Welcome to Day 66 of the 105-day session, scheduled to adjourn April 25. We have now passed the house-of-origin cutoff (March 9) in which bills that have not passed out of their respective chambers in which they originated are considered “dead” for the session. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from the cutoff.
After two-and-a-half weeks of intense debate on the “virtual” House floor, we have returned to the committee process in which House committees are considering bills sent to us by the Senate, and Senate committees are doing the same with bills that passed the House.
In this newsletter, I will discuss major legislation that passed both chambers, including help for working Washington families, the latest revenue forecast, and what you can expect next in the coming weeks.
Take my 2021 Legislative Priorities Survey!
If you have not done so already, I invite you to take a few short minutes to mark your answers on my survey about your legislative priorities for this session. Your answers and comments are very important in helping me do the best I can in representing your interests in the Legislature.
To participate, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Abbarno2021Survey or use the QR code below by opening the picture app on your smart phone and pointing the phone at the code.
Progress made toward helping Washington's working families
We've debated and fought for hours and hours over the past two weeks against some contentious bills that would increase how much you pay at the gas pumps (low-carbon fuel standards), take away tools our law enforcement officers use to de-escalate situations, automatically restore felon voting rights before completed sentences, and make it nearly impossible for rental property owners to evict bad tenants. So it was a welcome relief on the day of cutoff, March 9, to see some bills reach the House floor that would make a meaningful and positive difference in the lives of working Washington families.
Three examples — each of which passed the House with bipartisan support:
- House Bill 1015 – Would create the Equitable Access to Credit Program within the Department of Commerce to make it easier for small businesses in rural and underserved communities to access lines of credit;
- House Bill 1170 – Would implement the “Building Economic Strength Through Manufacturing” (BEST) Act, which establishes policies that will help double manufacturing jobs in Washington state by 2031; and
- House Bill 1297 – Would expand the state's 2008 working families tax exemption so that 400,000 taxpayers in Washington could become eligible for a credit of between $500 and $950.
These bills reflect an important theme I carried with me to Olympia. We need to create family wage jobs, open up access and opportunities for families and businesses in Southwest Washington, and trust people with their money.
Billions of dollars coming to Washington state, new taxes not needed
The state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its quarterly revenue forecast today and the news is quite good. As compared to the November forecast, revenue is projected to increase by $1.34 billion for the current 2019-21 budget cycle, and by $1.95 billion for the 2021-23 budget cycle. That's a $3.29 billion increase over the four-year outlook.
This is an extraordinary increase in revenue, due in large part to the fact the November forecast assumed no additional pandemic relief would be forthcoming. Since then, the federal government has distributed billions of dollars to Washington state and its residents through two separate stimulus packages, including the latest one — $12 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
With all this money coming in to the state, why are majority Democrats continuing to push for an income tax on capital gains in Washington? Senate Bill 5096 was narrowly approved by the Senate on March 6. As it stands, the bill would impose a 7% tax on capital gains above $250,000 for individuals and joint filers, starting in 2022. It also includes a requirement for yearly adjustments to that threshold, based on inflation. A public hearing was held Monday morning (March 15) in the House Finance Committee.
I am opposed to increasing taxes. This is completely unnecessary. State tax collections are strong and billions of dollars in federal funding is on the way. It's also unpopular. Washington voters have rejected an income tax 10 times. It's likely unconstitutional. And it's a major step toward an income tax. Editorial boards across the state have also recommended against it. (Read The Seattle Times editorial.)
Reopening Washington's economy
My legislative Republican colleagues and I have been pushing for weeks for a 50 percent Phase Three reopening of Washington's economy and getting kids back in school.
The governor's closures have hurt many small businesses in our local communities, forced people out of their jobs, and created enormous uncertainty for employers who have been skittish to hire, only to be closed again.
When Gov. Inslee was announcing his 25% regional Phase 2 reopening, he was asked by reporters what Phase 3 would look like. He couldn't answer, because he didn't have a Phase 3 plan. No plan is a plan for failure. That's why on March 4, Republicans in both the House and Senate came up with our Open Safe, Open Now plan.
Our plan would allow all counties to safely move to Phase 3 immediately. After three weeks, all counties would automatically move to Phase 4, 100 percent capacity.
The governor must have been feeling the heat generated from our plan because he finally decided to move the state to Phase 3, beginning March 22. His plan is very similar to ours, including abandoning the regional approach and going to a county-by-county approach. The governor also issued an emergency proclamation last week that allows for in-person instruction for every K-12 student. Families who still want their children to continue to have remote learning can do so under the latest proclamation.
We are glad he's finally reopening the state's economy and getting kids back in school. It's time to trust the citizens of Washington and get students back in school, people back to work and the businesses in our communities open.
Have you visited RepresentativePeterAbbarno.com lately?
My website is filled with lots of useful and important information. I highly encourage you to visit it and share it with your friends and neighbors. Have them sign up for this e-newsletter.
Here's a sample of what you can read, watch and listen to:
- VIDEO: Rep. Peter Abbarno discusses legislation to help working families in Washington state.
- RADIO: Capitol Report with Rep. Abbarno: Supporting families, the floor cutoff.
- RADIO: Rep. Abbarno discusses broadband providers, reopening, on KELA, Centralia.
- NEWS: Abbarno: House-of-origin cutoff arrives with positive theme and opportunities for working Washington families
It is an honor to serve and represent you!
I encourage you to call, write or email my office with your questions, comments, or ideas about legislation. Some of the best legislation starts with you. I'm glad to discuss these issues with you on the phone or remotely via Zoom. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!