Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature may not be in session, but there are plenty of political issues and news worth following. The ballot this November may lack high profile races but there are some measures worth doing your homework. There are rumors of a possible special session this fall to consider a transportation tax package, Obamacare continues to grab numerous headlines, and the state has announced they are eager to help Boeing with their permitting. For more information, read on.
Initiative 522 is being referenced as the GMO initiative. It would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods and seeds, if produced using genetic engineering, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale. This is an “initiative to the Legislature.” That means the initiative already came before the Legislature, but because we did not adopt the initiative as proposed or propose a different measure dealing with the same subject, in which case both measures would have been placed on the state general election ballot, I-522 is now on the ballot by itself and will be adopted or turned down by a vote of the people.
Click Washington’s food fight, the debate over GMO labels for a preview. This is the segment TVW will be airing beginning Oct. 1. They are examining both sides of the issue.
Initiative 517 is also an initiative to the people. I-517 would set penalties for interfering or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures.
There are also five advisory ballot measures. Advisory votes are non-binding and the results of the vote will not change the law, but you are advising the Legislature to repeal or maintain a tax increase. The five advisory ballot measures include:
- a leasehold excise tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly owned property;
- an aircraft excise tax on commuter air carriers in lieu of property tax;
- an insurance premium tax to some insurance for pediatric oral services;
- a retail sales tax exemption for certain telephone and telecommunications services;
- and an estate tax on certain property transfers and increased rates for estates over $4 million.
If it is good for Boeing, why not all employers?
You may have heard Boeing is considering a new 777X facility near Boeing Paine Field. A recent news article has reported that if the company chooses to build the facility here in Washington state and local officials have committed to issue permits for the new facility in four weeks! Yes, you read that correctly – four weeks. Under normal circumstances the permits we are talking about would normally be issued in 12 to 18 months.
Those of you who have read my e-mail updates or listened to me speak about the our state’s business climate have heard me talk about the onerous permitting and regulation process in Washington. The House Republican Caucus has repeatedly pushed regulatory reform/permitting legislation. However, now that our state’s largest employer needs assistance our state agencies decided to jump into action. What about all the other small businesses who need help with permitting, licensing or other bureaucratic regulatory hurdles? After all, 96 percent of our state’s employers are small businesses (those with fewer than 50 employees.) Just over 1.1 million people work for small businesses in Washington and they employ 41 percent of the state’s private sector workforce.
Our small employers are going to be the ones who will dictate when our economy bounces back. They will hire and invest when there is obvious certainty and stability in the business climate. The state could help by showing they want to help rather than just cater to Boeing and Microsoft.
Speaking of employers and the business climate, it is difficult to watch, read or access news on the internet without coming across an article on the implementation of Obamacare. I have seen a number on employers cutting employee hours to avoid paying additional health care costs or cutting staff to be able to pay the health care costs for their employees. There are many other issues at play as well. Here is a look at some of the headlines:
- Obama’s Affordable Care Act Looking a Bit Unaffordable
- Even in over-regulated Washington state, Obamacare will increase individual health insurance premiums by 34-80 percent
- Health exchange board delays vote on 31 plans
- Washington state to spend $26M on advertising its Healthplanfinder
- UPS to drop 15,000 spouses from medical plan, citing Obamacare
- Opinion piece: Falling short of Obamacare’s goals in Washington state (by Dr. Ricardo Jimenez, medical director of Sea Mar Community Health Centers)
- Obamcare fraud prevention program plagued with implementation problems
Transportation tax plan?
The Senate has scheduled bipartisan statewide transportation forums across the state in September and October. Their goal is to gather input from citizens across the state on a transportation funding package for new transportation projects. Keep in mind, a funding package means gas tax and numerous fees. The proposals introduced during the sessions had massive fees and tax increases. I believe it is important reforms are enacted first so we know the state is getting the best bang for the buck and it doesn’t appear the Washington State Department of Transportation is throwing dollars down an empty hole, which is how some feel about the SR 520 project. House Republicans introduced a number of reforms during the session. A couple were moved throw the legislative process but more than a handful did not even get a public hearing.
A transportation forum has been scheduled for Wenatchee on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. in the Chelan County PUD Auditorium at 327 N Wenatchee Ave. I would urge you to attend if you have questions, comments and concerns about a possible transportation tax revenue plan.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions, comments or concerns related to state issues. I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy their summer.
Thank you for the privilege and honor of serving the 12th Legislative District.