Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the session progresses we try to update you weekly with an email update or video of the latest happenings in Olympia. This update will give you an overview of the governor's proposed operating budget, the tourism and wine cluster bills I am working on, and how you can stay engaged and follow the Legislature this session.
This is a long session, so we will be crafting a two-year budget for the 2017-19 biennium. Once again, I will be serving on both the House Appropriations Committee and House Finance Committee, allowing me to be involved in the budget and tax discussions.
By law, the governor is required to introduce a budget before the session starts. He did, but it was much more of a negotiating tactic as he proposed spending about as much money as possible, rather than introducing a realistic attempt at a spending plan. If adopted his spending plan would put in place the largest tax increase in state history. He proposed:
- a capital gains tax;
- a 60 percent increase in the state Business and Occupation (B&O) tax;
- a carbon emissions tax; and
- rolling back tax exemptions on bottled water and refineries.
These proposals have already failed to gain the support of the Legislature in recent sessions or have been turned down by the voters, sometimes more than once. His B&O tax would hit anyone in the service industry – you accountants, hairdressers, landscapers, attorneys and anyone else who offers a service.
The good news is, it is highly unlikely these taxes will be enacted. The governor tells us we need them to fully fund education. I think we can address the state Supreme Court McCleary decision without the largest tax increase in history. I know most of my constituency feels the same way. It can be done with existing revenues. And, it should be noted, we have increased K-12 funding by 36 percent, or $4.8 billion, over the last three biennia.
Plus, we have had a recent gas tax increase, and those in the Puget Sound area are also paying taxes on another massive transportation plan just passed by voters. More taxes is not the answer.
Finally, the latest state revenue forecast shows a projected 6.7 percent increase in available revenues this coming biennium compared to last biennium. That equates to $2.6 billion. We are expecting the next revenue forecast in February to also be trending in the right direction.
With all those factors in play, you can see it will be an interesting budget debate.
Like every session we hit the ground running, and while they say it is a marathon, it sure seems like a sprint out of the gates. We are only a few weeks in, but I am excited about our tourism legislation, House Bill 1123, potentially getting through the legislative process.
While I prime sponsored the legislation, it has truly been a collaborative effort. Stakeholders and legislators from both sides of the aisle have been working on it through the interim.
The public hearing in the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee went well. The committee approved the bill, so it now heads to the House Appropriations Committee, a little tougher challenge.
Washington state is the only state in the union that doesn't have some type of investment in the tourism industry at the state level. Under this legislation, with a small investment by the state we should see double or even triple the return from the tourism industry. It does not raise taxes, and using existing revenue we should see a boost to our economy and tourism industry. Other states are pumping much more money into their tourism industry than Washington. It is important we don't lose ground to the other states, especially when Washington state has so much to offer.
Currently, wine tasting rooms are “clustered” into a few specific areas around the state. I am the prime sponsor of House Bill 1038, which would allow smaller wineries to increase the number of locations in which they may serve samples of its product or sell its own wine. By increasing the number of wine “clusters,” wineries can access more of the state and stimulate those local economies and potentially add jobs. This bill also was passed by its respective committee and is now before the House Appropriations Committee. I will keep you updated on both these bills.
HOUSE PAGE PROGRAM
We have a great House Page Program. Legislative pages deliver interoffice mail, attend page school to learn more about the legislative process, and can even take part in the daily flag procession. Every page I have talked to has thoroughly enjoyed their experience.
I have already sponsored two great pages, Tyler Wurl and Caden Eagle (in the photo above). Pages must be between the ages of 14-16. They must get permission from their parents and school. Pages are also paid $35 a day. For more information on the page program and how to apply, click here or call my Olympia office.
There are plenty of ways to follow what is happening in Olympia during the session. You can keep track of things I am working on and what is being sent to the media or follow the Legislature in general.
I want to remind you once again how you can keep in touch with me while I'm in Olympia and how you can stay involved in YOUR state government:
- Capitol Buzz – A daily electronic clip service of House Republicans. Click here to subscribe.
- Weekly radio programs – We are fortunate to have radio stations in our district who take an active interest in their legislators and what is happening in Olympia and work with the communications staff of the Washington House Republicans. You can find my radio interviews from KOHO, KOZI and KPQ on SoundCloud by clicking here.
- View my weekly video updates – During the legislative session I provide a weekly video update. You can view the latest one by clicking here. They are also aired weekly on NCWLIFE.
- Check out my Website – www.representativecarycondotta.com. From this link, you can get more information about me, the bills I've sponsored and view my news releases as well as current and past email updates.
- Photos– Access my photo gallery here.
- TVW– The state's own version of C-Span, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live. You can also watch on your computer, smartphone or tablet: www.tvw.org
- Legislature's Website– You can get bill reports, track legislation, view committee agendas and information about upcoming activities in the Legislature at: www.leg.wa.gov
- Contact my Olympia office: If you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation we are working on, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (360) 786-7954. If you're planning a trip to Olympia during session, please call ahead so we can find time in my schedule for us to meet.
It is an honor to represent you in Olympia.