Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Monday, Feb. 26, I'll be hosting a live telephone town hall from 6-7 p.m. During the call, I'll provide a very brief update on the session and then spend the rest of the hour answering your questions. To participate, please call (360) 623-7335 and press the STAR (*) key on your telephone.
We'll be covering a wide range of topics, including the two tax increase proposals the governor and the majority party are pushing this session. One of them is an energy tax, which would initially impose a tax in 2019 of $12 per metric ton of carbon emissions. The tax would increase each year after that.
The other is a capital gains income tax the majority party says would only ever hit the rich. It's the same argument that was made in 2010 when the I-1098 income tax was on the ballot. Voters didn't buy it, and the reason they didn't buy it is because they know once a tax is on the books, it doesn't come off. And once lawmakers decide a tax isn't adding enough money to state coffers, there's nothing stopping them from passing another bill to expand its parameters to more people. That's why I-1098 went down in flames by 28 points, losing in all but one county.
Proponents of the capital gains income tax say revenue is needed to address this year's property tax spike as a result of the McCleary bill we passed last year. The fact is we could provide property tax relief with the excess revenue we already have. The last thing we need is a new tax that will make our state less competitive and pave the way for a state income tax.
The push for new taxes by the governor and the majority party is almost comical. Every year, they claim we need billions more in revenue, but seemingly no amount of revenue is ever enough to satisfy their desire to increase spending — even at a time when the latest revenue forecast from state economists revealed the state will likely bring in $1.3 billion more in additional tax revenue over the next four years than previously expected.
In the 2011-13 biennium, we passed a $30.9 billion budget. The budget we pass for the 2019-21 biennium will be close to $50 billion. We don't have a revenue problem. We're simply addicted to spending more and more of your hard-earned money every year.
Cutoff calendar and our work in the Appropriations committee
Last Wednesday, the Legislature passed its first major deadline of this 60-day session — House of Origin cutoff. All House bills that did not pass off the House floor are now considered “dead” for the year, unless deemed necessary to implement the budget. The same applies for Senate bills.
We will be hearing dozens of Senate bills in the House Appropriations Committee before fiscal cutoff on the 26th, but our first order of business this week was holding an executive session on the majority party's supplemental operating budget proposal. We debated the particulars of the budget long into the night before it was ultimately voted out of committee in a party-line vote, mostly because of the capital gains income tax proposal.
I have several other issues with the budget, most of which relate to what we're not focusing on. I'm disappointed we aren't fully funding a cost of living increase for our PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees. I also don't think it's wise to ignore the $13.8 billion we have on the books in unfunded pension liability. We have the revenue to pay some of that down due to our strong economy. Kicking the can down the road even further doesn't make fiscal sense.
Navy Appreciation Day at the Capitol
As a Navy veteran, it's a privilege to celebrate Navy Appreciation Day at the Capitol every year. On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to deliver remarks on the House floor in support of House Resolution 4678. You can watch the video of my remarks by clicking on the image below.
Please feel free to contact me any time with comments, questions or concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is (360) 786-7902.
It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.