Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have rounded the final corner of the 2021 legislative session, which means it is budget time. Over the weekend, we debated and voted on the three main state budgets – operating, transportation, and capital. In this update, I will give you some specifics and details about each one.
Let's start with some good news and the 2021-23 capital budget.
The 2021-23 capital budget allocates $5.7 billion, $3.5 billion of which is from the sale of general obligations bonds, for long-term infrastructure projects such as schools, parks, water infrastructure, habitat, and other public buildings across Washington state. Also, with the influx of federal funds to our state, this budget will also allocate additional construction funding for work, education, and health monitoring projects, along with funds for investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. I supported and voted in favor of this budget.
The 8th District has roughly $6.3 million appropriated in project funds which are included in the House 2021-23 capital budget proposal. Some local projects to receive funding include:
- Three Rivers Behavioral Health Recovery Center in Kennewick.
- Yakima Valley Farm Works Clinic in Kennewick.
- Redevelopment project of Flag Plaza in Kennewick.
- Columbia River Water Supply Development Program in West Richland and Pasco.
- FP Hoch Family Farm agricultural easement through a Washington Wildlife Recreation grant.
Next, let's talk about the 2021-23 transportation budget.
This $10.9 billion biennial budget is both an operating and capital budget. It funds infrastructure projects across the state including maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Ferry system, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Washington State Patrol, and other state transportation agencies.
I supported and voted in favor of this budget. It will keep transportation projects across our district and state moving forward. The proposal itself does not raise taxes on anyone or anything.
There is a new transportation revenue package on the table, the Forward Washington plan. This plan would spend $17.8 billion over 16-years. It would rely on a 9.8 cent fuel tax increase, a cap and invest package, shifting sales tax on motor vehicles from the general fund to transportation budget, and multiple new driver/vehicle related fee increases. I will keep you posted on this proposal and what it will mean for your wallet.
And finally, let's talk about the 2021-23 operating budget.
Our state tax collections continue to be strong and resilient, despite the dire news we received at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released and adopted its latest state revenue forecast. As compared to the November 2020 forecast, Near General Fund-Outlook (NGF-O) revenue increased by $1.34 billion for 2019-21, and by $1.95 billion for 2021-23. This provides approximately $3 billion in additional revenue over the next four years. This current forecast takes us back to pre-pandemic revenue levels. This is good news.
And, with the combination of substantial amounts of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act coming to our state – in the billions of dollars – and the positive revenue outlook, there's absolutely no need to raise taxes on anyone or anything.
Now, for the bad news. State spending has increased by 72% since Gov. Inslee entered office in 2013. To continue on the trend of excessive state spending, the 2021-23 operating budget proposal would grow state spending further by $6.6 billion, an increase of 12.8% over the current budget cycle.
Coupled with this increase in state spending, Democrats are choosing to raise taxes. Raising taxes in any form should never be taken lightly, especially during this economic uncertainty. The question of the day is: why are they raising taxes when state revenues have completely bounced back and billions of dollars in federal money will soon be hitting state coffers?
I am very disappointed House Democrats chose to advance a new income tax on capital gains as part of this operating budget. My colleague, and the House Republican budget lead Rep. Drew Stokesbary, offered an amendment that would have funded this entire budget proposal without relying on this tax; however, the majority party rejected that amendment.
Families across our district and state continue to face enormous financial stress and hardship, businesses remain closed, unemployment remains high, and we have yet to recover roughly 200,000 pandemic-related jobs. We should be looking at every way we can to foster and boost our economic vitality, not creating new taxes that could potentially stifle economic innovation and growth opportunities.
House Republicans will continue to support tax policy that will work toward helping working families. We will not, however, support a budget proposal that includes a volatile, unpopular, and likely unconstitutional income tax on capital gains.
Also, as part of this budget, the majority party drained a significant portion of the rainy-day fund and transferred those funds into a separate account. This budget gimmick could hurt our state in the long run as it means the minority party may not have a say in how the transferred funds are appropriated in the future and could mean these “rainy-day” funds may not be available when we truly need them!
Most importantly to me, you – the voters of this state – have voted multiple times against any form of an income tax. You also voted that to utilize funds from the rainy-day account, there would need to be a 2/3 vote of the Legislature. Your voices need to be heard and respected. For all of these reasons, I voted NO on this budget.
We now head back to the virtual House floor to vote on bills we have recently heard in committee that came over to us from the Senate. In my next update, I will provide some details on the bills we considered.
Throughout the remainder of the legislative session, I hope you will take the time to call or email me. I welcome your thoughts and concerns on issues before the Legislature. My contact information can be found at the bottom of this email. I look forward to working with you and for YOU!
I know all of us don't always agree on everything all the time, but please know, I still value hearing from you! I enjoy our respectful dialogues, even when we don't agree on the issue.
Thank you again for the opportunity and the honor to serve you, your family, and our communities as your State Representative.
May God richly bless you all!