Letter from Olympia

Senator Hans Zeiger 25th District Letter from Olympia
D princesses

With Sen. Randi Becker, Reps. Kelly Chambers and Chris Gildon and the Pierce County Daffodil Festival Royal Court

Letter from Olympia

Dear Neighbor,

Both the House and Senate have now passed versions of the 2019-2021 operating budget.

The House Democrats released their budget first. They are proposing a $53.2 billion operating budget, up from 19 percent from the current budget. The House Democratic budget seeks to create new taxes and raise existing taxes. Their proposals calls for the implementation of a $2.7 billion income tax on capital gains, a $1.05 billion increase in the business and occupation (B&O) tax, and a $320 million increase in real estate excise taxes. This is on top of repealing $140 million in tax incentives.

The House Democratic operating budget plan also assumes an increase of the local property tax levy lid, which could account for as much as $1.3 billion in taxpayer dollars yearly. The House budget also assumes a 0.58 percent increase in long-term benefit payroll taxes, an extra $1.1 billion dollar increase per year.

The Senate Democratic version of the Operating Budget passed by the Senate yesterday is a more realistic proposal, and clearly more respectful of taxpayers than the House proposal. It steers clear of taxes supported by House (income tax on capital gains and B&O tax increase in particular) but it does raise some new taxes. You can read more here. While there is much to like about the Senate version of the budget, I voted against it because it does rely on some higher taxes.

We have extraordinary surplus revenue this biennium thanks to a great economy. We are in the best spot in this century to write a budget that funds key priorities like education and mental health—without new taxes.

budget

Fighting for those struggling with drug addiction and homelessness

I offered two amendments to the Senate Operating Budget that would enable our medical professionals and law enforcement officers to help those struggling with drug addiction. The Senate budget already makes important new investments in mental health and substance abuse treatment.

My amendments would have added the following:

  • A grant program for local drug and gang task force units to address the public safety needs of our communities – we need to ensure that our local law enforcement has the tools they need to tackle the challenges of opioid addiction and drug crimes.
  • A planning process within the Health Care Authority to promote medically assisted treatment and other key supports for every patient in an emergency room or behavioral health facility with an indication of a substance use disorder, opioid overdose, or chronic addiction. We need to ensure that everyone who needs help with an addiction gets that help when needed.

Though these amendments were not adopted, I am glad that the legislature is working in a bipartisan way to make progress in the fight against opioids. I am co-sponsoring Senate Bill 5380, which will make a difference for people struggling with opioid use throughout our state, including in our emergency rooms and jails. You can read more about this important bill here.

To address the challenge of homelessness, I offered an amendment to use pilot funding for diversion programs to prevent homelessness before it happens. Pierce County is pioneering a model diversion program in which funds can be used to meet specific needs for people who enter our homelessness coordinated entry program. Diversion may include a month’s rent, car repairs, or transportation. Diversion funding is far more cost-effective than some of the other expenses associated with homelessness once people are living on the streets. This amendment was also rejected.

news conference

Click above to watch the Senate Republican Caucus news conference on homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness

Contact Me

As always, I value hearing directly from you. If you would like to contact me, please call, email and again, stop by if you’re in Olympia.

Email: Hans.Zeiger@leg.wa.gov

Phone: (360) 786-7648

Thanks for the privilege of serving as your state senator.

All the best,

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