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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative in the 17th Legislative District. I am honored you have put your trust in me during this difficult time. This is the first e-mail update I am sending out since I was sworn into office. I will strive to send you brief updates during the session, so you have the information you need to contact me with comments and offer feedback on the many issues we are debating in Olympia.

Unemployment insurance

The most important legislation the Legislature has addressed at this point in the session is unemployment insurance (UI) tax reform. We were able to pass two strong, bipartisan UI tax reform bills, House Bill 1091 and Senate Bill 5135. This legislation will provide immediate assistance to our employers by reducing UI taxes for this year and also preventing a sharp tax increase in the near future.

Without this legislation, employers’ UI taxes were expected to increase about $366 million in 2011. They increased about $360 million in 2010 or an average of 42 percent. I have heard from many employers in the 17th District about how devastating the high payroll taxes have been. Addressing the tax rates will allow them to invest in their businesses by retaining or creating jobs.

Now that these bills are law, it will help Washington transition into economic recovery more quickly. Please remember, employers pay 100 percent of the money that goes into the UI trust fund. This fund has remained solvent for so long, even in this economic downturn, because the employers have been overpaying into this system.

Supplemental Budget still not fixed

The supplemental budget placed before us, House Bill 1086, was supposed to close the books on the remainder of the fiscal year by addressing the near $600 million  shortfall. Unfortunately, it resembles the House budget passed earlier this session (which I also voted against) in that it continues to take money retroactively away from school districts who have already hired teachers in grades K-4; relies on budget gimmicks; and only chips away at programs we know have to be eliminated in order to fill the $4.6 billion shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium. I am concerned school district budgets are being put in jeopardy in order to balance our budget. In fact, I know this budget will be very devastating to the Battle Ground School District. I sat on the board of the Evergreen School District for ten years, and I just cannot support retroactive cuts to education. This budget fix also still leaves us with a shortfall of about $230 million. For these reasons, I voted against this budget.

I supported a House Republican alternative plan we offered in January. Our alternative would have set priorities, been a building block for state government reform, provided a framework for our next two-year budget and not made retroactive cuts to education. The Everett Herald editorial board wrote a piece entitled “GOP proposes a smarter fix” that you can read here.

If you have any questions on these issues or anything else do not hesitate to contact me. I look forwarding to communicating with you in future e-mail updates. However call, write or e-mail my office any time. I want to hear from you. If you are in Olympia please stop by the office.


Paul Harris

State Representative Paul Harris, 17th Legislative District
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7976 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000