2019 legislative session review

2019 legislative session review • May 14, 2019 

The Current -- 2017 legislative session

Dear Friend:  

State lawmakers concluded their work just before midnight on April 28. Due to the Democrats' infighting, the final operating budget ran on the House floor in the final minutes of the legislative session. House Republicans didn't hold back in their floor speeches -- explaining how the budget spends too much, saves too little, sets our state up for problems in the next economic downturn, and relies on unnecessary tax increases.

In fact, the budget relies on billions of dollars in new tax increases over the next four years -- despite the fact our state had a budget surplus. Democrats are also being criticized by several editorial boards for their use of title-only bills and lack of transparency. These are the storylines of the legislative session and what Democrats will have difficulty explaining over the next eight months.

A bad day for taxpayers

I sat down with a KING 5 TV reporter for an interview the day after the legislative session and he later shared one of my quotes in a Tweet: "It was a good day for Democrats and a bad day for taxpayers." I stand by this statement. 

The Democrats like to say our state's tax system is "upside down" and "regressive," but the policies they passed this year actually make things more regressive in our state. For example, I don't think Democrats gave enough consideration to the possibility their new graduated real estate excise tax could raise rents and constrict housing supply in places. And while increasing taxes on large banks may sound good to some, even editorial boards are acknowledging these costs will likely be passed along to consumers. How do these outcomes help those who are struggling financially?

Democratic policies that will increase cost of living

It's important to look beyond the bills that created new tax increases to get a full appreciation of what this legislative session will mean for the cost of living for families and expenses for employers. For instance, the Democrats created a new state government long-term care benefit funded by a new, employee-paid payroll tax. We also know the governor's clean-energy measure will increase energy bills. Finally, and what families could feel the most, Democrats passed a levy-lift bill that will increase property taxes across our state. 

Bipartisan accomplishments

Not all of the news is bad, however. In a $52.4 billion operating budget, there are going to be things to like. It's fair to say important investments were made this year to address our state's mental health system, opioid crisis, rape kit backlog, forest health, and salmon. Some of our members played key roles in helping refine these policies. The South Whidbey Record highlighted Rep. Norma Smith's leadership role in fixing our state's mental health system in this story.

While the Legislature dedicated more funding to special education, Democrats failed to act on a bipartisan bill and House Republican amendment that would have improved outcomes for our special education students. We will push for this policy again next year. 

The transportation budget and capital budget can also be held up as bipartisan accomplishments, with Rep. Andrew Barkis and Rep. Richard DeBolt playing key roles, respectively, in their development. These budget don't get as much attention, but they do important things for our state.

You can find other bipartisan accomplishments below.

Honoring Speaker Chopp 

The House took time on the last day of the legislative session to pass a resolution and honor long-time Speaker of the House Frank Chopp. You can watch my House floor speech here.

Frank quietly resigned as Speaker on May 3. Speaker Pro Tempore John Lovick will assume the role of “Acting Speaker” until a new Speaker is elected at the beginning of the 2020 legislative session. House Democrats have said they will choose a speaker-designate on July 31.

Stay tuned

This email update has been a session-only publication since its inception. However, we are considering sending it out on a monthly basis during the 2019 interim. If you keep reading it, we'll keep sending it out. Thank you for your continued interest.  


Rep. J.T. Wilcox
House Republican Leader
(360) 786-7912

state spending chart

This graph above shows our state spending from 1995 to what it is projected to grow by 2023. It tells an important story. Please consider sharing this information with others. 

New tax increases

In the chart below are the new tax increases passed by Democrats. The 2019-21 operating budget directly relies on all of the taxes not shaded.

New tax increases

Other harmful policies

The Democrats passed other harmful policies this legislative session:

House Bill 1087 will create a new state government long-term care benefit through a new, employee-paid payroll tax.

House Bill 1257 will require Department of Commerce to establish a State Energy Performance Standard, and will establish a Natural Gas Conservation Standard.

House Bill 1575 will make it more difficult for public employees to exercise their right to not join – or get out of – a union. 

House Bill 1870 will codify Obamacare in state statute.

Senate Bill 5116 will require our state to phase out fossil fuel electricity generation and move to 100% clean energy resources by 2045, with associated costs falling on families and employers through higher energy bills.

Senate Bill 5526 will require the Washington Health Benefit Exchange to develop standardized health plans and expressly limit choice over time in favor of one-size-fits-all plans meeting specific government requirements.

Bad bills stopped

While all of these bills were stopped this year, they will come back to life in the 2020 legislative session:

House Bill 1068 would prohibit high capacity firearm magazines over 15 rounds.

House Bill 1110 would create a new low carbon fuel standard program and add to the price of gas and goods.

House Bill 1491 would restrict scheduling options for employees and employers, which would hurt industries.

House Bill 1515 would force many individual contractors to work as an employee, as opposed to being their own boss.

House Bill 2156 would create a new capital gains income tax.

Senate Bill 5323 would restrict single-use plastic carryout bags by retail establishments.

Senate Bill 5395 would require every school to provide comprehensive sex education.

Senate Bill 5928 would eliminate the prohibition on local net income taxes.

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