Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is the fifth week of the legislative session. We have reached the cutoff date for our policy committees. That means any bills not voted out of committees are likely dead. Our fiscal and transportation committees have a little leniency from the fiscal cutoff date since bills with fiscal implications could be included in the budget.
Telephone town hall
Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, Rep. Brad Hawkins and I will be hosting a telephone town hall on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 7:00 p.m. It is like a call-in radio show where you can ask questions of your legislators. I hope you will be able to participate. To join the call, dial toll-free (877) 229-8493, then enter pin 112411. To ask a question live, press star (*) then 3 on your phone. I look forward to talking with you!
Governor proposes tax increases – again
Last week, Gov. Inslee held a press conference to announce his plan to raise taxes to address the recent state Supreme Court order on the funding of education under the McCleary decision. The governor wants to:
- Increases the tax on sales tax for vehicle trade-ins valued over $10,000. A family purchasing a $35,000 vehicle, and trading in a $15,000 vehicle, would see an increase on the sales tax paid of $450.
- Impose a tax on interstate transportation. We run the risk of starting a mini-trade war with retaliatory taxing from adjacent states and it could drive up prices for consumers.
- Impose a tax on recycled fuel used on-site in manufacturing. This tax exemption incentivizes recycling of fuel and the most efficient use, namely re-use at the same plant.
- Impose a sales tax on nonresidents. This will hurt job creation in border counties.
- Places the tax back on bottled water. This ignores the will of the voters. In 2010, the people passed I-1107, which repealed the sales tax on bottled water.
- Impose a sales tax on janitorial services. Another cost driver on our small employers.
- Increase the business tax on prescription drugs. This could drive up the costs of prescription drugs, harming those who use prescriptions the most – the elderly and the sick, who are also the least likely to afford an increase.
The governor's proposed tax increases amount to approximately $400 million. He has also discussed income inequality and the shrinking middle class, yet these taxes will likely exacerbate the problem. Need I remind you, he also stated during his campaign that “no new taxes” were needed.
The Legislature continues to work on the implementation of Initiative-502, the legalization of marijuana. Here is a brief overview of the timeline:
- The liquor board plans to issue growing and processing licenses in late February and early March.
- Licenses for stores will be issued later, with expected opening dates in June.
- The liquor board is sticking with that timeline even as it continues to study a Jan. 16 formal opinion by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson stating that local governments could ban or restrict recreational pot businesses — basically opting out of the initiative approved by voters.
I believe when the initiative was written potential costs of regulation and enforcement were not taken into consideration at the local level. House Bill 2144 is intended to address those concerns and provide the local government some funding. The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee passed the bill unanimously and it is now being considered by the House Appropriations Committee.
In his State of the State address, the governor said he supported raising the state minimum wage “in the range of $1.50 to $2.50 an hour.” Recently, House Democrats introduced House Bill 2672, which would increase the minimum wage rate to $12 per hour over the course of three years. This legislation could make us the highest ranked state in the nation for youth unemployment. Currently, our unemployment rate for youth 16-19 is 7th highest in the nation at 28.6 percent.
The bill was passed by the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee by a 5-4 vote and is now in the House Appropriations Committee. It could be before the full House of Representatives for a vote next week some time. It is very detrimental to agriculture and the small-business owners in the 12th District as well as the state. While proponents say Wall Street can afford it, the 12th District and the more Main Street businesses are a lot different than large corporations and big business that could absorb this cost.
Legislation moving forward
I have a number of bills still moving through the legislative process even though we have reached the policy committee cutoff date.
- House Bill 2147 would simplify and protect independent contractor certification;
- House Bill 2309 would reduce penalties for delinquent property taxes and allow a county treasurer to accept partial payment of property taxes;
- House Bill 2145 would reduce the burden on small business with freight conveyance;
- House Bill 2146 would reduce the cost of appealing Labor and Industries penalties;
- House Bill 2412 would adjust taxes to help small liquor stores compete with larger retailers; and
- House Bill 1711 would help small wineries and catering.
I hope you find this update informative. Again, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.