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Dear Neighbor,

I want to start by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays! How quickly this year has flown by! Soon, the legislative session will be upon us. I have been working on legislation and solutions all-year long. The 2022 session begins on Jan. 10. Despite the shortened length of this coming year's session, we will have lots of work to fit in during those two months, including the passage of supplemental operating, transportation, and capital budgets.

I'd like to take a few minutes to provide this update. Also because of certain restrictions, I cannot send any more email updates until the legislative session convenes in January. However, if you have questions about this update, the upcoming session, or state government-related matters, please do not hesitate to contact my office. I always appreciate your input.

A semi-remote session in 2022

The first vote I took during the 2021 session as your new 20th District state representative was to preserve transparency in government and access for you, my constituents, by holding that session safely in person. As we know, the Democratic majority rejected that openness and approved rules that set up session operations remotely, including all committee meetings and all floor voting, with a few exceptions. Gov. Inslee had also ordered chain-link fences around the Capitol, with the National Guard keeping the public out.

I believe this did a great disservice to the citizens of Washington, and cleared the way for Democrats to pass onerous, regressive and tax-heavy legislation during the 2021 session, such as a new capital gains tax, climate-change legislation, low-carbon fuel standard, restrictive laws against law-abiding gun owners, reforms that have handcuffed police from doing their jobs, harsh new rules against property rental evictions, and more.

My Republican colleagues and I continue to fight for a more open and transparent process to ensure citizens have a voice in their government. We gained some victories, including a more open process (the chain-link fences and National Guard are gone), but the latest announcement of House operations for 2022 is still disappointing, including restricting some members access to certain legislative buildings; limiting access to the House chamber and floor; and conducting committee meetings virtually. That is why your voice will be more important than ever! This process is a little more than the 2021 session, but not by much.

During the first day of the session, we will be voting on the rules of operations. I will continue to work on your behalf to keep our government open and accessible access for you and ensure your voice is heard and counted. 

Learn more here: New plan allows only vaccinated Representatives in House chamber (FOX 13)

Repealing the long-term care tax

I share your concerns about the Democrats' new long-term care insurance program and payroll tax. I will be introducing legislation to repeal the long-term care payroll tax in December when the prefiling window begins.

As of today, the Employment Security Department has received more than 394,556 applications for an exemption. Unfortunately, many of you were unable to obtain private long-term care insurance by the Nov. 1 deadline, because most insurance companies stopped selling it in Washington by September, and you were unable to opt-out. For others, like myself, who began the process in July of applying for private long-term care insurance, the underwriting process was overwhelmed with applicants and could not be completed by the Nov. 1 deadline.

The frustration of being stuck in a state-operated system that you and I don't want to be a part of, and forced to pay a new tax that we may never receive a benefit from, doesn't even begin to describe how most of us feel about this extremely poor public policy. I will continue to work with Rep. Joe Schmick, ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, to draft legislation to address our shared concerns with the WA Cares Act state program and the payroll tax.

You can learn more about our efforts to repeal and address the payroll tax here:

Incoming state revenue is strong, so why do Democrats insist on raising taxes?

The state's November revenue forecast adopted Friday, Nov. 19 by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council shows an increase of incoming revenues by $898 million for 2021-23 and $965 million for 2023-25. That's a whopping $1.9 billion of your tax money expected to be collected by the state over the next four years.

By all accounts, the state's revenue picture is looking very good. I wish we could say the same thing for the average citizen in Washington.

A statement by my seatmate, Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who is a member of the Forecast Council, said it best:

“The bad news is many Washingtonians are feeling the pain of inflation, higher gas prices, and other economic pressures. I will repeat what House Republicans have been saying all year: It is time for meaningful tax relief. I continue to believe that property tax relief would help individuals, families, and employers across our state. We have offered ideas on how to do this, including bills that have already been introduced, and I welcome a discussion on these options.”

I agree with Rep. Orcutt. In the last three years, legislative Democrats have raised taxes by $11,545,000,000! Every dollar the state takes in is a dollar you and other working Washingtonians have first had to earn.

While the state's revenue boat is rising, many working families are struggling to stay afloat. Meaningful tax relief would raise all boats at a time when Washingtonians need it the most. I will continue to oppose additional financial burdens on working families and the regressive taxes we saw the majority pass last session.

Getting 'REAL' with transportation dollars

Even as our state's revenue picture is rosy, there are some in the majority party seriously considering proposing a transportation package that would raise the state's gas tax at the pumps. Have you seen the price of gasoline lately? Seriously? It's time to get REAL!

The Republican proposal would do just that. Our new state plan called the REAL Act, which stands for Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity, would use untapped surplus money from the state's general fund to complete long-standing, unfinished highway projects. Taxes from the sales of vehicles would also be redirected from the growing general fund toward the maintenance and preservation of highways, roads, and bridges.

The bills being proposed under the REAL Act would generate approximately $3.2 billion a biennium without raising taxes. As you can see, the state is expected to have plenty of money coming in over the next four years. Let's tap into some of that revenue to fix our crumbling roads and unsafe bridges. Read more about our plan here.

Redistricting Commission misses the deadline; mapping now goes to state Supreme Court

The Washington State Redistricting Commission missed its midnight, Monday, Nov. 15 deadline by just minutes before voting on new legislative and congressional maps. However, since the deadline was missed, the vote doesn't count, and now the responsibility of new mapping goes to the state Supreme Court.

The court has until April 30 to draw new boundaries and it doesn't have to follow the commission's maps. However, there was a great deal of citizen input on the commission's maps. In a statement on Nov. 18, House Republican Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox called on the high court to “adopt these maps and respect the public input that went into developing them.”

To review the commission's maps, click here.

Other issues

Your voice is needed

When I served on the Centralia City Council, I was frustrated by one-size-fits-all programs and unfunded mandates passed by the Legislature. I don't believe the state can solve problems that impact rural and urban communities with cookie-cutter programs. As your state representative, I want to support and empower communities to address and solve issues that reflect their unique values and approach. This is a diverse state, and the 20th Legislative District has diverse communities. That is why your voice is important.

I highly recommend becoming involved and providing your input. Here are some links to help you get started:

  • Read about How a Bill Becomes a Law, and How to Read a Bill;
  • Use the member rosters to get the legislative contact information to send emails, or write letters;
  • Call the toll-free Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to leave a message on any issue;
  • Make your views known by testifying before a committee on an issue or bill;
  • Watch and listen to committee hearings live on TVW;
  • Need more information on how the Legislature works? Call the Legislative Information Center at (360) 786-7573.

Future email updates

Due to certain restrictions, this will be my last email update to you until after the 2022 legislative session convenes on Jan. 10. However, if you have questions about this update, the upcoming session, legislation, or any state-government matter, please contact my office. I appreciate hearing from you always. It is an honor and a privilege to represent you and the citizens of the 20th District. Thank you for allowing me to serve you!

Sincerely,


Peter Abbarno

State Representative Peter Abbarno, 20th Legislative District
representativepeterabbarno.com
411 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
peter.abbarno@leg.wa.gov
(564) 888-2492 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000