2021 legislative session ends with massive spending and increased taxes

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Dear Neighbor,

My first legislative session in Olympia has come to an end and not a minute too soon! As a new legislator, I can tell you that the past 105 days were not easy – especially participating in a virtual session during a pandemic. As the dust begins to settle, I want to update you on what happened during the final days of the 2021 legislative session, and I must warn you – it wasn’t pretty.


Operating budget - unsustainable spending and higher taxes

At over 1,100 pages, this year’s operating budget was released 24 hours before the session ended. While there are too many details to share, I have included the graphic below to highlight some of the major points. For reference, this budget is referred to as the conference budget as it was a compromise between House and Senate Democrats – who hold majorities in both chambers. As a comparison, you’ll also see the budget Senate Republicans proposed early in the session that didn’t raise taxes and instead, offered much needed tax relief! Unfortunately, majority Democrats did not agree with our common-sense proposals.

budget chart

While there are many investments included in this budget that I support -- like forest health, working families tax credit, unemployment insurance relief, increased behavioral health resources and new funding for those with developmental disabilities – there many areas where this budget completely misses the mark. Under current circumstances, Senate Democrats could have eliminated the B&O tax on manufacturing and provided historic homeowner property tax relief. Instead, they passed new taxes including a capital gains income tax – saying our tax code is regressive by hitting low income individuals the hardest (see my video below). If they truly believed that, then there are things we could have done to address that. Here is a list of ACTUAL regressive taxes in Washington state and where we rank in the nation:

  • 3rd highest tax on cell phones at 19.83%.
  • 4th highest tax on gas at 49.4 cents per gallon - and that will likely go up in the near future!
  • 1st highest tax on liquor at $33.22 per gallon. That is 50% higher than the next state.
  • 10th highest tax on cigarettes at $3.03 per pack.


Capital gains tax – the first step towards an income tax?

capital gains video

Watch my video update to learn more about the capital gains tax that was passed on the last day of session


Paying more at the pump

Unfortunately, I have some additional bad news to share with you. Senate Bill 5126, which would impose a “carbon cap and tax” that would sharply raise gas and diesel prices, also passed the legislature this year. Under this bill, starting in 2023, businesses producing more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon per year would be required to purchase “allowances” for emissions they produce at auctions run by the state Department of Ecology. Money from these auctions would go to the state and would be split between CO2 reduction programs and a transportation-related account called “Forward Flexible.”

Also passing this year, House Bill 1091, which imposes a low-carbon fuel standards program in Washington state that will increase the price of gas even more. Under this legislation, refiners would be required to reduce carbon emissions by-the-gallon by 10 percent within 10 years, and ultimately by 20 percent.

Most businesses can’t afford to absorb costs that affect their bottom line and will be forced to pass the cost on to the consumer. This will have devastating effects on families. These higher costs will also squeeze out small farmers, who are dependent on market prices for their crops. It is almost guaranteed to raise the price on everything from gas at the pump, to utilities and groceries.

There is good news! These bills will only be enacted if a new transportation funding package is passed -- which the legislature didn’t move forward during the 2021 legislative session. However, we may see this come up before the next legislative session begins in January 2022. Stay tuned!


16ld lawmakers

Join your 16th LD representatives for a town hall!

I invite you to join me and Reps. Rude and Klicker for a virtual town hall this Monday.  We will provide a 2021 legislative session wrap-up and provide constituents the opportunity to share opinions and ideas.

What: 16 LD Town Hall

When: Monday, May 3, 2021, 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Where: Virtual

The event will be conducted using the Zoom platform. Those who would like to participate must pre-register in advance by clicking here.


Capital Budget Projects – good news for our communities

One of the lesser known budgets is the state’s capital budget. It is often referred to as a brick-and-mortar budget that invests in the construction and repair of buildings such as schools, state offices and historical sites around the state. Here are a few community projects funded in this year’s capital budget.

Martin Luther King Community Center. The city of Pasco will be receiving $1,000,000 to implement technology upgrades, increase access for those with disabilities and add meeting space. These improvements are vital to so many adults and children in our communities who use this YMCA facility.

Walla Walla County Courthouse. This year, Walla Walla will receive $1,197,000 for needed exterior restoration and infrastructure project at the Walla Walla County Courthouse. Improvements will include electrical infrastructure updates, exterior restoration, and elevator modernization.

Reimann water/wastewater Infrastructure. The Port of Pasco received $7.5 million for projects in the tri-cities area involving the Reimann Industrial Corridor Center. In our region, $2.5 million is dedicated to support the construction of municipal water and wastewater infrastructure.


Bill highlights

This year, I had the honor of sponsoring legislation 20 years in the making. Senate Bill 5230 brings an agreement to the distribution of water in the Pasco Basin. This bill provides authority for the Department of Ecology to enter into agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation to create a ground water permitting program like those in the Quincy and Odessa areas. This is the next step in regulating the water that has accumulated due to the Bureau of Reclamation’s diversion of water that can now be utilized for agriculture, irrigation, or other non-potable uses.


Ag overtime

After a November ruling from the Washington State Supreme Court declaring a 60-year-old state law exempting farm workers from receiving overtime wages after 40 hours per week was suddenly illegal, the agricultural industry was left reeling. On top of that, the Supreme Court didn’t rule one way or another on whether overturning the law also meant up to three years of retroactive pay would apply.

While lawyers began filing lawsuits regarding back pay, Senate Bill 5172 was introduced to help famers in the wake of these lawsuits as they become compliant with the ruling. While I agree that this legislation is needed, I do not believe it goes far enough to help our farms regarding overtime relief in the future or by providing exemptions for seasonal workers.


Stay connected

Even though the legislative session is now over, please remember that I am still here to serve you. I encourage you to reach out to my office and to share your thoughts, ideas and concerns on matters of importance to you. I can be reached by email at Perry.Dozier@leg.wa.gov and by phone at (360) 786-7630.


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Perry Dozier

State Senator

16th LD