Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the Legislature headed toward its scheduled conclusion on March 11, it became clear that we were not going to avoid a special session. The principal reason for the overtime period (which began Monday, March 15) was the failure of the majority party to complete work on a supplemental operating budget. More specifically, there was no agreement by House and Senate Democrats on what kind of tax package they will need to bridge the state's $2.7 billion shortfall.
How long the special session will last is unclear. In a newspaper interview last week, the chairman of the Senate Democrat Caucus predicted a week to 10 days. Other observers say the extra innings could extend to March 25, or later.
And the cost to taxpayers for the overtime will be approximately $18,000 a day. Honestly, I am frustrated and disappointed. Admittedly, there are difficult decisions to be made, but it's also clear to me that we could have accomplished our responsibilities on time if the majority party had shown sensible leadership, discipline, and had engaged in a more bipartisan collaborative way from the start of this session.
Despite the clearly stated opinions of Washington citizens, the majority party in the House and Senate insisted on pushing proposals that could lead to the largest tax increase in our state's history.
Here's what's on the table:
Senate Democrats have approved two tax-increase bills. One would raise 21 taxes by $900 million over the next 16 months. Included in the bill is a sales tax increase of three-tenths of 1 percent. By itself, that's a billion-dollar tax hike over the next three years.
The House followed suit with its own tax package — a proposal drafted by the majority party that would take nearly $700 million out of our economy: That's $700 million families and employers can't afford.
The House plan comprises 20 new or increased taxes. Among its provisions, the proposal would:
• Increase taxes on home mortgages;
• Spread the sales tax to bottled water, candy and custom software;
• Increase the excise tax on private aircraft; and
• Impose higher business and occupation taxes on employers.
Most of the tax increases would be a hit on Washington's employers — many of whom have laid off workers, cut back hours, suffered through workers' compensation and unemployment insurance increases, and are fighting to survive.
The message from my constituents, people just like you, has been straightforward and clear: Approach the budgeting process like you and I do with our own families, homes and businesses — make the distinction between what you absolutely need and what you can afford.
I have said from the beginning that by setting priorities, and reforming the way government delivers services, we could – and can – meet our constitutional duty and write a balanced budget without raising taxes.
My solutions and the solutions proposed by my Republican colleagues are rooted in a very simple principle: our state must live within its means.
Unfortunately, the majority party ignored our suggestions, and ignored the voice of Washington citizens.
It's hard to predict what the final tax package will look like after House and Senate majority leaders meet to work out their differences. And how soon we'll be able to bring this to a conclusion is anyone's guess right now. But, once again, it's safe to assume that we're looking at the prospect of one of the biggest tax increases in state history. And that's a bitter pill to swallow for the vast majority of families and employers in Washington state.
I wish I had better news, but be encouraged — all is not lost. We accomplished several positive things during the regular 60-day session:
• We worked together to pass House Joint Resolution 4220, also known as the Lakewood Police Officers' Memorial Act, that sends to the voters a constitutional amendment that would allow judges to deny bail (under certain conditions) to those who would pose a risk to public safety.
• We strengthened the law against those who “render assistance” to criminals.
• We fought long and hard to defend the “Taxpayer Protection Act.” Although we lost that battle, and the majority party prevailed in suspending Initiative 960, please know that I, and my fellow members of the Republican Caucus, have worked hard, and will continue to fight to protect you, your families and your businesses.
As I write this, we are in Day 4 of the special session. If you share my concern about the impact the majority party's tax proposals will have on families and employers, I encourage you to call the governor, the House speaker and the Senate majority leader. Share with them your thoughts, feelings, concerns and ideas. The toll-free hotline number is 1-800-562-6000.
Remember, in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, our forefathers started distinctly the founding of this nation with the words, “We the people.” You are important. Your opinion is valuable and significant. Stand tall, stand strong, make your voice heard, and “never, never give up.”
Thanks for taking time to read my e-news update. It is always a pleasure to communicate with you, and please keep in touch.
It's an honor to serve you. I love you. God bless you all. Have a great Washington day!