Dear Friends and Neighbors,
During the final two weeks of this year's legislative session, which adjourned this past Sunday, the majority party rejected emergency powers reform, approved an income tax on capital gains, and adopted two proposals that will significantly increase the price of gasoline. I'll be recapping all of that and more in this update, but first, I want to invite you to sign up for the virtual town hall meeting I'm hosting with Rep. Klippert and Sen. Brown on May 24. It will function exactly like the virtual town hall meeting we held last month, which was a lot of fun and really well-attended. If you would like to join us, please click here to pre-register. You can also submit questions in advance on that page.
We must stay vigilant in the fight against COVID-19
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout Tri-Cities, I want to encourage you to stay vigilant in the fight against this deadly virus. As you have likely heard, the governor recently moved three counties back to Phase 2 because they were unable to meet the necessary metrics for reopening activities. To stay in Phase 3, Benton County must continue to meet at least one of the two following metrics:
- Our rate of new cases per 100,000 residents must be below 200 over a period of 14 days. We are currently at 213 per 100,000.
- We must have fewer than 10 new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days. This number has not been updated since April 12, but we were meeting the goal at that time. We do know hospitalizations continue to climb, however.
The next evaluation of Benton County's metrics will happen on Monday, May 3. Let's all do our part to make sure we can stay in Phase 3 and then move forward as quickly as possible to Phase 4. As a reminder, all Washingtonians 16 years of age and older are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. If you are interested in making an appointment with a provider, I encourage you to use to the tool on this website.
Democrats say 'no' to emergency powers reform
With Benton County in danger of moving back to Phase 2, it's important to remember that the governor continues to have unilateral authority to move counties backward and forward as he sees fit. House Republicans made several attempts during session to convince the majority party to adopt emergency powers reform, but we were unsuccessful. That's unfortunate because this should not be a partisan issue. One of our bills, House Bill 1557, would have simply ensured adequate legislative involvement in long-lasting states of emergency. It would have caused states of emergency to expire after 60 days unless renewed by the Legislature, and also would have allowed the Legislature to terminate, on its own authority, an emergency declaration.
I believe our executive branch needs the ability to quickly and effectively respond to emergencies. However, there must be limits on the exercise of emergency powers. Whether Republican or Democrat, no governor should be able to rule by proclamation and executive order for months on end. Editorial boards across the state have agreed with our position on this issue for months.
- The Columbian: Legislature should act to balance government
- Tri-City Herald: Gov. Inslee's emergency powers over COVID have gone unchecked long enough
- The News Tribune: Curbing Inslee's emergency power all but dead. We should learn from Texas, New York
- Tri-City Herald: WA Gov. Jay Inslee has too much power over COVID. Lawmakers must fix the law
- The Seattle Times: A legislative check on the governor
- The News Tribune: It's time for Washington Legislature to check Gov. Inslee's pandemic superpowers
In an editorial published earlier this month, The Tri-City Herald wrote: “People have suffered enough, especially those in the hospitality industry, and many are wondering how much longer they can keep their businesses running. Landlords are wondering if they should sell their rental properties if they continue to lose money on them. People planning big events like weddings and anniversary parties are anxious to know if the rug will be pulled out from under them like it was last summer. It would ease people's minds to know their legislative representatives have some say in how the state re-opens. And it would make Washington state's three branches of government work together as intended. No one leader is supposed to have so much power for so long over so many.”
I could not agree more.
Unfortunately, it appears Washington will remain one of the worst states in the country in terms of governmental balance of power for quite some time.
2021 legislative session recap
Even before session got under way on January 11, it was clear one of the top priorities for the governor and majority party was passing an income tax on capital gains. They got it done on the final week of session.
It's hard to believe the majority would want to get rid of one of our state's biggest competitive advantages. Prior to session, we were one of nine states without this tax. With its passage, many investors and entrepreneurs who live in Washington are going to leave for greener pastures. And non-Washingtonians who have been looking for somewhere to start a business are going to choose another state.
We need investment, entrepreneurship and job creation now more than ever. During session, Democrats said passage of this new tax would fix Washington's regressive tax system. However, they then passed a low-carbon fuel standard (House Bill 1091) and cap-and-tax scheme (Senate Bill 5126), two regressive policies that will increase the cost of gas, food, goods, and heating for families across our state.
House Republicans fought hard against both of these bills, which are going to create financial harm for a lot of people. You can watch the arguments we made against Senate Bill 5126 by clicking on the image below.
2021-23 operating, transportation, and capital budgets
The $59 billion operating budget for the 2021-23 biennium will do a lot of good things for our state, but it also relies on revenue from the income tax on capital gains I discussed above. Additionally, it grows spending by $7 billion, an increase of 13.6% over 2019-21. Astoundingly, state spending has grown by 74% since the governor came into office. This spending growth is unsustainable and will inevitably lead to devastating cuts or even more burdensome new taxes down the road.
The 2021-23 transportation budget passed on a 90-6 vote. The $11.8 billion budget will fund the basic transportation needs of our state by providing funding for the maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Washington State Ferry system, the Washington State Patrol, and other state transportation agencies.
- $849 million for preservation and $520 million for maintenance.
- $550 million for Washington State Patrol, including an additional trooper class.
- $541 million for operating costs and $505 million for capital costs for Washington State Ferries.
- $224 million for Transportation Improvement Board.
- $101 million for County Road Administration Board.
The 2021-23 capital budget passed with unanimous support. The $6.3 billion budget will fund various construction projects throughout the state, making significant investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure with the help of one-time federal funds. In addition to local projects, which can be found here, other highlights include:
- $733 million for the state's four-year institutions.
- $730.6 million for 2021-23 School Construction Assistance Program.
- $512 million for the community and technical college system.
- $326 million for State Broadband Office for broadband infrastructure projects, including $50 million in bonds to leverage other federal funding.
- $200.7 million to begin construction of the behavioral health teaching hospital run by the University of Washington.
- $129 million from the Public Works Assistance Account to issue grants and loans to local governments for infrastructure projects.
- $95 million in behavioral health capacity grants for community mental health services.
My manufacturing jobs bill signed into law
This session, I sponsored a bipartisan bill to support our hard-hit manufacturing sector. House Bill 1170, which has been signed into law, will provide a framework for the state to add 300,000 new manufacturing jobs and double the number of small manufacturing firms and the number of women- and minority-owned manufacturing firms over the next 10 years. With the Department of Commerce leading this effort and business, unions, and the building trades working in solidarity, I truly believe we can double the number of manufacturing jobs in Washington by 2031.
Under the bill, the state Department of Commerce will be tasked with:
- Preparing a biennial report to the Legislature on the state of the manufacturing and research and development industry and workforce in Washington.
- Convening a manufacturing council to advise and consult on the development of the report and recommendations.
- Granting funding for initiatives that accelerate the development of regional clusters in manufacturing and research and development.
- Appointing a workforce innovation lead to coordinate needs identified by the manufacturing, clean technology, and aerospace sector leads.
House Bill 1170 will go into effect July 25.
Although session is now over, please know I am here to serve you year-round. I encourage you to continue reaching out to me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is Matt.Boehnke@leg.wa.gov, and my district office number is (509) 315-2315.
It is an honor to serve you and the Mighty 8th.