I have always believed we must be good stewards of the environment. We must do our best to protect it while also protecting Washington’s economy and families.
Unfortunately, the regressive energy tax that is outlined in Senate Bill 6203 does neither.
Like similar bills in other states, SB 6203 has little-to-no impact on our environment. In fact, this bill isn’t about the environment — it’s about raising taxes.
It would cost all of us an extra 30 cents per gallon of gas and home heating fuel, making it even more expensive for you to commute to work, take your kids to school or keep your home warm in the winter.
Some electricity utilities estimate your power costs could increase by 17 percent.
How many of you in the 2nd Legislative District can afford to spend more on your commute, your heating bills, or even the cost of goods that are manufactured here in Washington? How much of a tax burden can you bear?
SB 6203 not only makes no significant impact on our environment, it makes it harder for manufacturers and other employers to do business in Washington. As operating here grows more expensive, they will look to relocate in places with even less regulation, costing us jobs and actually increasing overall pollution.
Even more unfair, the bill provides exemptions for 56 industry groups. In return, many have endorsed the plan. This is a cynical “divide-and-conquer” strategy that rewards businesses able to hire lobbyists.
Yet, there is no exemption for small business, which employs half the state’s workforce. The costs they can’t pass along would come right out of their bottom line and would hurt their families and those of the people they employ.
I will continue to fight against this tax in the hopes that we will see a more effective alternative that doesn’t harm your family.
Earlier this week, the Senate Democrats released their proposal for the 2018 supplemental budget. It was encouraging to our caucus that the proposal did two very important things:
1. It provided some property tax relief to families across Washington, lowering the state tax by 31 cents per $1,000 of home value.
2. It balanced over four years.
Why do we need property tax relief?
Despite the fact that most Washingtonians will see a reduction in their state property tax in 2019, this first year of transition to the new rate resulted in a temporary increase for some.
Even when we were working on the education funding plan last year, we were looking for a way to “buy down” the 81-cent-per-thousand rate during the first year. It was our primary concern as we approached this budget season.
And while we are happy to see the 31-cent cut in the Senate proposal, we believe that we can give 100% relief on the property tax increase by using the $2.5 billion revenue surplus we are experiencing this year.
Why do we need the budget to balance over four years?
It’s the law. And it also makes good fiscal sense. Our citizens have to live within their means and so should the government. Our caucus emphasizes the importance of this basic budgeting principle every year and we’re happy to see it made a priority by our colleagues across the aisle as well. We hope this is a turning point in their budget practices.
What else can be done?
Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, proposed an amendment to the budget that would have provided $500 million to expand mental health care beyond central institutions such as Western State Hospital into more community-based facilities.
Mental illness is a key contributor to opioid abuse, violent crime, poverty, domestic violence, suicide and homelessness. We must care for our family, friends and neighbors who struggle with mental illness for their sake — and for society’s sake.
Being able to treat these patients in their own communities, including through tele-psychiatry, is going to become more and more critical if we want to make any real progress in treating them.
Unfortunately, this amendment failed to pass in the Senate. But rest assured that providing more funding for mental health care will be something our caucus continues to fight for.
It’s not hard to tell that health care is my passion. I care deeply about how we care for patients in Washington.
Unfortunately, I’ve become concerned this session about a trend I see in the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, of which I am a member.
Often, we are asked to pass bills out of committee without giving them a hearing. This is an abuse of the process and provides members without any opportunity to hear how a bill will impact patients.
How can I vote for something without that essential consideration?
What’s more is that we are seeing a record number of amendments proposed for these bills because they are hastily written. Why? Because the primary focus this session is on being able to claim that we have passed more bills than in any other short session before, as if more legislation equals better legislation.
A short session is meant to make course corrections to the budget — not to force through as many bills as possible just so the majority can claim a high number in a false measure of success.
Quantity doesn’t equal quality. I hope this focus doesn’t continue. Our priority in the Health and Long Term Care Committee needs to be the well-being of patients and not a high bill tally.