Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This year's legislative session, which wrapped up on Sunday, was unlike any other in our state's 131-year history. Floor debates, committee hearings, and voting were conducted remotely.
I am disappointed that there was not more access to the Capitol Campus in Olympia. With proper protocols in place, we could have allowed more lawmakers, staff, and – most importantly – the public on campus.
Wildfire Prevention, Local Infrastructure, and Small Business Support
There were several bipartisan successes this year. Together, we prioritized wildfire prevention and forest health, and made critical investments in rural broadband. We also replenished the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, provided small businesses impacted by the shutdown with property tax relief, and invested in our state's skills centers.
I am also pleased to report that the 15th District will receive $19.4 million from the capital budget for school construction, water projects, and other infrastructure needs. Some of these projects include environmental clean-up at the Boise Cascade mill site and upgrades to Miller Park, both in east Yakima, and facility build-out and planning at the Toppenish and Grandview fairgrounds.
Tax Increases, Unsustainable Spending, and Other Bad Policies
The Legislature imposed an income tax on the people of Washington state despite bipartisan opposition and a treasury that is overflowing with federal and state dollars. This year's budget is twenty billion dollars larger than it was just six years ago. I spoke out and voted against it because of the tax increases and the unsustainable levels of new spending. New entitlement programs created this year will squeeze out funding for our schools and those most in need when the economy weakens and federal subsidies end.
Imposing an income tax is bad enough, but the way it was done showed just how broken our state government is. By adding an emergency clause at the last minute, a group of Seattle Democrats prevented voters from being able to hold a referendum on the income tax. Our state's constitution prohibits income taxes like this one. If legislative majorities are going to disregard the constitution, the least they should do is let the voters have a say. The majority compromised public trust, undermined transparency, and violated the rule of law with their approach to implementing this controversial policy.
Again, despite bipartisan opposition, narrow majorities also passed a new low-carbon fuel tax and a cap-and-trade emissions tax. These policies will: increase the costs of gas, food, and goods; disproportionately impact lower-income citizens and our family farms; and bring little to no benefit to air quality and our environment.
In addition to the tax increases and unsustainable spending, several other bad policies became law this year. The Legislature decriminalized heroin, methamphetamine, and every other illegal drug as of July 1, 2023. After that date, minors would be breaking the law if they have alcohol or tobacco products, but not if they possess cocaine. Sentences for second-degree robbery were reduced. Violent protestors vandalized and looted with impunity. And felons were given the right to vote before they have completed their sentences. Meanwhile, police were partially defunded and disarmed, and law-abiding citizens saw their constitutional right to bear arms limited. The Legislature failed in its duty to increase public safety and instead made our streets and our communities more dangerous.
It is an honor to serve and fight for you even during challenging times like these. While the legislative session is over, I am still your full-time state representative. Please continue with your e-mails, calls, and letters. My office is open and available to assist you with questions and concerns about state agencies and state government in general.