Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The legislative session adjourned on Thursday with the Democratic majority party continuing their record spending and passing a transportation plan that impacts Washington drivers with higher taxes and fees. There was no tax relief, no emergency powers reform and several bills threatened your Second Amendment rights.
There were some positives this session, including investments in mental health and taking some steps forward to address the flawed police reforms passed last year.
This update will give you an overview of some the more high-profile issues before us this session. If you have any questions about this email update or any other legislation before us this year, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Supplemental operating budget – massive spending continues, no tax relief
I voted “no” on the operating budget. It would increase spending $6.1 billion to about $65 billion in 2021-23. State spending is now $12.5 billion or 24% higher than the 2019-21 levels. You can see by the chart below state spending has more than doubled since the 2011-13 budget.
The Democrats' operating budget does not provide any real tax relief for working families. Washington citizens are still recovering from the financial stress of the pandemic, contending with rising gas prices, and facing the highest inflation seen in more than 40 years.
However, tax collections have skyrocketed. Despite the pandemic, revenue growth is 13.3% in 2021 and 8.7% in 2022. In fact, since the 2021-23 budget was enacted last March, revenue has increased by $9.25 billion over four years.
This is the perfect opportunity to give back to the taxpayers in the form of meaningful property tax relief. My House Bill 1371 would have used a phased approach to eliminate the state property taxes over a four-to-five-year time period. It is a missed opportunity and deeply disappointing there was no tax relief provided this session.
Democrats transportation plan
I also opposed the Democrats' Move Ahead Washington transportation plan. Republicans were left completely out of the negotiating process on the plan.
- Build state's transportation plans on a bipartisan foundation | The Seattle Times
This partisan package spends $16.8 billion over 16 years. It raises fees and taxes by about $2.3 billion on Washington citizens, at a time when we don't need to and there is operating budget surplus we can use. It doesn't adequately address maintenance and preservation needs, while pumping millions of dollars into public transit, bicycle and pedestrian paths, electrification of ferries, and expansion of electric charging stations across Washington.
Finally, it would transfer $57 million a year from the state's Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA). Our local governments rely on this account for local infrastructure projects, such as water and sewer, to improve their communities and economic opportunity. This is the wrong approach.
The supplemental capital budget continued our historic capital investments in the 39th District and across Washington state from last year's record-breaking capital budget.
The 2022-23 supplemental capital budget spends $1.5 billion, with more than $7.4 million going toward 39th District projects, including:
- Evergreen Health (Monroe): $4.2 million;
- Darrington Wood Innovation Center (Darrington): $1.7 million;
- Wastewater lift stations improvements/upgrades (Concrete): $550,000;
- Monroe ECEAP facility (Monroe): $515,000;
- Smokey Point Park (Arlington): $278,000; and
- Sultan-Monroe Commercial Kitchen (Monroe): $134,000.
The projects are on top of the $34 million in funding for the 39th District we were able to secure last year. These are your taxpayer dollars coming back to our district.
While the capital spending plan makes significant investments in K-12 school construction, broadband, school seismic safety, public works, and housing, it also continues our support for mental health. See graph below.
Reforming police reforms from 2021
We have seen crime increase significantly after Democrats passed legislation last year making it more difficult for our law enforcement officers to do their jobs. Fortunately, we were able to pass legislation to roll back some of those bad policies, which included a bill I co-sponsored with Democrat Rep. Roger Goodman, House Bill 2037. The legislation would provide a definition for our law enforcement officers on the physical use of force. The bill awaits the governor's signature.
We were also able to pass legislation that clarifies when an officer can intervene and use force if necessary, and we reversed a ban on less lethal and certain calibers of ammunition. Unfortunately, legislation to incorporate reasonable suspicion back into law enforcement officers' abilities to perform vehicular pursuits did not pass.
Second Amendment rights threatened
I am a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. Unfortunately, those rights were under attack this session with the majority party passing four bills including:
- Senate Bill 5078 would ban the sale of ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds. (Click here, to watch my floor speech against this measure.)
- House Bill 1705 would restrict the manufacture and sale of untraceable firearms, or ghost guns, and unfinished frames and receivers.
- House Bill 1630 would ban open-carry firearms and other weapons from local government meetings, election sites and off-campus school board meetings.
- House Bill 1901 would include the ability to revoke an individual's firearm rights under certain conditions when there is a civil protection or restraining order in effect.
I voted against all these bills, and I am adamantly opposed to them. I will continue to vote against any legislation that may infringe upon your Second Amendment rights.
Majority party stops debate on emergency powers reform
Washington has been under a “state of emergency” for more than two years now. Our state government was not intended to operate this way under a Republican or Democratic governor. House Republicans have made many efforts to address this issue since the pandemic began. Check out this web page that highlights our efforts.
There was hope we would be able to address it this session. Earlier in the year, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins said she was “seeking balance.” There was a bipartisan emergency powers bill introduced in the House. However, we adjourned with nothing done and the imbalance in Washington state government remains.
Some across the aisle are claiming a Republican filibuster stopped Senate Bill 5909. First, there is no filibuster in state government. When the Senate Bill came to us in the House, Republicans viewed it as a watered-down emergency reform bill that did very little. House Democrats brought the bill up for a vote just after 1 a.m. on March 3. We debated for 20 minutes, and then they stopped debate. We had amendments to improve the bill and were prepared to debate the merits of emergency powers reform, but this apparently was not a priority of the House majority party. Editorials around the state also agree it was time for some reform.
- The Columbian: Strong legislation needed to curb governor power | Feb. 22, 2022
- The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin: Bill on emergency power limits ineffective | Feb. 20, 2022
- Tri-City Herald: Don't be fooled. Bill by WA Senate Dems does little to contain Inslee's emergency powers | Feb. 18, 2022
It is extremely disappointing the majority party did not want to address emergency powers reform this session.
Stay in touch
I hope you will reach out to me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state government related issues. I look forward to hearing from you and hope we can connect during the interim. I represent you year-round.
Please reach out to my office to set up an appointment, to arrange a speaking opportunity, or to ask any questions you may have.
It's an honor to serve you!
Robert J. Sutherland
WA State Representative, District 39