Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Waiting until the dead of night on the final weekend of session, Democrats in the House and Senate approved $2 billion in new taxes on Washington families and then swiftly got out of town. How were they able to do that without allowing Washingtonians to weigh in? I'll let the The Seattle Times editorial board explain:
They used a parliamentary gimmick called a “title-only bill” to bypass the state constitution and cut the public out of the process. Here's how it works. At least a couple of weeks before the end of the session, lawmakers file a bunch of title-only bills on different topics. This year there were about two dozen. Each one has a generic title and one sentence body like, “The legislature intends to enact legislation concerning tax revenue.” Then, if lawmakers decide to rush something through at the end of the session, they can cut that sentence and replace it whatever they want.
Approving new taxes using title-only bills doesn't exactly sound like bold leadership, does it? For more on the process, I encourage you to read the following editorials from The News Tribune, The Everett Herald, and The Columbian:
- New tax hard to swallow; Washington Democrats pull fast one in Legislature's last weekend
- A troubling short cut for state tax increase on banks
- State budget process in need of transparency
Here are the taxes the majority approved:
- A business and occupation (B&O) tax surcharge on services that will impact 90,000 employers and raise costs for consumers.
- A new, graduated real estate excise tax (REET) that will restrict housing supply, increase rents and harm our economy.
- A higher tax on oil that will increase the price of gas.
- A B&O tax increase on large banks that will result in costs being passed on to customers.
- A change to the nonresident sales tax exemption, which will result in fewer Oregonians shopping at Washington businesses in our border communities.
Keep in mind this $2 billion doesn't include the majority's levy lift bill (Senate Bill 5313), which will increase property taxes for families across the state by modifying the amount local levies can collect for K-12 enrichment programs.
As Republicans repeatedly said throughout session, there was no need to raise taxes this year. Majority party budget writers had historic revenues and a $2.8 billion surplus to work with. They could've easily chosen a fiscally responsible approach when drafting the 2019-21 operating budget. Instead, they chose to increase spending 18% and take even more from you and your family.
With passage of the 2019-21 operating budget, state spending will have increased by 70% since 2013.
2019-21 transportation and capital budgets provide funding for 25th District projects
Unlike the operating budget, the state's two other budgets—transportation and capital—almost always receive overwhelming bipartisan support.
The transportation budget allocates funding for the development and maintenance of the state's transportation infrastructure, while the capital budget allocates funding for public works projects statewide.
The 2019-21 transportation budget allocates:
- $40 million for the State Route 167/State Route 509 Puget Sound Gateway project.
- $17.7 million for congestion relief on SR 167/SR 410 to SR 18.
- $16 million for freight mobility near I-5 and Port of Tacoma Road.
- Several million dollars for various Pierce Transit projects.
NOTE: On Monday, May 13, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will be hosting a public access hearing on the SR 167 Completion Project at 6 p.m. at the Fife Community Center. Prior to the hearing, an open house will be held at the community center from 4:30-6 p.m. to provide an informal opportunity for the public to learn about the proposed change in access and ask questions to project staff. WSDOT says the hearing itself “will provide property owners next to the proposed SR 167 alignment the opportunity to comment on how the project will affect the access to their property once the project is complete.” You can learn more here.
For a full list of transportation budget projects funded in the 25th, click here and select “25th Legislative District.”
The 2019-21 capital budget allocates:
- A total of $8.8 million for Pierce College Puyallup, which will fund various projects, such as the predesign and design of a new science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) building, parking expansion, building repairs, and more.
- $1.75 million for the Legacy in Motion project by Step by Step, a nonprofit dedicated to helping at-risk mothers and their families.
- $258,000 to improve the play area, ADA accessibility and signage at Tacoma's Dawson Park.
- $258,000 to upgrade street frontages along the WSU-Puyallup Research and Extension Center campus.
- $258,000 to restore and enhance Wapato Creek and salmon habitats, remove derelict buildings, expand Fife's trail system, and provide safe routes to school for two neighborhoods.
