Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In my last update to you I talked about the state Supreme Court's Hirst decision and how it is impacting landowners and families around the state. I've also heard from many of you via phone calls, letters and e-mails on this issue. Please know that as the assistant ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee I'm working hard and fighting for your property rights and against this ruling.
Rep. John Koster, R-Arlington, and I introduced legislation last week to expedite tax reassessments of properties adversely affected by the court's ruling. It would also potentially save land owners millions of dollars in tax payments when their property values diminish due to court-related water decisions.
The sad fact is, once the court ruling went into effect, which in many cases has denied any water usage by landowners, land values across the state plummeted. Due to no fault of their own, families have seen their dreams of building a home or holding onto property for investment purposes, absolutely devastated. Land plots that were purchased for thousands of dollars “are basically worthless,” according to committee testimony from Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen.
While my hope is that the Hirst fix found in Senate Bill 5239 passes the Legislature and is signed into law, this is still questionable. Gov. Inslee and House Democrats have not shown much support for the bill. They prefer a “fix” that includes massive bureaucracy, paperwork and possible increased costs to landowners.
In the meantime, we need to make sure property owners are kept whole. As I said to the press:
“Without water, there is no development. Without water, banks will not issue loans on those properties. So those lands become worthless, or at best, significantly lose their market value. This legislation would ensure immediate property tax relief to the landowner affected by the ruling, reflecting the true value of that property once the water ruling has taken effect.”
House Democrats want $8 billion in new and increased taxes
Last week the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus introduced their budget proposal. This week, House Democrats released their operating budget plan for the next two years. While both proposals spend nearly identical amounts on K-12 education, the path to get there is very different. I support funding education first so that we're not pitting the state's paramount duty against other programs and services.
Even though the state is expecting nearly $3 billion more in tax revenues this budget cycle, House Democrats propose to raise taxes by $8 billion over the next four years for everything BUT basic education. They want to raise the B&O tax on many service businesses like residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, hospitals and grocery distribution.
More concerning is their plan to impose a capital gains income tax. They call this an income tax on “high earners,” and point out we're one of nine states in the nation that don't have this tax on capital gains. The other thing those nine states don't have? A state income tax. There is no doubt in my mind that if Democrats succeed in implementing an income tax on capital gains, it's only a matter of time before that trickles down to everyone via a statewide income tax.
I also have concerns with how fast their budget proposal increases state spending. In the 2011-13 biennium, our state operating budget was $31 billion. If the House Democrat budget plan is implemented, our operating budget in 2019-21 will be more than $51 billion. That's a $20 billion increase in just eight years! Their plan grows government by 34 percent in the next four years. I'm fairly certain most – if not all – of my constituents will not see that kind of increase in their family budgets during that same timespan.
I believe we can fund education, make significant and much-needed investments into our mental health system, protect our citizens, encourage prosperity and attract new jobs to our state and region without raising taxes. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget is a good framework to get this done.
If you'd like to see a direct comparison of the two budgets by non-partisan staff, click here.
Now that both chambers have passed their budgets the real negotiations can begin. We have three weeks left to finish in the constitutionally-mandated 105 days of session.
Rural economic development
I am absolutely passionate about keeping the jobs we have in our region and attracting new, family-wage jobs! I'm tired of exporting our children and seeing businesses boarded up. We have so much to offer if government would just get out of the way.
I introduced bipartisan legislation this week to help protect and attract new businesses to our state.
My bill, House Bill 2194, holds the state accountable for out-of-state materials it purchases for public projects. Currently, manufacturers in our state are required to show their “carbon footprint” for their actions, including production and transportation. Yet we don't ask that of materials purchased from outside our state. As a result, we have a public building just down the road from a concrete plant being built with concrete and steel from China!
Even though our state has some of the nation's most environmentally-friendly manufacturing regulations, the state continues to purchase materials and products outside our state that have horrendous environmental impacts. In other words, it's cheaper to purchase steel and concrete from China (with overall carbon impacts potentially thousands of times worse than products and material produced locally) and ship it here than to purchase concrete and steel from across the street? Something is drastically wrong with that concept.
My bill brings to light the carbon footprint for those out-of-state purchases. Are our environmental regulations really about helping the environment? Let's put it to the test and hold out-of-state manufacturers to the same standards. This will allow our in-state manufacturers to compete on an even playing field.
I believe our district has the land, the people, the affordable power, the infrastructure and the desire to attract more jobs!
Thanks for reading my e-newsletter. If you need help with a state agency or have any questions or concerns about YOUR state government, please contact my office. We're here to serve you.