We have reached another crucial point in this legislative session. Last Friday, March 26 was policy cutoff for all bills from the opposite chamber to pass out of their respective committees. The one exception to the rule is legislation in fiscal committees, which has until today, Friday, April 2, to pass out of its respective committees. Starting this afternoon, we will be busy on the House floor voting on bills for the next three weeks.
Much of that time will be spent reviewing, debating, and voting on the state's three main spending plans: the operating, transportation, and capital budgets. These will shape our state's economic outlook for the next two years, and as always, Republicans will be emphasizing fiscal responsibility.
Continue to Call for Limiting Governor's Emergency Powers
One of the major focuses for Republicans this session has been to limit the governor's emergency powers. Both House and Senate lawmakers from the minority party offered legislation to do that. Unfortunately, those bills have fallen on deaf ears with the majority party. It looks like we are going to leave this session with no changes, meaning the governor can continue to act on his own until he feels like declaring the emergency over.
I stand with my fellow Republicans against this level of power for the executive branch of our government. The people need to be heard and that means the entire Legislature needs to be involved in this process. We will continue to push for this change.
Our Public Safety Is Being Threatened
This session, we have seen an attack on public safety and an overall hands-off approach to criminal behavior. Between the majority party and the state Supreme Court, our communities have suddenly been put at a higher risk for crime. Several bills have passed that reduce law enforcement's ability to fight crime and protect our neighborhoods. Combine those bills with the recent Supreme Court decision (State v. Blake) on Feb. 25 that deemed the state's simple possession drug law unconstitutional, and our communities are facing a very troubling situation.
House Republican Response to State v. Blake – while the majority party has yet to offer any legislation in response to this development, House Republicans introduce a package of bills to address the issue. Among the legislation introduced was House Bill 1558, which I offered. It would promote recovery and improve public safety by providing behavioral health system responses to individuals with substance use disorder and providing training to law enforcement personnel.
Positive Steps Forward in COVID Recovery
Now let's talk about some good news. After more than year, it appears we are finally turning a corner with COVID-19. That is good for businesses, schools, and families and individuals who have been struggling for so long. We've finally moved to Phase 3 and there is hope that we can fully reopen as the numbers continue to move in the right direction. Here is some other positive COVID news:
- The governor has told schools they can adopt the 3-foot distancing rule for students as recommended by the Centers for Diseases Control. This should mean more students will be able to return to the classroom for in-person instruction.
- Businesses can now open to 50% capacity, which should lead to more jobs and a better economy.
- In general, the number of positive cases is down from its peak last year, as are the number of people in hospitals suffering from COVID.
- Also, the number of people that have been vaccinated is up, and more groups will be eligible to receive the vaccine very soon.
More Positive News: Revenue Forecast Is Looking Up
Another piece of great news is the announcement of the latest state revenue forecast. In early summer, our state was looking at a revenue deficit of about $9 billion. However, that deficit never materialized. State tax revenue for 2021-23 is projected to be $56.6 billion, which represents an increase of 8.2% over the current biennium.
When compared with the November 2020 forecast, the latest state revenue forecast adopted by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, Near General Fund-Outlook revenue increased by $1.34 billion for 2019-21 and by $1.95 billion for 2021-23.
And we haven't even mentioned the billions of dollars our state is expected to receive from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Washington will receive $7.1 billion for state ($4.25 billion + $189 million for state capital projects) and local governments ($2.66 billion) as well as an additional $635 million for child care, almost $1.9 billion for K-12 schools, and $655 million for higher education.
Our state government is in very good shape and we should be looking for ways to lower taxes to help those families and individuals, and small businesses that are still struggling.
Thank You and Please Stay in Touch
Even though session is winding down, I'm still here to listen. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime with your questions, comments, ideas, and concerns. My contact information is below. We need to hear from you as we work to improve state government in Washington. Thank you for your continued support and trust in me. It truly is an honor to serve you!