Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2021 legislative session is under way. Legislators convened at the Capitol last Monday to pass temporary rules that allow us to meet remotely for the next several months. While a virtual session is far from ideal, I am making every effort to be as accessible to you as possible. I encourage you to reach out to me any time so we can work together on the issues most important to you and your family. My email address is Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov, and my phone number is (360) 786-7902. I look forward to hearing from you!
Working to safely reopen our state and rebuild our economy
Our top priority as House Republicans this session is advancing solutions to safely get Washingtonians back to work, school, and a more normal life.
Earlier this week, I sponsored House Bill 1321, which would immediately move the entire state to Phase 2 of the governor's “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” plan. HB 1321 is the companion to Senate Bill 5114, which was heard Wednesday in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee. A record number of people signed in to the hearing to offer their support for the bill.
Washington's small business owners have done everything that has been asked of them, and somehow still find themselves in Phase 1 ten months later. Fitness centers and indoor entertainment venues are operating at extremely limited capacity, and restaurants are prohibited from offering indoor dining to patrons.
Meanwhile, casinos and restaurants on tribal lands have remained open, implementing their own safety measures. They have seen no major outbreaks, and have proven they can operate safely during the pandemic. Washington's small business owners have proven the same, so we need to give them a fighting chance. Moving immediately to Phase 2 would mean fitness centers, indoor entertainment venues, and restaurants could return to 25% indoor capacity. While that would certainly help, it's not the only relief I'm proposing for small businesses.
- House Bill 1012 would provide a $5,000 B&O tax credit.
- House Bill 1188 would defer B&O tax payments to later this year.
- House Bill 1021 would prohibit increases to unemployment insurance rates.
- House Bill 1011 would delay the payment date for businesses with liquor licenses.
Another major bill that would provide relief is House Bill 1334, the REAL Recovery for Washington Act. Sponsored by Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, the $4 billion plan would utilize the state's rainy-day fund and federal assistance dollars to provide immediate financial support to struggling families and businesses, and accelerate the safe reopening of schools. You can learn more about the bill here.
If you have any ideas for legislation to safely reopen our economy, please don't hesitate to send me an email.
We need to fix mismanagement at all levels of state government
A few hours ago, news broke that state Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine will be leaving her post at the end of the month to take a job in the Biden administration.
Last year, LeVine oversaw the payment of $600 million in unemployment benefits to an international fraud ring. That catastrophic failure affected many of you and your loved ones. When State Auditor Pat McCarthy attempted to discover what went wrong, LeVine hindered her investigation.
To this day, problems persist at ESD. LeVine has apparently chosen to leave them for someone else to clean up. Meanwhile, the governor issued a statement today praising her leadership, saying she “led the Employment Security Department through an extremely challenging time.”
That's certainly one way to put it.
While LeVine is on her way out, another problem continues to negatively impact Washingtonians. Our state has fallen to 37th in the nation in terms of COVID vaccine doses administered. Whether you choose to get vaccinated or not is up to you, but we must do a better job of getting the vaccine to those who want it.
I believe ESD's failures and the state's slow vaccine rollout could have been prevented if we had smarter oversight, increased transparency, and stronger accountability measures in place. The majority has a responsibility to work with us to advance reforms to improve outcomes for all Washingtonians. That's what we'll be pushing for this session.
House Democrats propose massive gas tax increase to fund transportation projects
In my December email update, I discussed a bill I've introduced (HB 1010) that would phase in a shift of the state sales tax on motor vehicles to pay for cash-based preservation and maintenance projects. I believe this would be a better way to add revenue to the transportation budget than imposing new taxes. A number of my House Republican colleagues have also offered fiscally responsible solutions to fund transportation without raising taxes.
Well, it seems the majority has other ideas. They're looking to massively increase the state's gas tax and other fees to fund a $27 billion transportation package. If approved by the Legislature and signed into law, the proposal could cost Washingtonians more than $1 per gallon in taxes and fees paid at the pump. This includes a proposed 18-cents per gallon state gas tax increase over the next two years, which means we'd have the highest gas tax in the nation.
Unfortunately, this is just more of the same from the governor and majority Democrats. The plan is always to tax-and-spend, even in the middle of a pandemic when families are struggling to make ends meet. Washingtonians do not want, and cannot afford, new and higher taxes. The majority should recognize this fact and look at other options.
Staying involved this session
I encourage you to stay engaged in the legislative process this session by following House Republicans on Twitter and Facebook, visiting The Ledger, and utilizing the resources listed in this document. Finally, please bookmark my legislative website, where you can find my latest press releases, video updates, interviews, and more.
It is an honor to serve you. Until next time, stay safe and take care.