Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With COVID hospitalizations and positive tests trending downward, and vaccinations more readily available for those who want them and who qualify, it is only natural that we begin looking at the next phase of reopening our economy. Two weeks ago, House and Senate Republicans introduced our “Open Safe, Open Now” plan. You can learn more about that plan here.
Our plan gives the responsibility for the health and safety of our citizens back to the people and to local health districts. In our plan, all counties would have immediately moved to Phase 3, which would look like this:
- All children in grades K-12 would immediately return to the classroom for in-person instruction.
- School districts would implement safety protocols provided by the CDC.
- Hospitality businesses and public venues, such as restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, museums, libraries, and other entertainment venues, would be open to 50% capacity.
- Bars and restaurants would stop serving alcohol and close at midnight.
- State parks and other state agencies whose function is tourism/recreation would resume bookings for day-use and overnight facilities at 50% capacity.
- Indoor weddings and religious services would open to 50% capacity.
- Professional services would open to 50% capacity.
Here are some links to the statewide media coverage our plan received:
Gov. Inslee: Law enforcement, firefighters, grocery workers to get COVID-19 vaccines in March (The Seattle Times)
Inslee: The president made me speed up teacher vaccinations (Everett Herald)
Washington GOP lawmakers propose their version of a plan to reopen the state (The News Tribune)
Washington GOP lawmakers propose their version of a plan to reopen the state (The Olympian)
Washington state Republicans announce their own reopening plan (Tri-City Herald)
Washington Republicans push for lifting COVID-19 restrictions sooner rather than later (KING TV)
Washington GOP proposes “Phase 3” plan for state, Governor's office says it's “not a serious proposal” (KHQ TV)
Republican lawmakers introduce plan for Phase 3 & 4 of re-opening Washington (KEPR)
Legislative Republicans announce 'Open Safe, Open Now' reopening plan (KLCK Radio)
GOP proposes plan for Phase 3 (KONA Radio)
State GOP not waiting for Inslee, proposes own Phase 3 plan (KFLD radio)
'It is not a serious proposal'; Governor's Office slams WA Senate GOP's Phase 3 plan (KXLY)
Republican reopening plan quickly rejected by Inslee (NCW Life Channel)
Republicans announce 'Open Safe, Open Now' Reopening Plan (Mason WebTV)
Businesses anxious for Gov. Inslee to announce Phase 3 plans (KXLY)
Washington health officials caution against growing push to quickly reopen state (MyNorthwest)
Republicans unveil plan to advance WA into Phase 3 (iFiberOne)
Republicans announce a re-opening plan for Washington: Move schools and Employers to the next phase now (Washington Policy Center)
COLUMN: The pandemic is no time to turn away ideas (Brandi Kruse/KCPQ TV)
Up until this point, we did not see much action from the governor nor any willingness on his part to listen to Legislative leaders. I believe it was a result of our plan – and the media attention it created – that prompted him to announce last week his plans for Phase 3, which will begin statewide for every county on March 22. His plan took several elements from our Open Safe, Open Now proposal. Especially of note is the county-by-county approach instead of the regional one, which should benefit some of our rural counties that have been lumped into more populous ones when it comes to measuring COVID metrics.
Every one of us has been – or knows someone who has been – affected both physically and financially by the COVID pandemic. Many workers are still seeking jobs, many unemployed are still waiting for unemployment assistance. Our small businesses, restaurants and entrepreneurs are struggling. While I believe we can and should continue to practice social distancing where appropriate, frequent hand washing, and wear masks when needed, it's time to open safe, open smart, and open now.
State revenues are back to pre-COVID numbers – we don't need new or increased taxes
The new state revenue forecast came out today. Compared to the November revenue forecast, 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 (about $3.29 billion over the four-year outlook).
As you can see, tax collections in the state are back to pre-COVID numbers. Much of this is being driven by higher than anticipated sales tax revenues, probably in part due to the federal government stimulus money. We also have a very active real estate market and automobile sales are up statewide. All of this economic activity drives tax dollars into the state's coffers.
As a result, we do NOT need to raise taxes or create new ones, including an income tax on capital gains. The majority party continues to push this unnecessary, unpopular and unconstitutional policy. It passed the Senate (Senate Bill 5096) and is now in the House for further consideration. I intend to vote against this bad bill as voters have rejected this policy or a constitutional amendment dealing with an income tax 10 times!
Helping rural Washington entrepreneurs
My legislation (House Bill 1015) to help small businesses in rural or underserved areas access needed credit passed the House last week. It creates the Equitable Access to Credit Program within the Department of Commerce for the purpose of awarding grants to qualified lending institutions, which would then provide access to credit for small businesses. The bill also creates a business and occupation (B&O) tax credit for contributions made to the program. There is money out there in the private sector – large companies that want to help spur economic development – but the infrastructure needed to take full advantage of this money is lacking. My bill will allow equal access to credit for our rural and tribal areas for small businesses and entrepreneurs. You can read more about my bill here.
Thank you for staying involved in your state government. If you have any questions or concerns regarding legislation or legislative issues, please don't hesitate to contact my office. We are here to help!