The 2019 legislative session ended on Sunday, April 28. As you can expect in a session when lawmakers were tasked with authorizing a new, two-year operating budget, calls for new and increased taxes were fervent. Sadly, in the end, the majority party raised billions of dollars in taxes and passed a massive state spending increase. I talk about this and more below.
2019-21 operating budget increases spending, taxes
The 2019-21 state operating budget was approved on party lines, with Republicans voting 'no.' The budget increases spending to nearly $52.5 billion, which represents an 18% increase over current levels, and relies on $5.5 billion in tax increases over the next four years. Some of these include:
- a 20% B&O tax increase for certain services;
- a progressive real estate excise tax (REET);
- an increased B&O tax on banks, which is on top of the B&O tax increase listed above;
- an increase in the hazardous substance tax; and
- a tax increase on travel agents.
The budget will also rely on revenue generated from the elimination of the sales tax exemption for Oregon residents. Democrats approved a policy that will instead turn the exemption into a remittance/refund program. Though the change is projected to generate $113 million over the next four years, it will have a dire effect on our southern border communities.
Throughout the session, Democrats argued we needed additional revenue to fund our priorities. I, and my fellow Republicans, disagreed. We came into this session seeing historic revenue growth and a $2.8 billion surplus. Our budget writers said this was, hands down, the best fiscal position we've been in since the Great Recession. In fact, with this robust growth, I think many Washingtonians would have liked some tax relief. Instead, Democrats voted to increase spending at an unsustainable rate and raise taxes.
With economists warning of a recession in the next few years, we should be doing all we can to prepare for a rainy day now. Unfortunately, to continue funding new and expanded programs approved this year, lawmakers will only have two options when the downturn hits:
- Ask for more of your tax dollars when you can least afford it, or
- make deep, painful cuts to critical services.
The bottom line is we need to restrain spending. With this new budget approved, state spending has increased by 70% since 2013. This explosive growth is unsustainable and irresponsible.
2019-21 capital budget funds local projects
In addition to making robust investments in our K-12 infrastructure and mental health facilities, the 2019-21 capital budget directly invests $81.4 million in a number of local projects. Some of these include:
- $26.8 million for the ongoing development and implementation of the integrated Chehalis Basin Strategy;
- $22.4 million for corrections facilities repair and improvements;
- $6.8 million for the Skokomish River restoration;
- $4 million to relocate the Schafer campground outside of the floodplain of the East Fork of the Satsop River and build a new welcome center;
- $3.5 million for the Shelton YMCA;
- $2 million for the Belfair sewer extension;
- $600,000 for the Holly Ridge Center in Bremerton;
- $350,000 for the Skabob House Cultural Center at Skokomish Indian Reservation;
- $265,000 to help replace the irrigation system at Mason Co. Recreation Area;
- $253,000 to help with salmon recovery in Big Beef Creek Estuary.
For a full list of projects funded in the 35th District, visit http://fiscal.wa.gov/BudgetCProjList.aspx and select “35th Legislative District.”
Governor signs bill to end, extend statute of limitations for heinous sex crimes
After five years of drafting and redrafting legislation, committee hearings, and floor debates, legislation to end and extend the statute of limitations for heinous sex crimes has been signed into law! Specifically, Senate Bill 5649 will eliminate the statute of limitations for sex crimes committed against children, and will extend the statute of limitations for most other sex offenses.
Those of you who have been following my journey with this legislation over the years know how deeply personal this issue is to me and my family. My wife and I recently sat down with Q13 News' Brandi Kruse to talk about what this bill means to my family and many others:
I want to thank each and everyone of you who have reached out to offer your support, and who have shared your painful stories with lawmakers in an effort to get this bill passed and signed into law. All of the credit goes to the countless survivors who bravely came to the Capitol year after year to fight for this bill.
I also want to thank the many reporters who have followed this legislation the past few sessions. I've lost count of how many interviews I've participated in about this bill, and with the broad coverage it has received, survivors throughout Washington state we're not going to let this important policy go another year without legislative approval.
Bill repeals expiration for fire service mobilization for all hazards
The governor recently signed my bill to repeal the expiration date for fire service mobilizations during state emergencies.
When a local jurisdiction needs assistance beyond the capabilities of local resources during emergencies, a request may be made to the Chief of the Washington State Patrol for a state mobilization of fire services. During the Oso landslide incident in 2014, a fire services mobilization request was denied because the request was not firefighting related. In response, I cosponsored legislation in 2015 that redefined “mobilization” to include all hazards, whether they be firefighting-related or not. That legislation also set an expiration date for July of this year.
After working with fellow emergency responders and legislators, we determined the fire service mobilization process was still necessary, so I sponsored House Bill 1170 this year to remove the July expiration date.
With House Bill 1170 now signed into law, our state will be ready come whatever emergency or natural disaster requires additional fire services.
Connecting with me throughout the year
With the Legislature adjourned for the year, I'm back home in the 35th District for the next few months. As I take this time to prepare for the upcoming 2020 session in January, I encourage you to reach out to me with your thoughts, ideas, and concerns. You can do so by calling (360) 786-7966 or sending an email to Dan.Griffey@leg.wa.gov.
Together, I believe we can make our communities an even better place to work or start a business, raise a family, and retire.
It's an honor serving you!