For some, cherry blossoms represent a time of renewal. For Washington lawmakers, they also signal the nearing end of a legislative session. We have less than 30 days to go in the 2019 legislative session. Despite the waning number of days, we still have a number of big issues to tackle before the gavel drops on the final day of the session.
Among these issues are the three state budgets – operating, capital, and transportation. I want to take some time today to talk to you about the operating budget.
This year, lawmakers are tasked with approving a new, two-year operating budget, which will fund our state services for the 2019-21 budget cycle. Last week, the House approved the majority party's $53 billion budget proposal. While this budget makes some worthy investments, I ultimately had to vote 'no.'
For starters, this budget would grow state spending by another $8.6 billion, or 19.4%, over current spending levels. That would mean that since Gov. Inslee took office in 2013, state spending will have grown by 70%. That major of an increase is simply unsustainable.
In addition to significantly increasing spending, their proposal also calls for a more than $4 billion tax increase, through a capital gains (income) tax, a graduated real estate excise tax, and increased B&O taxes on certain services. These calls for new and increased taxes are despite our state's red-hot economy. Our most recent revenue forecast shows our state is experiencing record revenue growth. In fact, with revenues up and our caseloads declining, we actually have a $3 billion surplus – and that's without us even lifting a finger.
For some of you, this type of tax-and-spend proposal may look familiar. That's because we made the same mistakes in 2007 and 2008. Prior to the Great Recession, or economy was booming, so Democrats, who were still in the majority at that time, increased spending to an unsustainable level. And when the recession hit, what happened? You guessed it: we had to make cuts to services. This year's budget proposal puts us in the exact same position. About 80% of economists have warned another downturn is coming, likely as soon as 2022 – only a year after the 2019-21 budget expires. I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a budget that puts us in the same dangerous position we were in 12 years ago. As budget writers come together to negotiate a final budget proposal, I hope it will be much more financially sound and prudent than the proposal the House approved last week.
Helping retailers get a handle on shoplifting
Though my bill to help retailers better address shoplifting will not be advancing this legislative session, I'm doubling down on my effort to get the legislation through the process next year. Bartell Drugs recently announced they will not be opening any new downtown Seattle locations due to rampant theft happening in their stores. It's a sad situation that's all too real for many retailers throughout Washington state.
In fact, according to a recent National Retail Federation survey, U.S. retailers lost about $50 billion to theft in 2017. For Washington state, that resulted in roughly $940 million lost, which equates to about $90 million in unrealized sales tax revenue.
Beyond dollars and cents, retailers' inability to act when a shoplifter is still inside the store means some of these criminals are not getting the help they desperately need. Sadly, several of these individuals are suffering from mental- and behavioral-health issues or substance use disorders. If retailers could intervene sooner, we could divert these individuals to the programs and services they need to lead healthier and safer lives. My bill would give law enforcement and loss prevention officers the tools they need to help accomplish that goal.
I recently sat down with Q13 News to talk more about the bill. You can watch the interview and learn more here.
An update on my bill to end or extend the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes
My bill that would eliminate or extend the statute of limitations for felony sex offenses was approved by the Senate Law and Justice Committee yesterday, and is steadily moving through the legislative process.
Many of you who have been following my efforts the past five years know how deeply personal this bill is to me and my family. My wife and I recently had the opportunity to share our thoughts on the bill with KOMO News. I remain committed to getting this issue resolved so survivors feel empowered to come forward and stop these heinous crimes from happening to others.
As session winds down, I hope you will continue to stay in touch with me with your thoughts and concerns. You can reach me by emailing Dan.Griffey@leg.wa.gov or calling (360) 786-7966.
It's an honor representing you!