Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Tuesday, I took part in a House Republican press conference to unveil our 2021-23 operating budget proposal. Contrary to the governor's proposal, which would unnecessarily grow government and raise taxes, the House Republican plan would fund our state's needs and priorities while cutting taxes.
We would fund the working families tax credit for the first time in its 12-year history, provide sales tax exemptions for basic necessities, help low-income families defray the cost of remote learning, safely reopen our schools, take bold steps to actually solve the homelessness crisis, make critical investments in behavioral health, provide B&O tax relief for our small businesses, and more.
At the same time, we would reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, fix inefficiencies in government, eliminate programs that aren't working (yes, they exist), and replace bad policies with better ones.
It's a budget that aligns perfectly with our priorities as a caucus to safely reopen schools and businesses, oppose new taxes and fees, hold the governor and state agencies accountable, and protect our communities.
House passes two COVID relief bills; two of my bills advance out of committee
Since my last update, the House has passed two COVID relief bills.
Senate Bill 5061, which was signed into law by the governor earlier this month, will limit the massive unemployment insurance tax increases businesses are facing. That's a very good thing, but we had an opportunity to do even more to support our job creators through three amendments House Republicans proposed:
- Amendment 20, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Vick, would have suspended all unemployment insurance tax increases until the governor's termination of the current state of emergency.
- Amendment 21, sponsored by Rep. Larry Hoff, would have allowed business owners to defer unemployment insurance tax payments for two quarters.
- Amendment 22, which I sponsored, would have authorized a one-time $500 million transfer from the state's rainy-day fund to the unemployment trust fund, which has been depleted as a result of the pandemic and last year's $600 million theft by foreign fraudsters. It simply does not make sense that our small business owners should be on the hook to replenish that fund.
While all three amendments were rejected, I still voted in favor of the bill because it will help more of our businesses stay afloat as the pandemic continues.
Unfortunately, I could not support the other COVID relief bill that came to the House floor. While Rep. Drew Stokesbary's REAL Recovery for Washington Act would have provided $4 billion in relief, the majority's House Bill 1368 is set to provide roughly half that amount. You can review a comparison of the proposals here.
Frustratingly, nearly all House Republican amendments to the bill were rejected. These amendments would have taken bold steps to safely reopen schools, assist students who have fallen behind, provide rental and utility assistance, ease financial burdens on working families, help child care providers, and support small businesses.
If we truly want to rebuild our economy and reopen our state, we're going to have to reject half measures in favor of bold action and a willingness to utilize every resource at our disposal. We're also going to have to ensure our small businesses can keep their doors open. I've sponsored a number of bills to help in that effort, two of which were recently approved by the House Commerce and Gaming Committee.
House Bill 1011 would extend the expiration date of certain liquor licenses. Renewal fees for these licenses, which can range into the thousands of dollars, would not be due until May 31, 2022.
House Bill 1480 would extend through July 1, 2023 a number of curbside, takeout and delivery privileges granted to liquor licensees as a way to mitigate the impact of the ongoing pandemic.
The governor's shutdown orders have created tremendous financial hardship for thousands of leisure and hospitality businesses across our state. While I'm glad every region is now finally in Phase 2, bills like HB 1011 and HB 1480 are needed to provide longer-term support and flexibility for licensees struggling with cash flow. I'm hoping we can get both bills to the governor's desk in the next couple of weeks.
Please continue contacting me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov, and my phone number is (360) 786-7902.