Budget, taxes and holding state government accountable

2021 legislative session • February 12, 2021

Washington State House Republicans

Dear Friend:

In our Republican response to the governor's inaugural address, Rep. Drew Stokesbary said: "Many families and businesses are in crisis, but your state government isn’t. Tax collections are up by nearly 10% this biennium despite the pandemic." This is an important point.

As the budget debate forms, please understand this fact: The Legislature does not need to make deep cuts to state spending nor does it need to raise taxes. State lawmakers can write an operating budget that delivers COVID-19 relief, funds important priorities, and does not rely on new tax increases. But it is not enough to just say this; House Republicans are going to show how it can be done.

Our budget lead will release an operating budget proposal next week. This is not something the minority party usually does, but it is part of our promise to bring real solutions to the table. It reflects a lot of time, work, and decisions that date back to last summer when Republicans were calling and preparing for a special session. We will share more details next week.  

Our fight against new tax increases

Democrats have proposed several bills that would increase the cost of living and doing business in Washington state. I talk about some of these proposals in my video update

House Republicans are doing everything possible to stop these bills, beginning at the committee level. This video is a great example of our members on the House Environment and Energy Committee fighting against legislation that would create financial burdens on working families and eliminate jobs. 

Our ranking member on the House Finance Committee, Rep. Ed Orcutt, is leading our fight against new tax increases. He appeared on TVW's The Impact this week to discuss tax policy. Ed summarized the House Republican position well is his last line of the interview: "We don't need more taxes. We need more tax relief." 

Holding the governor and state government accountable 

The problems at the Employment Security Department (ESD) underscore the importance of hiring competent people to run state agencies and holding them accountable. Under Suzi LeVine's tenure, ESD allowed our state to be defrauded of hundreds of millions of dollars and failed to deliver timely unemployment benefits to those in need. She also initially obstructed a state audit and ignored public records requests from the media. 

Despite these clear failures, the governor praised Suzi as she announced her exit from state government to work for the Biden administration. This situation reinforces the perception that high-level government jobs are revolving doors for the politically connected. And it is unacceptable.

As this editorial in The Seattle Times concludes: "Lawmakers must hold Employment Security Department leaders accountable and ensure past mistakes are truly in the past." We must find someone competent to lead ESD. And this person needs to ensure safeguards are in place to prevent fraud and deliver unemployment benefits to struggling Washingtonians without delays.  

The media's watchdog role   

Reporters and editorial boards across our state have held the governor, state agencies, and Democrats in the Legislature accountable for their decisions, policies, and results. My staff has captured many of these stories and compiled them in the two web pages below.  

I should also point out the media holds Republicans -- including myself -- accountable. This includes tough questions at our weekly media availabilities

Re-opening the Capitol campus  

I joined Sen. John Braun in sending a letter to the governor, Senate majority leader, and speaker of the House yesterday asking them to take down the fence that surrounds the Legislative Building and work with us to create comprehensive security protocols that do not inhibit people's access to the Capitol campus. We also asked to clearly define the next phase in the Healthy Washington –  Roadmap to Recovery plan. It is surprising that there is no guidance yet.  

Have a nice weekend.


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