Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to begin this email update by thanking those who have been and continue to be on the front lines of this ongoing public health and economic crisis. Our first responders, doctors, nurses, farmers, truckers, grocery store workers, and so many others have been heroic. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
I also want to acknowledge those who have been afflicted by the coronavirus, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians who are currently facing the challenges of unemployment due to the ongoing economic shutdown. According to The Seattle Times, “the total number of workers in the state who have filed for unemployment insurance since the start of the coronavirus crisis could top 800,000, which would be nearly three times the peak during the Great Recession.” That's enough people to fill CenturyLink Field 11 times over.
Our state has now been under Gov. Jay Inslee's “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order for more than six weeks. Earlier this week, the governor announced he would be extending his order to May 31 and possibly beyond. He also announced a long-overdue plan to reopen our state in four phases.
However, his plan simply does not make sense for many counties in Washington. That's why I recently signed on to a letter advocating for a different plan focused on decentralization and recovery.
From the letter:
“Each of the 39 counties in Washington are represented by elected officials and supported by staff capable of waging the tactical fight against the virus and its impact on their communities. They have an in-depth, detailed understanding of the resources and response methods that will best suit their county. They also have the ability to be more directly receptive to citizens' needs on a local level and are in a better position to determine which restrictions to impose or modify, which to remove, and the proper timeframe in which to do so. Empowering county-level leaders will have a number of positive effects. It will encourage creative solutions and the development and sharing of good ideas and best-practices, allow our economy to recover faster while still maintaining safety protocols, and it will enable you and your staff to focus on the larger strategy such as acquiring and appropriately allocating state resources and conducting interstate collaboration.“
Much has been said about the need to balance public health with economic growth, and I agree that should be the goal. But the governor has done very little to prioritize economic growth. With our state having already flattened the coronavirus curve, it's time to safely start getting people back to work. Don't get me wrong. It is absolutely critical we do everything we can to avoid a recurrence of this virus. However, I do not believe that involves keeping people shut in at home. Instead, the governor should trust Washingtonians to continue social distancing while allowing them to provide for their families in safe workplaces that follow recommended health and safety guidelines.
I also believe the governor should begin allowing people of faith to gather in their preferred place of worship. Unfortunately, that option appears to be weeks away according to his four-phase timeline.
The bottom line is people need hope and the opportunity to reclaim some sense of normalcy in their lives, especially when it comes to their finances. I continue to believe the governor took appropriate action at the onset of this pandemic, but his lack of urgency about remedying the economic destruction we're seeing will have ramifications for years to come. He can and should be doing better for the people of Washington state.
Special session likely later this year
On April 17, Republicans in the state House and Senate released a comprehensive plan that would enable the safe restart of Washington's economy and promote its continued recovery over the long term.
The plan includes three sets of actions:
- Immediate action to be taken right now
- Legislative action to be taken in a special session
- Actions to be taken within 6-12 months of all businesses being able to reopen
Regarding the second bullet point, it appears likely we will be called into a special session at some point in the next few months. If that happens, our job will be finding a way to fill the $7 billion hole our state budget now faces as a result of our economy being shut down. Of course, we never should have been in this position to begin with. For years, House and Senate Republicans urged the majority party to avoid spending every dime taxpayers provided us.
Here's what I said on the House floor in March 2019:
“I hope we still have some good economic growth ahead of us and that in future budgets, including next year's supplemental, we can increase that ending fund balance so that we can weather this storm that is coming. It's the natural economic cycle, you have booms and you have busts, and no president, no governor can stop that. Those things are going to happen, and we need to be able to put ourselves in a position where we can we can weather those storms.”
As we go forward, as we go to conference with the other body, let's see what we can do to put ourselves in a better financial shape. But for these reasons tonight, I am voting no. And it is my word of caution, as it was a year ago, we have to be ready for what's coming that we cannot control.”
Earlier this year, the majority party passed yet another budget that spent almost all of our revenue. The governor would have signed it as passed, but once the coronavirus hit, he had no choice but to veto $445 million in spending.
Too little, too late.
We're now in a position where the majority party is going to have to cut programs or raise taxes. As House Republicans, we're not going to let you and your family bear the brunt of their fiscal irresponsibility. Should they propose new or higher taxes, we're going to fight using every tool at our disposal.
Contacting me and election-year restrictions
I am so proud to represent all of you. Your resiliency throughout this crisis has been incredible. Please continue to stay safe, stay strong, and take care of one another.
NOTE: Due to election-year restrictions that begin on Monday, May 11, this will be my last email update to you until after the November election results are certified. The exception is if we go into a special session. However, I am able to respond year-round to constituents who contact me, so please keep your emails, calls and letters coming. My email address is Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov, and my district office number is (360) 462-0514.
It is an honor to serve you.