Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have reached Day 53 of the scheduled 60-day session, and I'd like to bring you up to date on some recent developments as we approach the homestretch.
Unfortunately, news from Olympia is not encouraging: Passage of a bill to make it easier to increase taxes, and budget plans proposed by the House and Senate majority that would raise taxes by about $900 million.
First: Suspending Initiative 960.
Senate Bill 6130 dismantled I-960 – the Taxpayer Protection Act approved by the voters in 2007.In the 8th District, the initiative passed by a margin of more than 61 percent.
What the bill does is suspend the requirement that tax increases be approved by a two-thirds majority. In other words, the bill allows the Legislature to raise taxes with just a simple majority.
I believe that the citizens of Washington sent a strong message when they approved I-960. I respect that decision, because the intent of the voters was clear: The people said they wanted transparency, fiscal restraint and accountability in the budget-writing process. Most important, they said they wanted government to live within its means.
Standing up for the Taxpayer Protection Act
As lawmakers, we had an opportunity – an obligation – to defend the will of the people. To protect the taxpayers we were elected to represent.
My Republican colleagues and I vigorously fought Senate Bill 6130. We tried to postpone action on the bill indefinitely. That floor debate lasted six hours. The next night we fought it again. It finally cleared the House – narrowly – on a vote of 51-to-47.
A similar battle occurred in the Senate, but the bill finally passed and was sent to the governor, who signed the measure on Feb. 24.
That clears the way for the majority party to take the course we expected since the session began: increasing taxes and fees.
It didn't take long!
• There are 77 bills in the House that, when combined, would increase taxes by more $3 billion in the next fiscal year.
• The governor's tax package totals $762 million.
• The Senate Democrat budget calls for $920 million in taxes.
• And the House majority plan: $853 million in new taxes.
Among the proposals that are on the table:
• A 5-cent tax on soda pop.
• A tax on bottled water.
• A $1 hike in the tax on cigarettes.
• Extending the sales tax to candy and gum.
• A doubling of the “death tax.”
• A state income tax.
• A 1 percent increase in the state sales tax, which would make it the highest in the nation.
We're still going over the details in the proposals, and there's more analysis to be done, but it's clear the majority party feels there is only one way to balance the budget – and that's to raise taxes. Republicans disagree. We believe the best way to create new revenue is to recharge Washington's business climate through opportunities for business growth and prosperity, thus exponentially creating new jobs.
What's also disappointing is that the majority party budget writers surrendered to tax increases rather than fully exploring areas where savings could be achieved. We should be doing what's right, not just expedient.
I believe that you, the public, expect your elected officials to exhaust every option – to look at every item in state government – before coming to you for more taxes.
Republicans offered solutions that would get us closer to bringing spending into balance with revenues; to reform and prioritize state government; and find more cost-effective ways to deliver the services and programs that government should provide.
Revenue is not the major problem: What got us to this point is the fact that in the last several budgets, spending consistently exceeded the amount of available revenue. The governor signed those budgets, which even she called “unsustainable.”
We are facing the toughest economic times in a generation, and we have an opportunity to drive real reform. If we miss this opportunity, we will be setting government backwards, and setting a course for perpetual budget deficits.
Our economy is still struggling to climb out of recession. Businesses and families are hurting. Tax increases are bad news for the people of Washington, and a poison pill for economic recovery, growth and jobs.
We owe the people of Washington our best efforts. Without leadership, without defining priorities, and without political courage, the Legislature is in danger of falling short of living up to our responsibility.
Getting elected and getting re-elected, is NOT what public service is about. It's doing the job we were elected to do. And doing the job right for you will always be my goal, despite personal gain or loss.
Thanks for taking the time to read my e-news update.
Your thoughts, comments and opinions are important to me, so please keep in touch.
It's an honor to serve you all ways. God bless you. Have a great Washington day!