- $52,000 to remodel the post kitchen at the Puyallup VFW.
For a full list of capital budget projects funded in the 25th, click here and select “25th Legislative District.”
These investments are going to make a tremendous difference for our communities. It was an honor to work with Sen. Hans Zeiger and Rep. Chris Gildon throughout session to secure funding for these important projects.
Key bills introduced this session
Although we had contentious debates on many issues this session, Republicans and Democrats came together to tackle several key priorities:
- The 2019-21 capital budget provides record funding for mental and behavioral health infrastructure around the state.
- Senate Bill 5380 will establish new rules regarding opioid prescribing and the dispensing of opioid overdose reversal medication. It will also require physicians to discuss alternatives to opioids with patients before prescribing them.
- Senate Bill 5091 will increase the excess cost multiplier for special education students, which will result in more funding.
- Senate Bill 5649 will eliminate the statute of limitations for most sex crimes committed against minors, and extend the statute of limitations for most other sex offenses.
In other good news, Republicans stopped a number of harmful policies:
- House Bill 1110 would create a new low carbon fuel standard program, which would significantly increase the price of gas and goods.
- House Bill 1491 would restrict scheduling options for employees and employers, hurting various industries around the state.
- House Bill 1515 would force many individual contractors to work as employees as opposed to being their own boss.
- Senate Bill 5395 would require every school to provide comprehensive sex education.
Although these bills did not advance this year, they will be eligible for consideration again next year, as will the following Republican-sponsored bills:
- House Bill 1035 would provide every public school with funding to employ a full-time school resource officer.
- House Bill 1235 would make it a crime to show harmful materials to a minor.
- House Bill 1588 would prevent local governments from imposing an income tax on an individual or household income.
- House Bill 2149 would improve our state budgeting process through zero-based budget reviews.
- House Bill 2150 would implement the periodic review of state spending programs.
- House Bill 2152 would extend the period through which a state budget must be balanced from four years to six years.
House Bill 1764 signed into law
I'm proud to report my first bill was signed into law last month. House Bill 1764 will update the monetary threshold for found property stored by local governments in an effort to cut their costs by thousands of dollars per year.
The bill will change the existing threshold from $25 to $100 or less, while requiring the Office of Financial Management to adjust the threshold for inflation every five years, beginning July 1, 2025.
Because it has never been adjusted for inflation, police departments have become inundated with items of very little value. During testimony on the bill, Puyallup Deputy Police Chief Dave McDonald said his department is currently storing more than 26,000 items in its property room, including hundreds of old TVs and bicycles. Puyallup Deputy Mayor Tom Swanson, who also testified on the bill, says that's about 16,000 more items than the city should be storing, according to best practices. In total, Puyallup is spending roughly $10,000 per year storing these items.
My bill will ensure those costs come down, while also freeing up valuable time for our men and women in law enforcement to carry out their many important duties.
From left to right: Puyallup Police Department Property and Evidence Technician Sherie Theuerkauf; 25th LD Sen. Hans Zeiger; 25th LD Rep. Chris Gildon; Puyallup Assistant City Manager Steve Kirkelie; Jim Hedrick; Gov. Jay Inslee; Puyallup Police Chief Scott Engle; my husband Jeff Chambers; and Luke Esser.
Appearing on TVW's “Inside Olympia” to discuss the 2019 session
In mid-April, I received an invitation to appear on TVW with fellow freshman Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima. We sat down with veteran reporter and host Austin Jenkins for a wide-ranging interview about our backgrounds, policies we're focused on, and the 2019 session as a whole. Take a look!
Although session has now adjourned, please know I am here to serve you year-round. If you would like to sit down with me to discuss the session or any ideas you have to make our district and state a better place to live, please send me an email or call my district office at (253) 840-4526 to set up a time. Alternatively, I welcome you to drop by my district office any time to say hello! The address is 101 South Meridian, Puyallup, WA 98371.
It is an honor to serve you.