Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's hard to believe, but we're just about done with this short 60-day legislative session. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have been working tirelessly in our committees, this week, to hear bills from the opposite house of origin. How those hearings go will decide the fate of many of the bills that have made it this far.
All of the legislation that makes it through their different committees this week will then await to be heard on the House Floor or in the Senate chamber, depending on where it originated. Any bill that passes that step will head to the governor's desk to become law.
This week was also budget week in Olympia, which is always a big deal. I'll share some more thoughts on the budgets in a moment, but first I want to tell you about some issues specific to Clark County that I've been working on this session.
WSU Life Sciences Building
First, I joined with other lawmakers in our county to ask for assistance with building a new life sciences building at the Washington State University Vancouver campus. We asked for $4 million to help make this happen. The WSU Vancouver campus is an important contributor to our communities in Clark County. This would bring additional opportunities and benefits to those looking to go to college, and to those looking to work there.
The governor and the Senate included this provision in their proposed budgets, but unfortunately, it was not part of the House's original proposed budget. But I haven't given up just yet. I'm still working to get it included, or at least a portion of what we asked for, into the House's final budget before it's reconciled.
West Biddle Lake Dam Restoration
Additionally, I'm happy to report that I was able to secure nearly half a million dollars for another important project in Clark County, the West Biddle Lake Dam restoration project. The dam is part of the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center, which is a non-profit organization in Vancouver. This unique location, which includes a fish hatchery, offers a wonderful learning environment for kids of all ages.
The dam is getting older, and it's in need of repairs or possibly replacement. However, restoring or replacing a dam is a major project, and an expensive one. I was able to secure $412,000 from the capital budget to help start the process. The money will initially be used to study the numerous aspects of this project and what effects it would have, and then eventually go toward repairing or replacing the dam.
Now to the budget update. Both the House and Senate Democrats released their proposed 2020 supplemental budgets on Monday, which included the operating, transportation, and capital budgets. There were some good proposals, but as you might expect, there were also several things that me and my fellow House Republicans would've done differently.
For starters, our state economy continues to grow and the most recent state revenue forecast is projecting a $2.4 billion budget surplus. That means the Appropriations Committee has a lot more money to work with. In fact, that's more than enough money to completely fund the governor's budget proposal, and all of the state's programs and agencies, and there would still be more than $1 billion leftover.
Based on those numbers, House Republicans have introduced a plan that would provide $1 billion in tax relief to working Washington families. House Bill 2946 would also implement voter-mandated $30 car tabs without disrupting any road construction projects. It would also eliminate the sales tax on prepared food items sold at grocery stores and on personal necessities like feminine hygiene products and diapers.
However, I feel strongly that the bulk of any possible tax relief should go toward lowering property taxes. The working families of Washington deserve a break, but as our most recent property tax statements indicate, there's no break in sight.
Furthermore, the majority party's proposed budget calls for spending nearly every dollar of the $2.4 billion surplus. The problem is if the state experiences even a slight downturn in revenue, the majority party could call for another tax increase as early as next year.
On the plus side, I was happy to see that some of the majority's plan included putting money toward helping some of the individuals and families that need it the most: people experiencing homelessness, and those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.
I firmly believe that these are some of the greatest challenges we face in Washington and we need to come up with real solutions. We can't keep trying to put band aids on these issues and hope they will get better. So, if it were up to me, the bulk of any tax break would go toward lowering property taxes and providing real long-term solutions to the people who need the most help.
Town Hall – Save the Date
I also want to let you now that I'm planning to join my fellow legislators from the 17th District for a town hall meeting in April. Sen. Linda Wilson, Rep. Vicki Kraft, and I are looking forward to meeting with you and hearing your ideas, questions, and concerns, so please save the date.
17th District Town Hall Meeting
Saturday, April 11, 2020
10:30 a.m. – 12 noon
Washington State University Vancouver
Dengerink Building Lecture Hall 110
14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Ave., Vancouver
Don't Miss a Thing Going on at the Capitol
Here are some excellent resources if you want to stay up to date with everything going on in Olympia:
- RepresentativePaulHarris.com – you can visit my website to keep up with me, including my email updates, news releases, and the bills I have sponsored.
- www.leg.wa.gov – you can also track legislation, get bill reports, view committee agendas, and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature.
- The Washington State Ledger – this daily informative and comprehensive news aggregator is the House Republican Caucus's latest tool to keep you in tune with everything going on in Olympia and throughout the entire state.
- Capitol Buzz – this daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- TVW.org – tune into TVW, Washington's own version of C-SPAN. You can catch floor and committee action live.
Please Keep in Touch
Even though the 2020 session is nearly over, I hope you'll continue to reach out to me to share your input. I can't serve you in Olympia without hearing your voice. You can contact me by calling my office at (360) 786-7976 or via email at Paul.Harris@leg.wa.gov. And please get ahold of my legislative assistant, Toni Camp, to set up an appointment with me, or schedule your appointment directly by clicking here. I look forward to meeting with you. It's an honor serving you in Olympia!