Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you to all of you who responded to the legislative priorities survey I sent out in my last email update. My goal with the survey was to find out what you would like to see from the Legislature in these final weeks of session. Through your responses, you told me the top issues you want lawmakers to focus on are:
- Public safety (Lowering crime rates, fixing “police reform” bills, more funding for police, etc.)
- Taxes (Providing tax relief, stopping tax hikes, etc.)
- The economy (Housing affordability, cost of living, job creation, etc.)
- Government accountability (Emergency powers reform, improving results at state agencies, etc.)
From day one of session, House Republicans have been intently focused on each of these issues. We have introduced comprehensive solutions to make our communities safer, lower your tax burden, keep housing affordable, grow our economy, enact emergency powers reform, and more. Although not all of our solutions will be accepted this session, please know we are working hard to make our state a better place to live for all Washingtonians. I also want you to know that your voice matters. I often share your stories and perspectives with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I will be sharing these survey results as well, so thank you again for your participation.
As I shared in my last update, House Republicans attempted to repeal the insolvent and inadequate Washington Cares long-term care program and payroll tax earlier this session. However, we also introduced a bill that would have replaced the program with an affordable and optional alternative. As it stands, the current program has been delayed for 18 months, though it is entirely unclear whether or not it can actually be fixed.
I think everyone in the Legislature agrees our executive branch needs the ability to respond quickly to pandemics, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies. At the same time, I also think there is broad agreement the Legislature should have a role to play during states of emergency. The question is how we go about restoring the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches.
Earlier this session, House Republicans introduced House Bill 1772, which would have ensured legislative oversight during states of emergency lasting longer than 60 days. More than 5,000 people signed in to support the bill when it received a public hearing, but ultimately it did not advance out of committee. For their part, Senate Democrats have chosen to advance their own emergency powers bill, Senate Bill 5909, which editorial boards around the state have called 'ineffective,' 'weak,' and 'milquetoast.'
House Republicans have been adamant about passing meaningful emergency powers reform because the governor has decided to go it alone throughout the pandemic. He has decided who and what is essential, which health metrics matter and which do not, which mandates to put in place, which businesses to close, how many people can attend church, and so on. There has been no real legislative input on any of these decisions, which means your voice has effectively been silenced. That is not the way our state government was designed to function, and it is a shame that nearly two years after the governor declared a state of emergency, his powers will continue to go unchecked indefinitely.
Last year, the majority party passed an income tax on capital gains, which eliminated one of Washington's biggest competitive advantages. Despite our state's $15 billion budget surplus, some in the majority would still like to impose a statewide income tax. I continue standing against any and all tax increase proposals, as do my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus.
It is remarkable to me that any major spending plan introduced this year could include tax or fee increases, but that is exactly what the majority's proposed $16.8 billion transportation package does. It would, in part:
- increase fees for an enhanced driver's license by 75%;
- increase fees for a state identification card by 75%;
- increase fees for vehicle license plates by 500%;
- increase fees for motorcycle plates by 500%;
- increase fees for a new photo for a driver's license or ID card by 100%;
- increase in the state sales tax by another tenth of a cent.
- levy a 2% tax increase on heating homes with natural gas; and
- levy a 2% tax increase on telephone landlines.
For our part, House Republicans are offering meaningful tax relief for Washington families. Earlier this week, we introduced the SAFE Washington budget framework, which would fund critical needs while also permanently cutting the state sales tax by a full percentage point. The graphic below details the highlights of our plan.
As I hope you can see, House Republicans have real solutions to fix the problems facing our state. Some of these problems grew organically, while others were created—or made worse—by the Legislature.
One bill that recently passed that I fear will make things worse is House Bill 1837. The bill would overturn a 2003 initiative backed by voters that prohibits state ergonomic regulations that go beyond federal OSHA regulations. House Republicans spoke out against HB 1837 for nine hours last week, while offering more than a dozen amendments in an attempt to make the bill better. We argued that if signed into law, HB 1837 would increase labor costs, incentivize automation that would result in job losses, and make Washington state a less desirable place to start or grow a business. While we were able to get seven Democrats to vote with us in opposition, the bill passed on a narrow 50-48 vote. Even so, I was proud of how we stood up for small business owners across the state. Below is a mashup of highlights from the debate, which features some of my remarks:
Please continue staying engaged in the legislative process by following House Republicans on Twitter and Facebook, visiting The Ledger (our daily legislative news aggregator), signing up for caucus text alerts, and utilizing the resources listed in this document. You can also bookmark my legislative website, which features my latest communications.
I also encourage you to contact me or my legislative assistant, Virginia, anytime with your comments, questions, or concerns. My email address is Larry.Hoff@leg.wa.gov, and our office phone number is (360) 419-5592.
It is an honor to serve you.