A state income tax is not an emergency… I promise.

2021 E-News Banner


February 19, 2021

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

I receive many emails, but one stood out this past week. It was in response to my February 12 report.

“Your divisiveness is really frustrating,” the constituent wrote. The email also referred to a “continual need to divide and conquer rather than to work in a bipartisan process.”

I wish my constituent had been more specific. Was it “divisive” of me to promote the no-added-taxes Senate Republican budget proposal we unveiled February 11? Was it partisan of me to question the governor’s reopening plan, or refer to the chilly reception my bipartisan emergency-orders bill received? There’s no way to know.

If you disagree with a position I’ve taken or a statement I’ve made, and want to tell me, please do. Just yesterday I was telling my fellow Senate Republicans about a bill that I had opposed at first, only to support later. But please, don’t leave me guessing about why you feel as you do. Maybe the constituent who wrote in this week will see this and engage in a more detailed way. And if I don’t adequately explain my position about an issue, I hope you’ll let me know that also… and as they say… I’m all ears!

Save the date – March 15 ‘Zoom’ town hall meeting
I wish we could have a traditional town-hall meeting this year. Instead, I will have to ask that you join me, Rep. Paul Harris and Rep. Vicki Kraft for a “virtual” town hall on Monday, March 15. It’ll be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

We will update you about the 2021 session and take your questions. The best part is that you can participate from the comfort of your home, because the virtual town hall meeting will be conducted online, the same way we’re having to conduct the legislative session.

We’ll use the Zoom platform, and if you want to participate, please pre-register by clicking here. We’re limited by the technology to 500 attendees, so please register early!

Governor’s income-tax bill moves forward – what do you think about it?
On Tuesday evening, the Senate Ways and Means Committee endorsed the state income tax proposed by the governor in Senate Bill 5096. To be more specific, all but one of the Democrat committee members voted to “recommend” the passage of the bill by the Senate.

5096 debate
If you'd like to view this week's committee debate on the proposed state income tax, click here.

This bill would impose a tax on income from capital gains – meaning money gained from the sale of investments. The supporters call it an “excise” tax, but I don’t think anyone is fooled by that label. The supporters also don’t talk about how a state income tax was declared unconstitutional decades ago by the state Supreme Court. Or how an income tax is an unreliable and highly volatile source of revenue. Or how our state Department of Commerce promoted the lack of a state income tax when wooing prospective new employers to locate in Washington (now that selling point is conspicuously missing on its website… ). Or how the state’s financial situation doesn’t justify any new taxes (we have no budget deficit… ). Or how our Senate Republican budget balances without more taxes!

We’ve seen income-tax proposals before, but this one is different because it contains an “emergency clause.” Typically, that language is used in bills that can’t wait 90 days after the session’s end to become law because it’s in the public’s best interest to enact the law quickly. SB 5096 wouldn’t even impose the new income tax until 2022, so there is no emergency. But what the emergency clause does do is block the voters from challenging this new tax using the constitutional power of referendum. If the supporters of SB 5096 think they can justify a new tax to the people, and it passes the constitutionality test, why would they want to take that right from you?

As the Republican leader on the Ways and Means committee, I was in charge of our side of the debate on SB 5096 this week. We compelled the committee to vote on 17 amendments. All were rejected, even our amendment to remove the emergency clause, but that shouldn’t surprise you.

I expect the Democrats want to get the income tax through to the governor’s desk quickly, knowing it will face an immediate court challenge. Also, if it passes and is actually enacted, it sets up the structure for a full-blown income tax. Is that really the way to make tax policy? Please let me know.

Is my emergency-orders bill ‘dead’?
More than two dozen pieces of legislation were referred to the Senate State Government and Elections Committee this session. Before the February 15 deadline, the committee moved 20 pieces of Senate legislation forward. Disappointingly, my bipartisan SB 5039 was not one of them.

This committee endorsed legislation to end the voters’ ability to be heard about tax policy changes, (you know… those advisory votes?) and lots of other bills that don’t have bearing on millions of lives the way the governor’s emergency orders do. It’s disappointing that just two years after we saw bipartisan support for limiting some of the governor’s powers, we couldn’t even have a committee discussion about the other, more daunting powers.

