Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this email finds you healthy and well. A lot has happened since my last email update. The governor enacted his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order on March 23 in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Since then, he has extended his order until at least May 31.
I have been pretty outspoken about the governor's actions to shut down parts of our economy. He has shut down small, privately owned, “mom and pop” businesses all across the state, yet he allows the large retail “box stores” to remain open. He allows abortion services and the purchasing of marijuana to continue on as before, yet he has forbidden dental and other medical services from being able to help their patients. This makes absolutely no sense. While the loss of even one life to the COVID-19 virus is sad and tragic, we are also impacting people's livelihoods – the means of securing the necessities of life, for them and their families. This appears to be contributing to an increase in mental health issues, suicide, domestic violence and others from accessing much-needed health care. And this is why I have been very vocal, with a sense of urgency and frustration, like so many of you.
The governor's approach
On Friday, May 1, I believe because of pressure from Republican legislators like myself and others, the governor has unveiled his four-phased approach to re-starting the stalled economy. To review his four-phase chart, click here. Other than hoping Phase 1 is implemented by mid-May, there is no timeline on phases 2-4. He said it could be up to three weeks in between phases. Unfortunately, that means we could be in mid-July before certain parts of our state are allowed to be reopened. That is simply unacceptable to me. There are other, better, plans out there and there needs to be a much greater sense of urgency from this governor. And frankly, I do not see it.
Legislative Republicans issue a plan
Almost three weeks ago, on April 17, Republicans in the Legislature introduced their Safe Economic Restart Plan. The plan focuses on three sets of recommendations:
- immediate actions we can take right now;
- legislative actions that can be done in special session; and
- actions that can be taken within 6 to 12 months of the lifting the business closure order.
It promotes a safe restart of Washington's economy and looks at recovery over the long term. The plan doesn't have all the answers, but it is a good place to start.
On April 29, the BOISE plan to restart Washington state's economy was introduced by Reps. Jesse Young and Jim Walsh. “BOISE” stands for a short-term, statewide dual moratorium on B&O taxes and Impact Statements on Everything – including permits and fees.
It is a two-pronged approach that seeks to allow shuttered businesses the opportunity to quickly earn back much-needed lost revenue and increase their short-term margins, while streamlining their ability to get back up to speed by removing the need to wait for governmental reviews and permitting to begin their work.
Rep. Chris Gildon has been working on a decentralized, county-by-county approach to Washington state's recovery from the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. I was one of many lawmakers and elected officials from around the state to sign on to his letter that was sent to the governor on May 1 advocating for this type of approach. You can read that letter here.
I have also supported numerous other letters sent to the governor regarding our rural economy, struggles of the agriculture industry, fishing and hunting, golfing, and much more.
We are working hard to keep the pressure on in order to get our businesses opened back up and to jump start our economy; and to find real solutions that will, at the same time, keep folks safe.
I have full trust that Washingtonians can make this happen responsibly, safely and without any further infringements upon our personal liberties.
It is too early to tell what our budget situation will be like when we return to Olympia. However, on May 5, The Olympian published this article: Steep reduction in state revenues projected through mid-2023.
It talks about a $7 billion budget shortfall through 2023. The last two sessions, we witnessed Democrats in Olympia raise taxes to increase spending to fiscally irresponsible and unsustainable levels. The chart below shows the increases in spending – about 73% since Gov. Inslee was elected.
We fought hard to prevent this and warned of an economic downturn. While we never dreamed of being hit with a pandemic that would bring our economy to a screeching halt, it shows that the Democratic majority is not being prudent with taxpayer dollars. To see a list of the almost $10 billion in tax increases they proposed and passed in the last two years, click here.
COVID-19 information and resources
Keep these websites in mind as you look for information and resources on COVID-19:
- Washington State Coronavirus Response (Official state portal)
- Coronavirus Information and Resources (House Republicans)
- Employment Security Department (ESD)
Because election-year restrictions go into effect on May 11, I will not be able to send out another email update until after the November election is certified by Secretary of State Kim Wyman. That is, unless we go into a special session before then. However I can respond to emails, questions or inquiries, so I encourage you to stay in touch if you have any questions or concerns about legislative or state issues.
It is an honor to represent the 39th District!
Robert J. Sutherland