Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's hard to believe, but Sunday marks the end of the 2021 legislative session. Before I get to policy matters, however, I first want to encourage you to stay vigilant in the fight against COVID-19. As you have likely heard, Gov. Jay Inslee recently rolled three counties back to Phase 2 because they were unable to meet the necessary metrics for reopening activities. To stay in Phase 3, Clark County must continue to meet at least one of the two following metrics:
- Our rate of new cases per 100,000 residents must be below 200 over a period of 14 days. We are currently at 147.6 per 100,000.
- We must have fewer than 5 new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days. We are currently at 5 per 100,000.
You can track these metrics here.
Just as the pandemic is serious, so is the fact Gov. Inslee has been ruling unilaterally for more than a year now. I think we can all agree our executive branch needs the ability to respond quickly to pandemics, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies. However, hopefully we can also agree there should be limits on the exercise and duration of emergency powers. After all, Washingtonians were never meant to be governed by proclamation and executive order for months on end. Throughout the pandemic, the governor has decided who and what is essential, which health metrics matter, which counties are allowed to move forward one phase, which counties must move back one phase, how many fans can attend ball games, and so on.
In an editorial published last week, The Columbian wrote: “…the thought of giving a governor indefinite emergency powers is disturbing, and it belies the notion of representative government. The public – through their elected legislators – should have a say in the state's continuing response to the pandemic. It also should have a say in any future emergencies, once the initial shock has subsided.”
I could not agree more.
Last week during floor action, House Republicans made a motion to waive previously established cutoff dates so our emergency powers reform bill could be considered on the House floor. The bill, House Bill 1557, is not remotely partisan. It would simply cause states of emergency to expire after 60 days unless renewed by the Legislature. It would also allow the Legislature to terminate, on its own authority, an emergency declaration.
These are reasonable reforms that would bring our state in line with what many other states are already doing. Currently, Washington ranks as one of the worst states in the country in terms of governmental balance of power.
Unfortunately, the majority party blocked our motion, all but ending the opportunity for the Legislature to pass emergency powers reform this session.
What the majority did have time to do recently, however, was pass an income tax on capital gains. As I've said before, not only will such a tax hurt small business owners and those planning for retirement, but it will also eliminate one of our state's biggest competitive advantages. The tax is also unnecessary. According to Pew Research Center: “Washington projects solid revenue growth to continue this fiscal year and, when combined with increases last year, expects to collect nearly 12% more than if collections had stayed at pre-pandemic fiscal 2019 levels, the largest two-year gain nationally.”
You read that correctly. Our state has seen greater revenue growth during the pandemic than every other state in the country. That alone should be reason enough to reject new taxes this session. As a reminder, the budget House Republicans proposed earlier this year would have funded all of our state's needs and priorities without imposing new taxes or cutting vital services. Conversely, the majority's budget relies on an income tax on capital gains to increase spending by $6.6 billion, which represents an increase of 12.8% over the current budget cycle.
Unfortunately, the majority's tax increase proposals don't just end with an income tax on capital gains. They are eyeing 33 new taxes and fees to pay for their “Forward Washington” transportation package, which is being championed by Sen. Steve Hobbs. It includes a gas tax increase of 9.8 cents per gallon.
“That's just beneath a 10-cent psychological barrier some colleagues have asked to avoid, Hobbs said. But more negotiations could send it higher, he said.” – The Seattle Times
Washington drivers could see further increases in the cost of gasoline if the majority's low-carbon fuel standard and CO2 cap-and-trade bills are approved before session adjourns. The Washington Policy Center's Todd Myers projects the increases could total as much as 50 cents per gallon by 2023, likely designating Washington as the state with the highest gas taxes in the country.
I discussed my opposition to a low-carbon fuel standard in my last email update. In exchange for a fractional reduction of the carbon in Washington's atmosphere, we would see higher gas and diesel prices, more expensive groceries, and job losses in a number of key industries important for our state's economic growth. That's not a good deal. Regarding the cap-and-trade plan in Senate Bill 5126, voters have overwhelmingly rejected carbon-pricing schemes in the past. It is imperative the majority party respect the will of the people when it comes to this policy. We'll see if that's what they choose to do in these final few days of session.
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) 419-5592.
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.