Stand with Ukraine, file taxes for free, and WA's new official holiday

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NEW: IRS announces free online tax-filing option

News headlines about the new Direct File tax program

The Biden Administration just announced the launch of Direct File, a free and easy tool for filing federal taxes.

There is a new, free tax-filing option this year for Washingtonians. This week, the Biden Administration announced the launch of Direct File, a way to file federal income taxes online for free.

Direct File is open to filers with W-2 wage statements and intent to file for the standard deduction. The Internal Revenue Service calls these "simple tax situations" and estimates that one-third of all filers qualify. Washington is one of just 12 states where this program is currently available, with more states expected to use it next year.

As folks start preparing to file their taxes, it’s a good time to remind friends and family about the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC). 

The WFTC provides refunds up to $1,255. Families earning up to $63,398 are eligible for the program. Last year, rebates totaled more than $108 million, providing more than 150,000 Washingtonians with an average tax refund of $714.

Learn more about how to file and find out if you qualify here.

More bills become laws, and Washington gets a new official holiday

Image of Gov Inslee signing bills next to stack of bills awaiting signature

The governor signed over 100 bills this week. More than 200 await further action.

The legislative session has ended. Bill action season has begun. As of Friday morning, Gov. Jay Inslee has signed 135 bills. More than 200 await.

Among the bills Inslee signed were several designed to make family wage careers in professions like law enforcement and medicine more accessible. HB 1530, sponsored by Rep. Julio Cortes, opens law enforcement and prosecutorial careers to all lawful permanent residents of the state. HB 1889, sponsored by Rep. Amy Walen, allows non-citizens to apply for a variety of professional licenses. Rep. Mari Leavitt sponsored a bill to help physician assistants re-certify quickly after military reassignment to Washington state. These new laws will offer some relief in professions where Washington and other states have seen persistent worker shortages.

Another bill signed by the governor, HB 1976 improved the Clean Buildings Act by enabling the Department of Commerce to determine appropriate incentive and financial assistance amounts for building owners whose properties comply with State Energy Performance Standards. Buildings account for 27% of statewide emissions.

In response to a series of hate crime incidents targeting LGBT+ landmarks in Washington, the governor also signed SB 5917, updating the state’s hate crime statutes to include defacement of public property.

Legislators also created a new holiday in the state of Washington. Inslee signed HB 2209 which officially recognizes Lunar New Year. “Lunar New Year is a time of joy, family reunions, and traditions shared by billions worldwide,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. My-Linh Thai. “Recognizing this day sends a clear signal to future generations that their heritage is respected and celebrated."

Visit the governor’s website to follow along with bill action.

By supporting Ukraine, Washingtonians stand for good

Gov. Jay Inslee and Ukrainian Kyiv Oblast Gov. Ruslan Kravchenko

Gov. Jay Inslee hosted Kyiv Oblast Head Ruslan Kravchenko in Tacoma on Friday to sign the first Sister State agreement between an American state and a Ukrainian region since the war began in 2022.

Ruslan Kravchenko, head of state in Ukraine's Kyiv Region, visited Tacoma on Friday. His region has suffered terribly over two years of war. At least 1,600 people have died, and 24,000 homes and 227 schools have been damaged. Russian invaders have tampered inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and laid mines under city streets.

Kravchenko and Gov. Jay Inslee committed to the first Sister State agreement between a Ukrainian region and an American state since the war began in 2022. Friday's agreement was a "sign of faith in victory," according to Honorary Consul Valeriy Goloborodko.

"Students and professors and business leaders will come here to learn. And they’ll bring that knowledge home to strengthen Ukraine," said Goloborodko.

For their part, Washingtonians have risen to the moment. More than 24,000 displaced Ukrainians have come to Washington state since 2022. Local community organizations have mustered huge donations of medical supplies and water filters. Inslee ordered state agencies to cancel contracts and investments with Russian affiliations and has consistently urged Congress to continue their support of Ukraine's defenders.

"The people of this state are on the right side of history again," said Inslee. "This is a state of climate champions, human rights champions. And to support Ukraine in the way that Washingtonians have - I'm just proud to see so many of us doing the right thing."

Read the full story on Gov. Jay Inslee's Medium. 

News you might have missed:

WSP trooper laid to rest

A memorial service for Washington State Patrol Trooper Chris Gadd was held Monday, March 12. Gadd was patrolling I-5 in Marysville early on March 2 when he was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver. The Washington State Patrol Memorial Foundation is now accepting donations to support the Gadd family.

Macklemore visits Green Hill School

GRAMMY award-winning rapper Macklemore visited kids and young adults at the Green Hill School and juvenile rehabilitation facility in Chehalis last Friday to celebrate the release of a music video that is part of a campaign to educate people about the dangers of fentanyl. 

Oscar nominee wanted to help the Washington's Department of Agriculture catch Asian giant hornets

New York Magazine reported that, had Hollywood not come calling, Washington’s own Lily Gladstone might have taken a job helping the Washington Department of Agriculture track down Asian giant hornets. Before Martin Scorsese asked her to play a lead role in his acclaimed movie, Killers of the Flower Moon, Gladstone said she considered working as a data analyst for the agency.

Excerpt: She had always loved bees, and after watching a video of Asian giant hornets annihilating a hive (“Not another murderous colonizer taking out the only thing that’s good and pure that’s left!”), she looked into a seasonal data-analytics job tracking the invasive species for the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Then she got the notification requesting a Zoom with Scorsese.

Instead, Gladstone found another way to make a difference – and to make history – by becoming the first Native American nominated for an Academy Award for best actress.

Rockwool announces new sustainable materials manufacturing facility in Walla Walla County

Rockwool, a Danish firm that makes insulation and other products sustainably using volcanic rock announced this week they would build a manufacturing facility in the Wallula Gap Business Park in Walla Walla County. The firm plans to invest $175 million in Washington and to hire 125 full-time employees when the factory opens. The project will also support more than 600 construction jobs while the plant is developed. Washington's Department of Commerce, helped the company choose the site of their new facility and identified applicable state incentive programs.  

Image of the Columbia River surrounding by the Horse Heaven Hills

Photo of the Wallula Gap along the Columbia River; image courtesy of the National Parks Service