has emboldened criminals.

The Washington State Patrol reports there’s also been a dramatic uptick in drivers fleeing traffic stops. And according to the Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), vehicle thefts have increased 88 percent year-to-date for 2022 compared to 2021.

Because of those problems, there’s been a bipartisan push to make the law regarding police pursuits more balanced.

  • House Bill 1363 would restore the initial threshold to reasonable suspicion that a crime has or is being committed — and allow police agencies to set their own pursuit policies.

I was shocked to learn this week that some members of the majority party are trying to stymie this important reform. Instead, they are offering another measure, House Bill 1586, that would direct the Criminal Justice Training Commission to do a study on police pursuits without fixing the law.

I disagree strongly with that approach. We need to let common sense be our guide and restore law enforcement’s ability to pursue criminals.

Remote Testimony

Your input matters! And now it’s easier than ever to take part in the legislative process. Remote testimony has been a game-changer for our region. Instead of traveling long hours on unsafe, wintery roads to testify before legislative committees, you can open your laptop and share your support or opposition to bills debated in Olympia.

To learn more about how to testify remotely, click here. If you need additional help, feel free to call my office. I’m happy to help. 

I’m here to serve you!

Please call, write, or email my office if you have questions, comments, or suggestions about state government. I am here to work on your behalf.

Thank you for the honor of representing you in Olympia!

Sincerely,


Mike Steele

State Representative Mike Steele, 12th Legislative District
RepresentativeMikeSteele.com
335A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
mike.steele@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7832 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000