Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last month, I headed back to Olympia for two days of meetings with my fellow lawmakers in the three committees I serve on: Appropriations, Consumer Protection and Business, and Labor and Workplace Standards.
In the Appropriations Committee, we received updates from state agencies on drought and wildfire conditions across our state. We also reviewed briefings on Washington's Medicaid system, the implementation of a new workforce education program, and how the state's Department of Children, Youth, and Families is addressing the ongoing challenges facing our foster care system.
In the Consumer Protection and Business Committee, we had a work session on business and occupational licensing issues, while in the Labor and Workplace Standards Committee, much of the focus was on automation in the workplace.
Most House members were able to make it to Olympia for these committee meetings, which is important as we prepare for the 2020 session. There are a lot of issues to tackle, and we'll have just 60 days to complete our work once session begins. We'll be having two more Committee Assembly days on Nov. 21 and 22, and the 2020 session will begin on Jan. 13.
Fiscal responsibility needs to make a comeback in 2020
Earlier this year, the majority party approved a $52.4 billion operating budget that increased state spending by $8 billion and relied on $2 billion in tax increases. These tax hikes included:
- A change to the nonresident sales tax exemption, which will result in fewer Oregonians shopping in the 18th District and other border districts.
- 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 higher tax on oil that will increase the price of gas.
Although the majority had record revenues with which to write a fiscally responsible budget, they still chose to raise taxes on families and employers. That doesn't make sense to me, and it doesn't make sense to the vast majority of people I've talked with this interim. During the many constituent meetings I've had, our neighbors have expressed great concern that these new tax increases will negatively impact a wider population than ever before.
We need fiscal responsibility to make a comeback during next year's 60-day session, and those of us in the minority are going to fight hard to make sure that happens. We are with you and share your concerns!
Supporting our veterans
As a Navy veteran, I'm troubled by the fact our state has the fourth largest population of homeless veterans in the country. However, I am also encouraged by the incredible work being done by so many people to reduce that number. Last month, the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center (CCVAC) hosted a Veterans Expo and Stand Down to offer our region's veterans, homeless or not, a broad range of necessities, including:
- Resources and referrals for veteran benefits;
- Employment services;
- Counseling services;
- Housing assistance;
- Health and dental;
- and more.
This type of outreach is so important, and I could not be prouder of the folks at the CCVAC for everything they're doing for our veterans.
I also want to recognize the work Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, has been doing. In 2016, she introduced legislation to create the YesVets program. Because of that program, more than 4,424 veterans have been hired by 1,000 employers in Washington state. Great job, Gina!
Continuing to stay engaged in district
Every day, I meet with constituents, community leaders, business owners, and representatives from state agencies. Holding these meetings and having in-depth conversations about the issues affecting our district and state helps me to better serve you and be a more effective advocate. If you would like to set up a time to meet with me at my district office in Vancouver, please email my legislative assistant, Virginia. I also welcome you to email me directly with any comments, questions, concerns, or ideas you have for legislation.
It is an honor to serve you.