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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

In most legislative sessions, Washingtonians are given an opportunity to weigh in on any proposed tax increases, as well as the two-year operating budget. However, that wasn't the case this year. On the final weekend before the 105-day session adjourned late last month, the majority party increased taxes by $2 billion in the dead of night and passed an operating budget that increases spending 18% above current levels.

The process was so lacking in transparency, editorial boards across the state weighed in with headlines such as:

Last week, The Columbian editorial board wrote:

“During odd-year sessions, the Legislature is tasked with devising a two-year operating budget that is the entree of the meal lawmakers serve to taxpayers. Cooking that up in the final days and holding floor debates in the middle of the night leaves voters hungering for more transparency.”

Indeed.

The Democrats' $52.4 billion operating budget increases state spending by $8 billion. To increase spending, they decided to increase taxes. These include:

  • A business and occupation (B&O) tax surcharge on services that will impact 90,000 employers and raise costs for consumers.
  • A new, graduated real estate excise tax (REET) that will restrict housing supply, increase rents and harm our economy.
  • A B&O tax increase on large banks that will result in costs being passed on to customers.
  • A change to the nonresident sales tax exemption, which will result in fewer Oregonians shopping in the 18th District and other border districts.
  • A higher tax on oil that will increase the price of gas.

All of these new taxes are going to negatively impact us here in the 18th, but the one that will likely hurt most is the change to the nonresident sales tax exemption. Many of our local businesses rely on Oregonians coming across the bridge to shop, but by turning the exemption into an annual remittance program, fewer Oregonians will bother making the trip. That will result in a number of our businesses closing, jobs being lost, and more families struggling to make ends meet. The fact is we didn't need to make that change or raise taxes to generate more revenue. We already have record revenues and a $2.8 billion surplus. Majority party budget writers could have easily written a budget that funded our shared priorities within existing revenues. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Thankfully, not everything this session was as disappointing as the process surrounding passage of the operating budget. Republicans and Democrats were able to work together on many important issues, including mental health, opioid addiction, special education, broadband, and helping sexual assault survivors:

  • The 2019-21 capital budget provides record funding for mental and behavioral health infrastructure around the state.
  • Senate Bill 5380 will establish new rules regarding opioid prescribing and the dispensing of opioid overdose reversal medication. It will also require physicians to discuss alternatives to opioids with patients before prescribing them.
  • Senate Bill 5091 will increase the excess cost multiplier for special education students, which will result in more funding.  
  • Senate Bill 5511 will expand broadband to enable economic development, public safety and health care across our state.
  • Senate Bill 5649 will eliminate the statute of limitations for most sex crimes committed against minors, and extend the statute of limitations for most other sex offenses.

In other good news, Republicans in the Legislature were instrumental in stopping a number of harmful policies this session. However, keep in mind the following bills will be up for consideration again next year:

  • House Bill 1068, which was requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, would make it unlawful for Washingtonians to possess firearm magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition.
  • House Bill 1110 would create a new low carbon fuel standard program, which would significantly increase the price of gas and goods.
  • House Bill 1395 would make general contractors liable for any unpaid wages owed by a subcontractor on private construction projects.
  • House Bill 1491 would restrict scheduling options for employees and employers, hurting various industries around the state.
  • House Bill 1515 would force many individual contractors to work as employees as opposed to being their own boss.
  • Senate Bill 5395 would require every school to provide comprehensive sex education.

Finally, while there were many good House Republican bills approved by the Legislature this year, the following bills did not advance. However, they too will be up for consideration next year:

  • House Bill 1035 would provide every public school with funding to employ a full-time school resource officer.
  • House Bill 1588 would prevent local governments from imposing an income tax on an individual or household income.
  • House Bill 2149 would improve our state budgeting process through zero-based budget reviews. 
  • House Bill 2150 would implement the periodic review of state spending programs. 

House Bill 1176 now on the governor's desk

I introduced three bills this session, one of which was approved in both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support. House Bill 1176, which will help the Department of Licensing eliminate duplication and streamline the licensing and exam process, is now on the governor's desk. It is expected to be signed into law in the next few weeks.

Connecting with me during interim

Now that the 2019 legislative session has adjourned, I am back in district and eager to meet with you. I want to hear your thoughts about ways we can improve our communities and the state, so please feel free to call (360-433-2839) or email my legislative assistant, Virginia, to set up an appointment to meet with me. You can also email me directly any time with your comments, questions or concerns.

It is an honor to serve you.

Sincerely,


Larry Hoff

State Representative Larry Hoff, 18th Legislative District
RepresentativeLarryHoff.com
406 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
larry.hoff@leg.wa.gov
(360) 419-5592 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000