Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2022 legislative session came to a close last Thursday. As with every session, good and bad bills advanced to the governor's desk, but the biggest story of all may have been what the Legislature didn't do.
Despite having a $15 billion budget surplus to work with, the majority opted against providing any tax relief for you and your family. House Republicans pushed hard for a permanent half-point sales tax cut to be funded in the $65 billion operating budget we passed, but our efforts were rebuffed. At the end of the day, the majority didn't even end up passing their own bill to provide a three-day sales tax holiday in September to help families with back-to-school costs. They simply ended up spending nearly all of the $15 billion surplus.
It is hard to imagine a bigger missed opportunity at a time when Washingtonians are dealing with skyrocketing inflation (now at a 40-year high), the highest gas prices we've seen since 2008, and ongoing supply chain challenges. We had more than enough money in state coffers to fund our shared priorities and provide meaningful tax relief. That just wasn't a priority for Democrats this session.
As I shared in my last update, I don't believe the budget we passed puts us in a good position to weather a serious economic downturn in the future. Spending $65 billion in state funds while only leaving a four-year ending fund balance of $348 million is a mistake that I can only hope doesn't come back to haunt us down the road.
No emergency powers reform yet again this session
One of the other major disappointments of the session was the Legislature's failure to pass emergency powers reform. It has now been 748 days since Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID pandemic.
Republicans in the Legislature have always said the executive branch needs to have the ability to respond quickly to pandemics, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies. At the same time, we have argued no person in state government should have indefinite unilateral authority to change lives and livelihoods on a whim. That is why for the past two sessions, we have pushed so hard to implement emergency powers reform. We believe it is critical to ensure the Legislature has a role to play in all future states of emergency.
Before session even began, we introduced an emergency powers reform bill that would have restored the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. While that bill received a public hearing, it was ultimately killed by House Democrats. Over in the Senate, Democrats advanced their own emergency powers bill (SB 5909) that editorial boards around the state called 'ineffective,' 'weak,' and 'milquetoast.' It simply wasn't true reform.
When that bill came to the House floor for a vote, House Republicans introduced an amendment in an attempt to make it stronger. After several of our members spoke in favor of the amendment, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins abruptly stopped debate on the bill and never brought it back up for a vote.
When asked why she made that decision, Jinkins said we talked too much.
I was asked about that during a Republican media availability on March 7. Here was my response:
Seeing as we had the time to pass a bill making pickleball the state's official sport, it was somewhat surprising to hear Jinkins blame us for talking too much on an issue of actual importance.
In any case, tomorrow will be day 749 of the governor's one-man rule.
Some wins for the 35th District in the 2022 supplemental capital and transportation budgets
In terms of good news, the $1.5 billion 2022 supplemental capital budget approved by the Legislature this session is set to build on the 2021-23 capital budget and make further investments in housing, infrastructure, mental health facilities, broadband, and school seismic safety.
In addition to the more than $25 million in local project funding Rep. Griffey and I secured in the 2021-23 capital budget, we were able to secure another $5.3 million in this year's budget.
Some of the investments for our district include:
- $3.25 million to upgrade the headworks at the Shelton Water Reclamation Plant (WRP), which provide screening for the removal of debris and grit to protect pumps and membranes used in downstream treatment processes. Completion of this project will eventually allow the City of Shelton to end discharges into Oakland Bay, decrease negative impacts to our local shellfish industry, and improve overall water quality in the area.
- $1.28 million for the design and construction of modular buildings and the creation of office space and confidential mental health screening booths for incarcerated individuals at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) in Shelton.
- $550,000 for Rustlewood Water System upgrades, which will provide much-needed water system reliability improvements and help reduce downstream risk of potential damage to lower elevation properties.
- $400,000 for improvements to water systems being operated by the Port of Allyn.
- $300,000 toward the new Allyn Community Center.
- $250,000 to upgrade the HVAC system at the Turning Pointe Survivor Advocacy Center in Shelton.
- $206,000 to provide secure parking for the Shelton Police Department and Municipal Court in order to improve overall safety for officers and employees.
The capital budget was approved 49-0 in the Senate and 98-0 in the House. It is currently on the governor's desk awaiting his signature.
The 2022 supplemental transportation budget approved by the Legislature this session will provide $11.6 billion for the 2021-23 transportation budget. Funds in the budget are allocated for the maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Washington State Ferry system, the Washington State Patrol, and other state transportation agencies.
In both budgets, Rep. Griffey and I were able to retain funding for all existing Connecting Washington transportation projects in the 35th. We also worked to ensure several items, including those listed below, were incorporated into the budget. For a complete list of projects, click here.
- $12 million for the Highway 3 Freight Corridor, also known as the Belfair Bypass.
- $2.6 million for US 101/Lynch Road intersection improvements.
- $2.54 million in funding for Mason Transit Park and Ride development.
- $2.3 million in additional funding for the future Silverdale Transit Center.
- $650,000 for Wallace Kneeland Boulevard and Shelton Springs Road intersection improvements.
In addition, we both voted in favor of Senate Bill 5488, which will allocate more state funding for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge account. With this new infusion of funding, the Washington State Transportation Commission is expected to be able to reduce tolls on the bridge.
The 2022 supplemental transportation budget was approved 45-4 in the Senate and 93-5 in the House. It, too, is on the governor's desk awaiting his signature.
Although this year's legislative session is now over, please know I am here to serve you year-round. I encourage you to contact me anytime with your comments, questions, and concerns. My email address is Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov, and my phone number is (360) 786-7902.
It is an honor to serve you.