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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The historic 2021 legislative session is over. This is my sixth term as a state representative, and I don't think I've ever left a session feeling as concerned as I do now. As you know this session was done virtually, which was difficult to navigate, but by-in-large, our remote session did go well technically speaking. However, the majority passed some sweeping legislation that is sure to negatively affect our state for years to come.

New Policies

I always try to take a positive approach in the legislative process, and I recognize that I represent everyone in the 17th District from both sides of the aisle. However, despite our best efforts, the majority party pushed through some bills that simply are not in the best interest of all Washingtonians. Thanks to these new policies, you will see your taxes increase, you will pay more at the pump, and you will see the cost of goods increase.

Unsustainable $59 Billion Budget – it all starts with the two-year operating budget. House and Senate Democrat didn't release their final budget until day 104 of the 105-day session. We barely had enough time to see what was in the bill before we had to vote on it. Additionally, neither the public nor the media were able to understand what was in this massive spending package, which represents a 13.6% increase over the 2019-21 budget.

There's no question the budget does some good things, but unfortunately, it comes at too high of a cost and it's simply not unsustainable. Furthermore, the budget relies on a new income on capital gains which has already been rejected nearly a dozen times before by Washington voters. See history below:

Unnecessary Taxes – Despite Republican (and some Democratic) opposition, the majority party did vote for a new income tax on capital gains (Senate Bill 5096). Not only is this tax unnecessary, but it's also unreliable, unpopular, and most likely unconstitutional. In fact, it is already being challenged in the courts.

Although state government is experiencing record revenue, many people in Washington are still struggling from the governor's restrictions. Now is not the time for additional taxes. This is a bad policy and our operating budget is counting on this revenue for important things like early education and child care. If revenue from this tax doesn't pan out, the funding for these important programs will be lost. And many people believe the true goal behind this bill is to implement a statewide income tax.

Unfunded Climate Mandates – Both the House and Senate passed the governor's “Low-Carbon Fuel Standard” (LCFS) bill, House Bill 1091, and a cap and trade tax, Senate Bill 5126, which means the cost of fuel will be going up significantly. The LCFS will hurt people in rural areas the most. It will have almost no impact on our environment, but it will negatively impact families and businesses greatly. This is a regressive tax and it will hurt hard-working families, especially those with lower incomes.

Additionally, even though voters have already rejected carbon-pricing policies several times before, this bill also passed. Just like the LCFS, this scheme will hurt the entire state while doing almost nothing for the environment. And because the cost of fuel is going to increase by as much as 65 cents a gallon, the cost of goods is going to go up because businesses will have to pass those costs onto consumers.

Unchecked Emergency Powers – We also leave this session in the same position we were in at the end of last session: a state of emergency. While the COVID numbers in recent days have ticked upward, we are still in better shape than we were a few months ago. However, the biggest problem is that the governor has eliminated the voice of the people by excluding the Legislature from the decision-making process.

Republicans have been fighting for emergency power reform since day one of the 2021 session. Even a few lawmakers across the aisle have expressed concern over the governor's unchecked emergency power during this pandemic. However, despite numerous attempts to give the Legislature a greater voice during emergency situations, all those efforts were rebuffed. As session ends, we are still under a state of emergency and the governor is still acting alone with no input from the Legislature. Our state government was not set up to be run by one person with executive power.

Unbalanced Police Reform – Another major issue this session was police reform. I fully support our law enforcement officers and the important work they do. I recognize there is need for improvement in many areas. However, the legislation passed this session is not balanced, and many of these bills will make it much more difficult for law enforcement to respond to emergency situations.

Despite united Republican opposition, both chambers passed House Bills 1310, 1054, and 1267, and Senate Bill 5051, all of which will make it much harder for our peace officers to do their job, meaning our communities and citizens will be at greater risk.

Session Successes

Every year, the Legislature passes a capital budget, which is typically a very bipartisan effort. This budget allocates funds for land acquisitions, parks, construction and repair of public buildings, and other long-term investments. I'm happy to report the $6.3 billion House capital budget passed with unanimous support. Some of highlights include funding for low-income housing, schools, mental health expansion efforts, and state park improvements.

Additionally, $59.6 million in local projects for the 17th District were included in the House capital budget, with $52.6 million of that going toward the new WSU Vancouver Life Sciences Building. For a list of our local projects, click on this link and select the 17th Legislative District in the drop down window and then hit the “view report” button.

Personally, I worked on getting funding for two specific projects. Nearly $2 million has been set aside for the restoration of the West Biddle Lake Dam in Vancouver and another $2.05 million for Family Solutions, a mental wellness and behavioral health services clinic in Vancouver. This money will help both projects move forward and benefit the community.

Virtual Town Hall

I will be joining my fellow 17 District lawmakers, Sen. Lynda Wilson and Rep. Vicki Kraft for a virtual town hall meeting, Thursday, May 13, from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. This 90-minute event will be a great opportunity to review the 2021 legislative session. It's also the perfect time for you to share your ideas and concerns and get your questions answered.

We represent you in the legislative process and love hearing from our constituents. Your input is extremely valuable as we work to improve the lives of all those in Washington.

So, please join us on Thursday, May 13 and share what's on your mind. You can register for the event by clicking here.

Please Continue to Reach Out

Now that session has ended and we enter the interim, I look forward to being able to meet with you in-person again around the 17th District. I'm always here to listen, and I truly do want to hear from you. Please use the contact info below to reach out to me or schedule an appointment by clicking here.

It's truly an honor to represent you and be your voice in the Legislature. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. My goal is to represent everyone in the 17th District the best I possibly can.

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
(564) 888-2393 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000