Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week, the governor started his third term with a videotaped speech that referred to the “new normal” we now live in because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the state continues to grapple with its response to COVID-19, I refuse to believe the loss of thousands of jobs and small businesses across our state is our new normal.
Since the pandemic began, the governor has acted far too often without consulting the Legislature. After months of the governor ruling through emergency proclamations, legislators are understandably eager to get back to work identifying and implementing real solutions for working individuals and families struggling because of the virus.
That's why it's particularly troubling to me that one of the first issues considered in this session was one that extends the governor's authority during a state of emergency. Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 8402 packages 26 of the governor's proclamations and extends them indefinitely until the executive office ends or rescinds the state of emergency—relegating the Legislature, once again, to the sidelines.
The good people that inspired and framed our state government feared the overreach of the executive branch, so they established a system of checks and balances. Lawmakers, and the people they represent, deserve a voice in what happens during a state of emergency. That's why I offered an amendment to SCR 8402 that would put some limits on the governor's blank check of authority during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, my amendment failed. The bill passed on a mostly party-line vote, 54 to 44—with 41 Republicans and three Democrats standing in opposition. Want to learn more about the amendment I offered? Click here to watch a video of my floor speech or read about my amendment online.
Another push for a capital gains income tax
If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that many things in life are uncertain—except taxes. It seems the government always wants more of our money. Once again, the governor is pushing for a capital gains income tax. Senate Bill 5096 would impose a 9% income tax on capital gains as small as $25,000.
Not only is a graduated capital gains income tax prohibited by our state's constitution—and certain to be challenged legally—it's a notoriously unpredictable and unreliable way to collect revenue. Senate Bill 5096 was recently heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee, with several people from across the state logging in remotely to testify against it. Click here to watch the committee hearing.
House transportation package | More in gas taxes and fees
House Democrats recently announced a massive 16-year, $24.8 billion transportation package that includes a list of taxes and fees that could result in about $1 of taxes for every gallon of gas purchased at the pump. This includes a proposed 18-cent a gallon gas tax increase over the next two years, that would make Washington the state with the highest gas tax in America.
Supporters say the new revenue is necessary to pay for the costs of projects like the Columbia River Interstate 5 bridge and the removal of culverts that block fish passages across the state. I don't doubt those are worthy projects; but, frankly, I can't think of a worse time to raise taxes than amid a global pandemic.
Our economy has only recently begun to recover. Because of virus-imposed restrictions, thousands of people are still going without a steady paycheck. Gas taxes are notoriously regressive, with the percentage of burden far heavier on those with less income, less access to alternative means of transportation, and greater distances to travel. The poor suffer and the rich just keep buying gas.
Worse yet, along with this incredibly excessive increase in gas taxes and fees, House Democrats are doubling down with another Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) bill. House Bill 1091 would mandate a costly and ineffective LCFS, that not only would raise gas prices even further but also home heating costs.
If LCFS was cost-effective at reducing CO2 emissions, they might persuade me to support it. But it's not. According to reports, LCFS wastes about 80 percent of its costs to reduce CO2. Our California neighbors recently implemented an LCFS plan that wastes about 96 percent. And, according to the Washington Policy Center, since Oregon's 2019 low-carbon fuel mandate was implemented it has more than doubled in costs, with an effective rate of less than 5 percent compared to other alternatives. That is not smart public policy.
Listen, I'm a Republican and an environmentalist. I believe in doing all we can to keep our air, earth and water clean for generations to come. But simply put, this LCFS bill is a problematic distraction from effective, real solutions for reducing greenhouse emissions. We can and should do better.
Conducting the people's business over computer screens, with online tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams continues to present challenges. But if there are any positives, it's that remote testimony on bills being considered by the Legislature has been extremely successful.
In past years, before COVID-19 changed how we do business, many constituents wanted to testify, but the drive to Olympia was just too far. When news came that lawmakers would need to conduct committee and floor sessions remotely, legislative technical staff went to work to expand remote testimony capabilities.
The result is an easy to use, accessible way for all Washingtonians to take part in the legislative process. With the new system in place, you can sign-up and deliver your comments via Zoom from your living room, home office, or even the kitchen table. I've heard from several people in our district how much they appreciate this relatively new option.
Want to testify on a bill? Click here to learn how.
Your input is always welcome!
Government works best when people get involved. Feel free to call my office if you have any questions, comments, or ideas about your state government. I'm always glad to hear from you.
In your service,