Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In my final email update last year before election-year restrictions kicked in, I wrote the following:
“The governor must have a stronger sense of urgency when it comes to helping those who stand to lose their livelihoods and lifelong dreams. He should trust Washingtonians to continue social distancing while allowing them to provide for their families in workplaces that follow recommended health and safety guidelines.”
Eight months later, we know that stronger sense of urgency never took root for the governor. Thousands of businesses across our state have shut down, and livelihoods have indeed been destroyed. As a small business owner myself, it's been devastating to hear from those who have had to shut their doors. Others have emailed to tell me they don't know how much longer they can hang on.
It didn't have to be this way.
For months, House Republicans asked the governor to call us into a special session so we could provide relief for families and help businesses keep their doors open. We were ignored. Instead of bringing us into the process, the governor chose instead to rule by executive order.
With the 2021 legislative session now under way, we are working tirelessly to safely get Washingtonians back to work, school, and a more normal life. We have a number of proposals on the table to do just that, including:
- Shoring up the state's unemployment fund and dramatically expanding grants to shuttered small businesses.
- Using $200 million from the state's rainy-day fund to deliver a one-time “recovery rebate” to working Washington families.
- Prohibiting increases to unemployment insurance rates.
- Providing additional assistance to tenants and rental homeowners.
- Issuing a one-time grant of $300 per student in low-income families to help defray the financial burdens of remote learning while schools remain closed.
Another priority for our caucus is ensuring Gov. Inslee's tax increase proposals are stopped. Not only is the governor pushing for an income tax on capital gains, but he's also pushing for a number of new taxes that would make health care, gasoline, and home energy more expensive. I can't think of a worse idea than to raise taxes in the middle of a pandemic. Working families need our help, not additional financial burdens that will make it even harder to pay bills.
House Republicans are also committed to holding the governor and his state agencies accountable for the catastrophic failures we've seen. Last year, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) paid out $600 million in unemployment benefits to an international fraud ring. Many of you were directly affected by that or know someone who was. When State Auditor Pat McCarthy attempted to find out what went wrong, ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine hindered her investigation. Somehow, LeVine hasn't been fired by the governor, even as problems persist at ESD. That's a failure of leadership. Accountability is essential at all levels of government, but especially at the highest levels. The majority has a responsibility to restore your trust by increasing state agency oversight and advancing reforms to improve outcomes. That's what we'll be pushing them to do this session.
Another major priority for us is protecting communities that have become unsafe due to drug addiction, crime, gang activity, chronic homelessness, and untreated mental illness. To do that, we must fully fund law enforcement, provide vital mental health services, and develop solutions to get people off the streets. Unfortunately, Democrats have failed many Washington communities by enabling destructive behavior. House Republicans believe in compassion, but we also believe in enforcement and accountability. Keeping our streets, neighborhoods, and families safe requires all three components. We'll continue to make that clear to the majority throughout session as we look to advance effective solutions.
2021-22 committee assignments
This year, I have been elevated to a leadership role on two House committees.
I'm serving as the ranking Republican member of the House College and Workforce Development Committee, which considers a wide range of issues that affect Washington's colleges and universities, such as governance, financial aid, tuition, distance learning, workforce development, and apprenticeships. I was the first member of my family to go to college, so it means a lot to have the opportunity to serve as the ranking member of a committee designed to help students achieve their dreams. I look forward to working collaboratively to make college as accessible and affordable as possible, and to ensure all of our institutions of higher education are serving students well.
I'm also serving as the assistant ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee, which considers the operating budget and fiscal issues such as pension policy and compensation. As we continue to navigate our way through this pandemic, committee members must craft a budget that will provide pathways for economic growth and a robust long-term recovery.
Finally, I continue to serve on the House Commerce and Gaming Committee, which considers issues relating to the regulation of commerce in alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis, as well as issues relating to the regulation and oversight of gaming, including tribal compacts.
Although session is remote this year, I am committed to being as accessible as possible. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me. My email address is Kelly.Chambers@leg.wa.gov, and my district office number is (253) 840-4526.
It is an honor to serve you.