Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As you have most likely heard we will be having a special session this year. Sine Die, the official end of session, was April 28 and the special session will start on May 13. Until then, I am happy to be back in the 35th District with friends and family. While I am home I will be holding a town hall. The event will take place on May 7, at 6:30 p.m. at Oakland Bay Junior high in Shelton. I hope that you will come and participate. This is a great chance for me to hear from you about what is important to you.
The special session
This year the special session was called because the Legislature was not able to complete its work in 105 days. I am disappointed that this special session was necessary and I believe we could have done better. The budget should have been the focus for weeks prior to when negotiations first began.
The majority refused to find consensus or even consider passing a budget without raising taxes. This was not a fight that we could afford to let the Democrats win – even if it requires a special session.
House Democrats ignored repeated opposition to increasing taxes on small service business by $905 million. This element of their budget narrowly passed with a 50 to 47 vote as five Democrats sided with Republicans. When this part of their budget went to the Senate all negotiations stopped. However, I agree with my colleagues in the Senate who are unwilling to further tax our hardworking citizens.
Democrats claimed this money was required to fund the education legacy trust account. The tax would impact many self-employed people, small businesses and service businesses that are already struggling. Republicans and Democrats continue to disagree on the necessity of taxes to fund the budget. Like the rest of my party, I believe new taxes on struggling families are unacceptable. We can create a budget that funds a world-class education without new taxes.
In my most recent video update I talk about the need for the special session, please click on the image above to view it.
My Bill to prevent future special sessions
In order to help ensure that we don't have more costly special sessions in the future, I have introduced House Bill 2062. This bill will direct the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council to submit its first projections on tax collections earlier. Currently, during long sessions like this year, March 20 is the deadline for the first projections. My bill would move the date to February 20. As lawmakers, we rely on that forecast to develop the budget.
We should be doing everything we can to help the Legislature complete its work on time. Every day of the special session costs roughly $18,000 and that is an unnecessary expense. In these difficult economic times we must act instead of wait. It's the old adage 'time is money', and now it's the taxpayer's money. With the forecast released sooner, budget writers will have more time to craft a strong bipartisan budget without another costly special session.
Christmas tree bill
I am proud to tell you that House Bill 1209, which I sponsored, was signed into law April 25. The law extends a program that licenses state tree growers and protects their harvest. Without this program, if the state Christmas tree crop were to become infested, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) could quarantine an entire season of growth. The current law would have ended the program in 2014 and now it will go through 2020.
Statewide, the forest industry provides more than 100,000 jobs. It is clear this industry is vital to our economy and jobs. The forest industry is critical to our district and employs more than 3,000 people in Mason County alone. I am happy to have helped save our Christmas tree crop should an infestation ever become a problem.
Although the session is temporarily over, if there is any element of state government that I can help you with, my door is always open. Remember that I am your legislator year-round and I am here to be a resource for you. If you have any questions or comments, please call me at (360) 786-7902, or e-mail me at Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your voice in Olympia.