Dear Friends and Neighbors,
After approximately five sessions of working on Tobacco 21 legislation, Gov. Jay Inslee will sign my bill into law this Friday.
House Bill 1074 would prohibit the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vapor products to anyone under the age of 21. I am pleased with all the support we received this year to make this happen. I truly believe it will save lives. We need to get tobacco and other related products off of school campuses. The governor is signing the bill into law on Friday at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
House operating budget
Last Friday the House passed an operating budget on party lines, with Republicans voting “no.” We have a lot of concerns about the increased spending levels and reliance on new taxes.
The proposed budget increases spending by almost 20 percent. Last biennium's budget was $44.4 billion and this proposed budget would increase spending by $8.6 billion to $53 billion. This would be a 70 percent increase in spending since 2013.
Their plan includes implementation of a capital gains tax – the first step toward an income tax – which is unconstitutional, unreliable and unpopular. The proposed B&O tax would impact over 80 classifications of services, and tens of thousands of our businesses. There is no reason to ask our constituents for $4 billion more in new taxes when we are experiencing historical revenue growth and have about a $3 billion surplus.
House Republicans were able to get a number of amendments adopted. This is important since we are not directly involved in the budget negotiations and our budget priorities differ. Some of the amendments include:
- increasing Medicaid fraud enforcement, which would save $240 million;
- providing for more local drug and gang policing in response to the opioid epidemic;
- raising payment rates for those providing care to seniors and individuals with disabilities;
- providing a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers and public employees;
- giving additional assistance to mostly small and rural school districts uniquely affected by the McCleary legislation.
I am hopeful the House and Senate final operating budget proposal will be much more fiscally responsible and sustainable.
House capital budget
The capital budget proposed in the House is a strong, bipartisan plan that would provide for the priorities and immediate needs of our state such as mental health and education infrastructure.
It also includes funding for a handful of projects in the 17th Legislative District – including $1.75 million dollars for the Tenney Creek Assisted Living Project. This would be a 3-story 40-unit project housing individuals with complex behavioral and physical health challenges.
This project would be beneficial to our community to address a gap in services for people who are homeless or who are exiting institutions and need assistance with daily living activities.
The capital budget also includes $388,000 for the Evergreen School District Health Clinic.
Telephone town hall – Thursday, April 4
Rep. Vicki Kraft and I will be holding a telephone town hall on Thursday, April 4 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. We will provide an update on the 2019 legislative session, take your questions and have some poll questions.
To participate, call 360-209-3911 between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. To ask a question, press the Star (*) key on your telephone keypad. We look forward to talking with you Thursday evening.
There is a small possibility we may get called to the House floor to debate and vote on bills. If that is the case, we will have a message for anyone calling in and then we will try to reschedule in the near future.