My SB 5039 wouldn’t stop the governor from issuing emergency proclamations. It would simply make ALL of his proclamations subject to legislative approval if they’re to extend beyond 30 days.

The governor has clearly indicated that this pandemic is going to continue beyond the end of our legislative session – and with it, his ability to control millions of lives. Why can’t we at least have a discussion about that? And here’s something else to consider: If the governor has the power to keep kids out of classrooms, should he also have the power to order schools to reopen? I mean, it would sure be nice to know when and how we can move to Phase 3.  We’ve asked… all we get is “crickets”.

My SB 5039 is technically considered “dead,” but the Senate majority has the power to pluck the bill from the discard pile and get it moving again.

Senate Republican budget proposal would transform transportation funding
I’ve spent a lot of time this past week talking to news media around the state about our Senate Republican budget proposal. Yesterday morning, while meeting with the editorial board at the Herald in Everett, we really zeroed in on the unusual transportation component of our proposal. Let me do the same here, and explain how it would cross over into the budget that pays for transportation projects.

Revenue from the state sales tax is appropriated through the operating budget. That includes the substantial amount of revenue from the tax collected on vehicle sales. But what if the sales tax on vehicles was redirected to maintaining the roads those vehicles use – doesn’t that make sense? In fact, I and the other members of the Economic Revenue and Forecast Council just received the monthly revenue collection report, which indicated that car sales were at their highest level in two years. Redirecting that tax revenue to the transportation budget makes sense to me, and it has a real nexus to transportation too!

The Legislature approved gas-tax increases in 2005, 2009 and 2015. This year the chair of the House Transportation Committee is proposing an eye-popping 18-cent gas-tax increase and other taxes that are expected to generate around $26 billion over the next 16 years. The chair of the Senate Transportation Committee is aiming a little lower – his tax package would be more like $19 billion over 16 years. Our Senate Republican plan would hit right about in the middle, generating an estimated $23 billion over 16 years. Again, that doesn’t come from a new tax but from redirecting an existing tax.

Have you seen how many hybrid and electric cars are on the road these days? No wonder the gas tax is becoming a less reliable source of revenue. I think it’s smarter to support new transportation projects through existing taxes instead of increasing the gas tax and other transportation fees that hit families and employers at the pump and also affect the cost of goods and services. If we go with the Senate Republican plan, there is no need for another gas tax increase, no need for a carbon tax, and no need for the various other fee increases that are nickel-and-diming folks every year. Let me know what you think!

Track Group
The vendor just chosen to help implement the Tiffany Hill Act is known for this combination: an ankle bracelet for the offender and a mobile phone app for the victim.

Exciting progress on implementing the Tiffany Hill Act!
I learned this week that the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts has chosen an Illinois company, Track Group, as the contractor for the rollout of the “Electronic Monitoring Victim Notification Technology” associated with the Tiffany Hill Act.

I’m familiar with Track Group and its technologies and capabilities and I think it’s a good choice. The work the company has done in its home state was very informative as I crafted and fine-tuned the language of last year’s SB 5149 to ensure all the bases were covered and concerns were addressed.

This is the second piece of good news for domestic-violence victims in less than a week… because the Senate Republican budget proposal I unveiled last week will help counties implement the Tiffany Hill Act.

Senate approves my bill to help fire districts offer safety training
I’m happy to report the Senate’s unanimous approval of SB 5338, my bipartisan proposal to confirm that fire protection districts can offer workplace-safety training. The bill would clarify state law in response to a question raised by the state auditor’s office. In our area it’s important to Clark County Fire District 5, which operates the Northwest Regional Training Center, and organizations like the City of Vancouver that have benefited from the training center. I’m hoping my bill wins similarly strong support in the House of Representatives.

I’m sorry I can’t invite you to come and visit me at the Capitol, but if you have a question or concern, please contact me by email, letter or phone. To make an appointment for a virtual meeting, please sent me an e-mail! Stay safe!

Yours in service,

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