Prohibiting a state income tax

2017 legislative session • February 17, 2017 

The Current -- 2017 legislative session

Letter from Leadership 

The Current 2017-18

Dear Friend:  

Greetings from Olympia. We hit our first self-imposed legislative deadline today: policy committee cutoff. This means bills without major fiscal impacts must pass out of their respective policy committees or "die on the vine" as we say. This helps state lawmakers narrow their focus as the second half of the legislative session approaches.

Our next legislative deadline is a week from today: fiscal committee cutoff. All bills that have fiscal impacts and been referred to a House fiscal committee (Appropriations, Capital Budget, Finance and Transportation) must pass out of these committees or they, too, will die. This does not apply to legislation that is necessary to implement the three state budgets. Only the four House fiscal committees will meet next week. You can find the committee schedule here.   

Still no education bill from the House Democrats

It is day 40 of the 105-day legislative session and the House Democrats have still not passed their education bill. I call it a bill and not a plan because the legislation they advanced out of committee lacks a funding source.

In other words, they are proposing to spend $11.3 billion over the next six years, but are not saying which taxes they would create or raise. We think taxpayers deserve to know this information and House Democrats should reveal if they in fact have the 50 votes needed to pass new revenue.  

If you recall, Democrats criticized Republicans for not having an education plan prior to the legislative session. Yet, Senate Republicans were able to pass their One Washington Education Equality Act more than two weeks ago. 

What is the official Democratic education-funding plan? 

A group of moderate Senate Democrats announced an alternative education-funding plan on Tuesday, which differs greatly from the House Democrats' bill. You can find a story about this plan here. The 36-page bill has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee

Other important issues

We all knew education funding would be the primary area of focus this legislative session. However, other important issues are being debated -- including bills to address the Hirst decision and the problems it has caused. You can learn more about this issue in a section below. 

While every one of our members entered this year with legislative goals based on the unique needs of their districts, we also identified a set of priorities as a caucus. You can learn more about our priorities, including specific pieces of legislation, by visiting our new website.

Day of Remembrance

On the House floor Wednesday, we paused to recognize and remember the Japanese-American veterans, internees and civil rights activists from our great state. One of our speeches for House Resolution 4613 was provided by Rep. Norma Smith. She did a great job. You can watch it here

In your service,

Rep. Dan Kristiansen
House Republican Leader
39th District
(360) 786-7967

Rep. Paul Graves

Paul Graves digs in

Rep. Paul Graves was elected to office for the first time in November. The Fall City Republican and lifelong Washingtonian succeeded Chad Magendanz in the 5th District. 

Paul, who is a graduate of Western Washington University and Duke University School of Law, believes strongly in community service. He maintains a pro bono practice representing foster kids in trial courts and served as a board member of one of the state’s first public charter schools.

Paul has already passed his first piece of legislation off the House floor. House Bill 1285 would simplify the oath requirements for interpreters in legal proceedings. You can find all the bills he is sponsoring here.  

Learn more about Paul's background, committee assignments and communications by visiting his new website.

Prohibiting a state income tax

Democrats are proposing $11.3 billion in new state spending over the next three budget cycles, but have yet to say which taxes they would create or raise to pay for their education bill. Washingtonians are being asked to support the legislation, but are left to wonder how they might be affected financially.

House Democrats have proposed a group of tax bills, but other proposals may emerge. The governor has already said he wants new taxes on energy, small businesses, vehicles and bottled water. The governor and Democrats have both proposed a capital gains income tax, which opens the door for a state income tax.   

Sen. Tim Sheldon, a Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, wrote an interesting opinion piece in Crosscut last month. The title: "The monster lurking behind school funding: an income tax." His premise: "Our big debate isn’t about education. It’s about the income tax."

We want to protect taxpayers and take one revenue option off the table once and for all. House Joint Resolution 4207 would amend our state constitution to prohibit a state income tax. Rep. Matt Manweller is the prime sponsor of the measure and it has strong support from our caucus. No Democrat has signed on.

Our legislation has a companion, Senate Joint Resolution 8204, which received a public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. 

Solving the Hirst problem

On October 6, the state Supreme Court ruled Whatcom County’s comprehensive plan failed to provide for protection of water resources in accordance with the Growth Management Act. The ruling put the status of exempt private wells into question even though the county complied with the Department of Ecology's rules and statute that allows permit-exempt wells if fewer than 5,000 gallons of water are taken per day.

The controversial ruling, commonly referred to as the Hirst decision, has far-reaching, adverse effects on other counties, land developers, rural communities and current and potential land owners. We are offering a variety of solutions to help impacted families. Four of our bills that would address the new burdens on rural communities were given public hearings in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources last week:

  • House Bill 1348 (Concerning the priority in the state water code assigned to various beneficial uses).
  • House Bill 1349  (Declaring any minimal cumulative impacts of permit-exempt wells on in-stream water levels to be overwhelmingly offset by state investments in fish habitat improvement projects).
  • House Bill 1459 (Considering the full hydrologic cycle in the review and approval process of new water uses).
  • House Bill 1382 (Establishing a rebuttable presumption that permit-exempt groundwater withdrawals do not impair instream flows or base flows).

House Bill 1748 (Addressing affordable housing opportunities in rural communities) received a public hearing in the House Environment Committee on Tuesday.

Another solution, House Bill 1503 (Preventing unfunded mandates involving on-site sewage systems from affecting local governments and property owners), received a public hearing in the House Environment Committee on January 30.

House Bills 1459 and 1503 passed out of their respective committees, but substantive changes were made to the latter. We will keep you updated on their progress.  

Department of Ecology: "We've come up empty"

In a public hearing, the Department of Ecology acknowledged the Hirst decision was an enormous hardship on families, yet still testified against our bills. When asked by Rep. Ed Orcutt if they had a fix for the Hirst decision, the Department of Ecology said: "We've come up empty." This was a disappointing response.

Senate solution

Another piece of legislation that would address the Hirst problem is Senate Bill 5239 (Ensuring that water is available to support development), sponsored by Sen. Judy Warnick. This measure may pass the state Senate. Whatever the vehicle ends up being, we will be directly involved and working with stakeholders to find a solution.   

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