Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2021 legislative session is entering its final weeks. We are currently busy in both the House and Senate considering bills from the opposite chamber in our various committees. In just over a week, we'll return to full-time floor action and begin voting on dozens of bills.
There are still several major issues that need to be addressed, including the following:
- The two-year operating budget.
- The income tax on capital gains.
- Transportation and capital budgets.
- The low-carbon fuel standard/carbon tax/gas tax.
- How to respond to state Supreme Court ruling on felony drug possession.
The votes we take over the final three weeks of session will have a significant impact on our state now and for years to come. I will keep you posted as we move forward on all the important legislation that passes.
Focus on the Positive
Now I want to share some of the good news happening in our state. For starters, our latest revenue forecast was released last week, and the news was very encouraging. About nine months ago, Washington was looking at a revenue deficit of about $9 billion.
The outlook was bleak. However, tax collections have far surpassed expectations and according to our most recent forecast, state revenue is projected to be essentially at pre-pandemic levels. State tax revenue for 2021-23 is projected to be $56.6 billion, which represents an increase of 8.2% over the current biennium.
When compared with the November 2020 forecast, the latest state revenue forecast adopted by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council last week, Near General Fund-Outlook revenue increased by $1.34 billion for 2019-21 and by $1.95 billion for 2021-23.
That's good news for several reasons:
- Our state operating budget is no longer facing a crisis.
- State government has the necessary funds to continue running vital state programs.
- There is no need for new taxes, including the capital gains income tax that passed out of the Senate this session and is currently being consider in the House.
We haven't even mentioned the billions of dollars our state is expected to receive from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Washington will receive $7.1 billion for state ($4.25 billion + $189 million for state capital projects) and local governments ($2.66 billion) as well as an additional $635 million for child care, almost $1.9 billion for K-12 schools, and $655 million for higher education.
Our government is receiving an influx of money like we never have before, which means there is no justification for raising taxes or creating new ones.
On the other hand, while state government is not hurting financially, we know that many families and small businesses still are. Our focus in the House Republican Caucus is to provide real solutions to those who need it the most. That's why our budget proposal actually reduced taxes.
As we wait for the majority party to release their operating budget for the next two years, we are hopeful they exercise caution and restraint in how they spend this influx of money. As the COVID pandemic has proven, you never know when the next crisis will hit or the effects it will have.
Phase 3 Reopening
The other goods news is the state has finally moved to Phase 3 of the recovery and reopening process. While the governor initially dismissed the Republican Open Safe, Open Now plan, his Phase 3 plan ended up being very similar to our plan.
While the virus is still a threat and people are still getting sick, the number of cases has diminished greatly in recent weeks. Of course, the goal is zero, but we are moving in the right direction.
Vaccination rates are also up. After an initial shortage from the Washington Department of Health, things have improved in Clark County. Schools have opened their doors to more students and finally, after months of uncertainty, our senior care facilities have opened to visitors.
This was welcome news to so many people throughout our state, including myself. My wife and I can now visit my 83-year-old mother-in-law, who suffers from dementia and resides in a senior care facility in Vancouver. Despite all three of us being fully vaccinated, we were not able to do this, until last week.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently announced that schools could adjust their social distancing guidelines to 3-feet. If our state adopts these guidelines, more students can return to the classroom.
The CDC also indicated that Americans could gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing. The agency also said vaccinated people can be with people considered at low risk for severe disease, such as vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.
We are headed in the right direction and hopefully our governor will continue to move things forward and be transparent in his decisions, as we look toward Phase 4 and completely reopening.
Thank You for Attending Our Virtual Town Hall Meeting
The meeting went well and was very productive. Thank you for your ideas and questions. I hope to be able to meet with you in-person very soon to continue listening to your input and concerns.
Please Continue to Testify
It's so important to make your voice heard. You can still share your input this week and next during public committee hearings with your state lawmakers. You can testify on any legislation that is still alive this session, from anywhere you have internet access. Click here to see a video explaining how to remotely testify on a bill, and use these links to sign up to testify and share your input:
Thank You and Please Continue Reaching Out
Thank you so much for allowing me to serve you in the Legislature. I'm honored to be your voice. Please continue reaching out to me. I look forward to your input and feedback. I value your opinion and I'm here to listen and to represent you in the 17th District. You can connect with me via email, phone, or Zoom. Just click here to make an appointment. Thank you for allowing me to serve you, and for your continued support.