Tax season in Olympia has arrived

Legislative update from Olympia

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Dear Neighbor,


The 2020 legislative session is off to a fast start; most of my time so far this session has been spent attending meetings of the three Senate committees I have the honor of being assigned to – Early Learning and K-12 Education, Ways and Means, and the Behavioral Health Subcommittee (where I am the Ranking Republican member). We have spent many hours listening to testimony on bills that come before us and I especially appreciate seeing constituents from home making their way to Olympia to testify on pending legislature.

Unfortunately, there have been many detrimental bills introduced this session. Last week, we talked about anti-gun bills that would infringe upon your 2nd Amendment Right. This week, I want to inform you of economic bills and policies that are a threat to our economy, our businesses, our jobs, and your household budget.

Ironically, in the midst of the best economy in our country’s history, small businesses in our rural legislative district are struggling.  Cumulative year-after-year minimum wage and tax increases are inflicting an inevitable effect.  Initiative 1433, passed in 2016,  mandated a nearly 45% minimum wage increase over a three-year period; with more to come. Larger businesses and corporations have been able to compensate through automation and frankly, firing employees.  You now see ordering kiosks and self-checkout where employees used to stand.  But smaller restaurants, rural grocery and retail stores, and other small businesses never had the fiscal depth to trade employees for automation.  They are simply fading away and so is the economic vibrancy that they provided.

In light of these realities you might expect business friendly policies to be churning in Olympia…instead:

  • B&O tax  (SB 6492) – would increase the general business and occupation tax rate from 1.5 percent to 1.8 percent for businesses with gross incomes over $1 million. This tax purports to impact only big business but the biggest of the big were provided that allows them to pay the lowest rate. And everyone knows the consumer will actually be the one footing the bill. Our state has more than enough revenue, we do not need to impose additional burdens on our businesses or their customers.
  • 32 hour work week (SB 6516) - would reduce the workweek to thirty-two hours, and any employee working more than that would receive one and a half times their regular pay. This would impose an unbearable burden on small businesses, farmers, doctors, restaurants and many other industries. Decisions about scheduling belong between employee and employer and should not be mandated by the government.
  • Universal Basic income (SB 6625) – would create a 2-year pilot program that gives 500 adults $500/month for 18 months, no strings attached. This is an attempt to lay the groundwork for future wealth redistribution.
  • Pay-per-mile tax (SB 6586) - would charge a per-mile fee for electric and hybrid vehicles. Although this bill is specific to electric vehicles at this time, it is a wedge towards taxing all drivers on a pay-per-mile basis. This will hurt our rural commuters the most. I also have serious concerns about individual privacy and location tracking should pay-per-mile be implemented.
  • Low-carbon fuel standards (SB 5412)  - would require oil refiners to reduce carbon emissions by-the-gallon by 10 percent within 10 years, and ultimately by 20 percent. Because of fuel supply constraints, this proposal would increase gas prices by 57 cents a gallon. Once again, these increases to businesses and workers disproportionately affect rural residents. Washington State is already one of the greenest economies on earth. Even if we punish ourselves with high fuel prices and cripple our refineries with symbolic, unobtainable goals, global impact would be insignificant.
5th graders


I was delighted to visit with 5th graders from Arlington's Presidents Elementary School during a recent trip to Olympia

And finally…more misguided policy from Labor and Industries

Last month, L&I announced their new rule related to overtime exempt workers in Washington. Beginning July 1, the state minimum threshold for salaried employees to be exempt from overtime will increase to $675 a week ($35,100/year), which is 1.25 times the state’s minimum wage. Over the next eight years, that number will climb to approximately $1,603 a week (about $83,356/year)!

This is already hampering our business and non-profit organizations.  In fact it was first brought to my attention by the local Boys and Girls Club as they struggled to react to the unintended consequences.  Other non-profits like Chinook Industries, which provides employment for developmentally disabled adults, will be forced to reconsider their business model.

You can be certain I am working for fairer treatment and better policies for our local businesses and organizations.

39th Legislative District Town Hall meeting

Come and participate with your 39th LD legislators as we provide our 2020 legislative update.

When: February 22nd, 10-11:30 a.m.

Where: Putnam Hall at Arlington Municipal Airport, 18204 59th Ave NE, Arlington

Who: Sen. Keith Wagoner, Rep. Carolyn Eslick and Rep. Robert Sutherland 

As always, it is a privilege to serve as your state senator. If you need anything, my office is here for you. I can be reached by email at, by phone at (360) 786-7676. Or, if you are in Olympia, stop by my office, located in Room 203 of the Irv Newhouse Building on the Capitol Campus.



January 31, 2020

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Fun fact…

Each legislative update will highlight a fun fact about your 39th Legislative District State Senator!

Senator Keith Wagoner….

Wears his wedding band and a jade disc around his neck – the jade necklace is a gift from his Chinese mother-in-law. In China, jade is thought to bring protection, health, and good luck.