Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Monday, March 22, I will be hosting a telephone town hall meeting with Sen. Ann Rivers and Rep. Brandon Vick. During the meeting, which will run from 6:30-7:30 p.m., we will be providing an update on this year's legislative session and taking questions from 18th District residents. There is much to discuss, including the governor's recent announcement that the entire state will soon be moving to Phase 3, so I hope you'll be able to join us. If you would like to participate, please call (360) 226-0858 at any point during the hourlong meeting.
If you're unable to join us, please know you can always call me at (360) 433-2839 or send me an email with your comments, questions or concerns. I always look forward to hearing from you.
Latest revenue forecast should end any talk of new taxes
Yesterday, the state's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its latest state revenue forecast. Although the pandemic has wreaked havoc on families and businesses, state tax collections have continued to increase. In fact, they've grown by more than 10% over the past fiscal year. Tax revenue for the 2021-23 biennium is now projected to be $56.6 billion, an increase of 8.2% over the current biennium. Furthermore, our state is projected to have a $3 billion budget surplus by the middle of this year.
Any case that could have been made for new and higher taxes is now gone. Even so, the governor and majority party continue to push for a new capital gains income tax and yet another tax-and-spend operating budget.
Our plan would fund all of our state's needs and priorities without imposing new taxes or cutting vital services. It would provide sales tax exemptions for basic necessities, help low-income families defray the costs of remote learning, safely reopen our schools, take bold steps to solve the homelessness crisis, make critical investments in behavioral health, provide B&O tax relief for our small businesses, and more.
At the same time, our plan would reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, fix inefficiencies in government, eliminate programs that aren't working, and replace bad policies with better ones.
It's a budget that aligns perfectly with our priorities as a caucus to safely reopen schools and businesses, oppose new taxes and fees, hold the governor and state agencies accountable, and protect our communities.
Bills to watch in the coming weeks
There are a number of bills that have been proposed by the majority party this session that would hurt Washington families and small businesses.
- House Bill 1091 would task the state's Department of Ecology with creating a program to reduce the carbon content in transportation fuels. In order to be in compliance with this new low-carbon fuel standard mandate, fuel suppliers would either need to mix their existing gas and diesel with biofuels or buy credits from suppliers of lower carbon transportation fuels. Either way, their costs would rise dramatically, and those costs would then get passed down to you and me. I've said before how important it is to foster a clean and healthy environment for future generations, but a low-carbon fuel standard program would not make a meaningful contribution toward that effort. In exchange for a fractional reduction of the carbon in our state's atmosphere, we would see higher gas and diesel prices, more expensive groceries, and job losses in a number of key industries. That's not a good trade. House Bill 1091 was approved 52-46 in the House (five Democrats voted with all 41 House Republicans), and is now in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
- Senate Bill 5096 would impose a new capital gains income tax. Not only would such a tax hurt small business owners and those planning for retirement, but it would also eliminate one of our state's biggest competitive advantages. It would also pave the way for a statewide income tax down the road. Senate Bill 5096 was approved 25-24 in the Senate and is now in the House Finance Committee.
- House Bill 1076 would authorize qui tam lawsuits, incentivizing trial attorneys to seek out private citizens to sue small businesses on behalf of the government for alleged violations of workplace laws. House Republicans have fought this bill every step of the way, not to protect bad actors, but because we know such a system would be ripe for abuse and lead to an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits. We also know it's unnecessary. The Department of Labor and Industries exists to investigate bad actors and hold them accountable. As I said during the floor debate on House Bill 1076, they don't have a massive backlog that necessitates this bill. In fact, the opposite is true. In the end, the bill passed 53-44. House Republicans offered 12 amendments to make it slightly better, but all of them were rejected by the majority. House Bill 1076 is now in the Senate Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs Committee.
Contacting me and staying involved in the legislative process
Please continue reaching out to me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is Larry.Hoff@leg.wa.gov, and my district office number is (360) 433-2839.
I also encourage you to stay involved in the legislative process by following House Republicans on Twitter and Facebook, visiting The Ledger, and utilizing the resources listed in this document. Finally, please bookmark my legislative website, where you can find my latest press releases, op-eds, and more.
It is an honor to serve you.