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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this email update finds you safe and well. I know we are still living in tough times and facing difficult problems. I also want you to know that I am working hard to implement real solutions that will bring the most relief to everyone in Washington. Thank you for your continued support and please continue reaching out to me. I enjoy speaking with you and hearing your input on the things that matter to you the most. I look forward to meeting with you again in-person as soon as we can safely do so.

Session Update: Budget and Taxes

There has been a lot going on in the Legislature, and we recently hit our policy cut-off point, which means Monday night was the deadline for bills to pass out of committee in their house of origin, except for fiscal committees. That means, starting next week, the full House will begin voting on numerous bills.

The debate on budget and taxes is also about to hit full steam. Now is the worst time to be hitting Washingtonians with more taxes. I know that so many of you are still trying to recover from the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns. You need fewer taxes, not more.

The truth is the government has enough money to fund essential state services and programs without raising taxes. We can create an operating budget that provides real relief from the COVID-19 shutdowns that doesn't require any new taxes. House Republicans unveiled our operating budget proposal on Tuesday, which is designed to help those who need it the most, including:

Working Families

  • Funds the Working Families Tax Credit for the first time in its 12-year history ($600M)
  • Sales tax exemption for basic necessities, like prepared food and diapers ($293M)
  • $300 stipends to low-income families to defray cost of remote learning ($160M)
  • Grants and higher rates for child care providers; copay assistance for families ($114M)

Students

  • Increased federal allocations to school districts, contingent on reopening ($156M)
  • Equitable enrichment funding for charter and tribal schools ($44M)
  • Learning “catch up,” prioritized for historically disadvantaged populations ($500M)
  • Additional STEM enrollment slots at state universities and community colleges ($30M)

Vulnerable People

  • Flexible, ongoing homelessness funding for cities and counties that clean up encampments near schools, parks and playgrounds and ban injection sites ($736M)
  • Investments in community behavioral health, triple the Governor's proposal ($225M)
  • Rate increases for providers of developmental disability/long-term care (DD/LTC), behavioral health, and primary care ($430M)

Small Businesses

  • Replenishes unemployment insurance (UI) fund to replace fraud losses and mitigate skyrocketing UI taxes ($500M)
  • Temporary B&O tax relief for restaurants and other hard-hit businesses ($94M)
  • Authorizes B&O, property tax and liquor fee deferrals for small businesses
  • Boosts funding for the state's tourism marketing campaign ($12M)

All of Washington

  • No new taxes on anyone or anything
  • Additional funds for foundational public health without taxing health insurance ($300M)
  • Funds DNR's forest health management plan, reducing wildfires and pollution ($260M)
  • Maximizes production at state and tribal hatcheries to support fish populations ($12M)


Again, the House Republican budget doesn't include any new taxes; it even reduces them by $445 million. It includes roughly $608 million in fund transfers and other revenue assumptions. It also appropriates $1.8 billion from the state's rainy-day fund to pay for a series of one-time, COVID-related expenses. This is a “rainy day” and it's exactly the kind of problem this money is intended for. We can fix the problems our state faces if we apply these real solutions that will help all of Washington.

Update on Legislation

My focus coming into this session was to find solutions to help people recover from the effects of the pandemic. I am happy to report that House Bill 1063 was passed by the House of Representatives, recently. This legislation would authorize the Secretary of Health to grant a waiver for additional credential renewals due to barriers created from governor-declared emergencies. It would also give more time to individuals looking to complete their licensure hours during times of a pandemic or state emergency. Simply put, it would provide real assistance to behavioral health care workers, so they can qualify to help others who need this important health care. The bill now awaits a hearing in the Senate.

Thank You

I know these are hard times and people are still looking for answers. I also know that you don't want politics to get in the way of real progress, including additional financial relief. That's why I'm working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to come up with the best solutions. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me as this session moves forward. I'm honored to represent you in the 17th District and truly want to be your voice in the Legislature. My door is always open so please continue to contact me via phone or email. You can also set up a personal meeting with me via Zoom, by clicking here.

It's an honor to serve you,

Sincerely,


Paul Harris

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