Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2020 legislative session has ended, much like the 2019 session, with Olympia Democrats increasing spending. Despite this year being just a supplemental budget year, Democrats passed a budget that increased spending by about $1.3 billion over the four-year outlook, bringing spending to about $53.5 billion for 2019-21, an increase of nearly 20% over the last biennium (two-year budget cycle).
As I mentioned in my last email update, the state's revenue forecast revealed a surge in new tax revenue and a $2.4 billion budget surplus. That was part of the focus of the budget debate in the House as Democrats looked to spend most of the surplus and we, House Republicans, had different ideas.
At the beginning of floor debate, House Republicans offered two alternative budgets – one would cut taxes by $1 billion by finally giving voters their $30 car tabs, eliminating the sales tax on prepared food items sold at grocery stores and certain personal necessities. The other proposal looked to provide $600 million in annual property tax cuts.
The Democratic majority party rejected both Republican budget plans, opting instead to pass its spending plan. The budget they passed is unsustainable and not fiscally responsible. When the governor signs the budget into law, state spending will have increased nearly 73% since 2013.
Eliminate the state portion of property taxes
Also, in my last email update, I mentioned I was drafting legislation to eliminate the state portion of property taxes. House Bill 2960 would be phased in over four years. This should get the conversation started during the next session for major property tax relief that Washingtonians deserve.
Our tax revenues, your money, has been coming into the state coffers at record levels. With close to $30 billion a year being collected from you, the taxpayers (up from $14 billion just 10 years ago), we can and should eliminate the $3.7 billion collected from you in the form of state property taxes. It's the right thing to do. This will not hurt education funding. We simply fund education first and make it the priority it should be. Click here to watch my video explaining the state's tax revenue and how we can make that happen.
Should we see a downturn in the economy, a remedy is a tax cut. Let's get money back in the hands of you, the taxpayers.
Going against the will of the people
This session we have seen legislation that flat out ignores the voice of Washingtonians. Below are four issues that are a prime example of the majority party in Olympia not listening to our citizens.
Comprehensive sex education bill (Senate Bill 5395): I have received thousands and thousands of emails against the comprehensive sex education legislation, and very few supporting it. It should be noted that approximately 600 people attended the public hearing in the House Education Committee to testify against it and several thousand concerned parents showed up in Olympia on March 11 to voice their concerns.
Despite the public outcry, every public school is mandated to provide comprehensive sexual education in all grades by the 2022-23 school year. Review the approved curriculum by Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for yourself. I think you will find it to be very graphic in nature. Click here to watch my floor speech against the bill during the House floor debate.
While the Democrat's have passed the sex-ed Legislature it now sits on the governor's desk awaiting his signature. You can contact Gov. Jay Inslee's office and ask him to veto the bill. You can call him at (360) 902-4111 or email him at www.governor.wa.gov/contact/contact/send-gov-inslee-e-message.
Office of equity (House Bill 1783): This creates the Washington State Office of Equity, which is in direct conflict with the will of the voters who rejected Referendum 88, (a measure related to affirmative action, and if passed would have given government the ability to consider race, sex and ethnicity in hiring) last fall. People should not be treated differently. Everyone should be treated equitably, but this legislation creates more state agency bureaucracy. The state already has a number of commissions in state government that should be addressing equality and equity issues.
Low-carbon fuel standard (House Bill 1110): This would have increased the costs of gas, diesel, goods and services, while having zero impact on climate change. Voters have already turned down a carbon tax and a carbon fee at the ballot box, I-732 and I-1631, in the last five years. Olympia Democrats passed this bill from the House, but it did not make it out of the Senate.
Taxes: The first bill passed this session was a business and occupation (B&O) tax increase, Senate Bill 6492, fast-tracked through the legislative process by the majority party in 10 days. Democrats passed the bill to clean up the “free college” mess they created at the end of the 2019 legislative session. Their B&O tax increase was needed to cover their “free college” plan, which now taxes 14,000 businesses that employ 886,000 employees. This new change alone will collect around $234 million in additional taxes over a two-year period. With COVID-19 shutting down struggling small businesses, the last thing they need is yet another tax increase.
As you know, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly spreading. Washington state as well as the federal government are working to contain it. With the serious nature of this virus, House Republicans created a website to provide you the latest information and resources. Please click here for information and a number of resources that may be helpful to answer any concerns and questions you may have.
If you have any questions, you can call the Washington State Department of Health at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.
We did pass a bill at the end of session that provides significant funding for coronavirus response – $175 million from the state's “rainy day” fund for state and local agencies to fight the disease and another $25 million for businesses hurt by its economic fallout. I fear this will not be enough.
Stay in touch this interim!
While the session has ended, please remember I am your state representative year-round. I am available for meetings, tours, speaking engagements, legislative updates and much more.
Do not hesitate to reach out to my office to set something up. I look forward to seeing you in the 39th Legislative District.
It is an honor to serve you.
Robert J. Sutherland