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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I voted “NO” on the House's $70 BILLION 2023-25 budget proposal that was introduced and passed off the House floor earlier this week. State spending over the past 10 years has more than doubled (see chart below). I wonder how many of you have seen an increase of 100% in your take-home pay in the last 10 years? Spending at this rate is unsustainable and is growing much faster than the incomes of Washington taxpayers.
We've continually had increases in our state revenue forecasts as taxpayers send more and more money to Olympia. This year, rather than spend additional funds in targeted investments or giving some of the state surplus back to taxpayers, legislative budget writers spread the additional funds around like peanut butter, impacting nearly 1,500 separate line items.
I was able to make a case for a local targeted investment in additional funds for Veterans Service Officers (VSO) for central and northeast Washington. My floor amendment for $1.2 million per year for additional VSO services in our region was accepted and voted into the House budget. You can watch my floor speech on this amendment here. This is a continuation of legislation I introduced in 2019 (HB 1448) which enabled VSOs in underserved, rural communities.
VSOs help veterans access the care, services, and benefits they've earned through their years of service. In Stevens County, which also serves Ferry, Lincoln, and Pend Oreille counties, 62 VA disability claims from July to December of last year were completed. This results in $84,320 per month going to veterans in our communities and their families. Again, these are federal dollars that pay for services and benefits that our military veterans have earned and are entitled to, but may not know about.
Vehicle Miles Travelled Tax
There is continued effort to enact a statewide vehicle miles travelled tax (VMT) which appears to have been rebranded the road usage charge (RUC). As I have said before, I believe this would impact rural residents more than urban. In our neck of the woods, it's not uncommon to drive 40 or 60 miles for health care services, groceries, or school activities. In more densely packed urban areas, residents can reach these same destinations in just a few miles. Why should rural residents be “taxed” more simply because of where we live?
To read my op-ed that was published in several of our local papers, click here.
This week's survey question is: “Should the Legislature enact legislation to ban the use of natural gas in Washington state?”
To take my one-question survey, click here.
Here are the results of the last survey question:
“Would you support legislation that allows law enforcement to pursue criminals again under the reasonable suspicion standard?“
The Legislature has still not come to an agreement on police pursuits or fixing the state Supreme Court's Blake decision, which legalized the possession of drugs. Both of these public safety policy changes are absolutely necessary to help bring a sense of safety and security back to our communities. Unfortunately, the majority party seems content with the status quo, which means more auto theft, more crime, and less safety for our families. Here are some recent media stories on this issue:
- In Our View: House Democrats disappoint on police pursuit bill – The Columbian
- For community safety, state House must pass new police-pursuit law – The Seattle Times
- Troopers say suspect in Sunnyside crash that killed 2 children wasn't stopped earlier because of state pursuit law – The Yakima Herald
At a time when you are less safe and our communities are facing high crime, the majority party approved additional bills that will negatively impact public safety. I voted against reducing sentence enhancements for drug dealing in school zones; I voted against reducing sentence enhancements for violent crimes committed with a firearm; I voted against reducing sentences for gang-related crimes, and; I voted against a proposal to allow someone to commit a third DUI before facing jail time.
Long-term care payroll tax set for July for WA Cares Fund
Many of you have contacted my office about the upcoming payroll tax to fund the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Program. This legislation was passed by the majority party in 2019. That same year, nearly 63% of voters across the state voted against it in Advisory Vote No. 20. Due to its unpopularity and COVID, the program was delayed. It is set to begin deducting from your paycheck in July. Workers will pay up to $0.58 per $100 of their earnings to pay for the mandated program. Republicans have tried to follow the will of the voters to repeal this program, but the majority party has refuted our efforts. To learn more about this program, click here.
Thank you for staying involved in your state government. Please feel free to contact my office with questions or concerns about state government issues. We are here to serve you.
425B Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7908 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000