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Dear Neighbor,

We just wrapped up the 2022 legislative session!

Although this year's session was short — only 60 days — as opposed to 105 days in odd-numbered years, it was intense. We had some successes, but with Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, and the governor's office, there were many disappointments.

For example, during a time of the highest inflation in decades, the majority party voted to recklessly spend without giving any meaningful relief for working families. During a housing crisis, they voted to increase the cost of building homes. During a public safety crisis and a time of increased crime, they voted to decrease criminal sentences and attacked the Second Amendment and ability for law-abiding gunowners to defend themselves.

I have been spending my time in Olympia fighting for safer communities, protecting your hard-earned dollars and keeping taxes low, providing more choices for parents, and standing up for our Second Amendment rights.

Please take a few moments to read about the latest activities in the Legislature following our adjournment.

Budgets – It's YOUR money!

The final operating budget passed along party lines. Unfortunately, our calls for tax relief were not heard. Here's a quick look at what the budget does:

Record spending in supplemental operating budget; Sadly, no tax relief

It's the largest supplemental operating budget in state history — a $6.1 billion increase over current 2021-23 spending — bringing total state spending to a record $65 billion. Under this proposed budget, state spending will have increased by more than $34 billion — more than double in 10 years. While the state sits on a $15 billion surplus from your hard-earned money, the majority party fought our efforts to provide any form of tax relief to struggling taxpayers.

Here are some quick facts to consider about the 2021-23 supplemental operation budget – Senate Bill 5693:

  • This supplemental budget is almost 10 times more expensive than any previous supplemental budget.
  • Despite the pandemic, tax collections have skyrocketed. Revenue growth is 13.3% in 2021 and 8.7% in 2022.
  • Since the 2021-23 budget was enacted last March, revenue has increased by $9.25 billion over four years.
  • After paying for the cost of currently authorized programs, there is a four-year surplus of about $15 billion.
  • This budget leaves a small four-year ending fund balance of $348 million.
  • It assumes revenue of $1.2 billion over the four-year outlook from the capital gains income tax. If a court ruling is upheld that the tax is unconstitutional, this revenue will no longer be available, putting the budget out of balance.
  • This plan transfers $1.6 billion to the “shadow reserve account” created by Democrats in 2021 as a way to circumvent spending restrictions in the state's rainy-day fund. The account now holds $2.6 billion.
  • Republicans have offered a budget framework called the “SAFE Washington” plan that makes appropriations prioritizing Safety, Affordability, Families and the Economy. For information about that plan, go to: https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/safe-wa-budget/

I voted twice against the supplemental operating budget measure, Senate Bill 5693, because it fails to recognize the big picture that working families need and deserve tax relief. Taxpayers deserve greater economic opportunities, and that starts with more money in their family's budget.

Supplemental transportation budget provides funding for local projects

This year, we voted on legislation that enacts both a 2021-23 supplemental transportation budget and a new Democrat-proposed long-term transportation funding package.

Senate Bill 5689, the supplemental transportation budget, provides $11.6 billion for transportation projects across the state. It provides nearly $163 million for transportation projects in the 20th District, including $149 million for I-5/Lewis County corridor improvements, $52 million for the I-5/North Lewis County interchange, and nearly $97 million for the I-5/Chamber Way interchange improvements. I voted yes.

Democrats' partisan plan boosts your license fees to pay for Seattle transportation projects – I voted NO!

Traditionally, nearly all transportation funding packages have been crafted and negotiated with Republicans and Democrats in the room, have been bipartisan in nature, and have passed with bipartisan support. Not this year. Democrats excluded Republicans and crafted a $16.8 billion, 16-year transportation funding/spending package that is primarily Puget Sound centric.

Senate Bill 5975 has some serious issues. This is different than the supplemental budget I described above in Senate Bill 5689. Here's how:

The state's gas tax is tied to the 18th Amendment of the Washington State Constitution, which mandates that revenues from the gas tax be used for “construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair and betterment of public highways, county roads, bridges and city streets.” To get around this mandate so they could pump millions of dollars into public transit, bicycle and pedestrian paths, electrification of ferries, and expansion of electric charging stations across the state, this package uses revenue from the state's new cap-and-trade auction system (Climate Commitment Act) and significantly boosts license fees. So while they didn't increase the state's gas tax, you are going to pay significantly more to license your vehicle and get a new drivers' license.

Washington has a $10 billion backlog in maintenance and preservation of roads and highways. This plan allocates only $3 billion over 16 years. That means our crumbling roads and failing bridges will continue to crumble and fail while billions of dollars from this package are pumped into transit projects around Seattle. This is a Seattle spending plan, not a proposal to address the needs of Washington state.

Finally, and why I vehemently opposed this package, is that it would transfer $57 million a year from the state's Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA). The revolving account funds local projects, such as water, sewer and broadband, so communities can build housing, create economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life for our families. This will deny our cities and counties the ability to have this funding source for vital infrastructure.

For these and other reasons, I voted “no” on this spending package.

Capital budget brings money home to the 20th District

As assistant ranking Republican on the House Capital Budget Committee, I'm very proud we were able to craft a $1.5 billion bipartisan 2021-23 supplemental capital budget that will pay for new infrastructure across Washington state, including more than $9.3 million throughout the 20th Legislative District.

This year's supplemental capital budget reflects many of our priorities. We invest millions in K-12 school construction, mental and behavioral health, housing, broadband and other infrastructure.

Local 20th District projects funded in the House supplemental capital budget include:

  • $6 million for a water system improvement project in Morton;
  • $2 million for upgrades to the Lewis County Fire District #5 station and equipment in Napavine (See my news release on efforts to help this and other fire stations through House Bill 1929);
  • $875,000 for the Lewis County Regional Tennis and Wrestling facility in Chehalis;
  • $750,000 for Oakview Elementary School;
  • $515,000 for a Tenino city playground;
  • $515,000 for the Woodland Community Library Building project; and
  • $155,000 for the North Trailhead restroom and covered shelter in Castle Rock.

I'm pleased to be part of this construction budget which will improve our communities, provide additional family-wage jobs, and put people to work.

Successes and disappointments of the 2022 session

There are always wins and losses in each legislative session. But in my view, there's never loss of hope. I will continue fighting for our citizens and families across the 20th District to get your priorities across the finish line.

Nearly 1,200 bills were introduced in the 2022 session — all of them competing against each other to pass their respective committees and both chambers in the Legislature. To date, only 273 bills have passed the Legislature and have been sent to the governor. Also an unfortunate fact, is that the majority party will make sure their bills are the priority over Republican-sponsored legislation, which makes it even more challenging for our bills to advance.

Here's a quick look at successes and disappointments this year:

  • SUCCESS – 988 suicide prevention signs: I'm pleased that another measure I sponsored to save lives is very close to going to the governor. House Bill 1600 would require the new 988 suicide prevention hotline number be posted at new public works projects, such as buildings, bridges, ferries or parks constructed after July 1, 2024. Unfortunately, it failed to advance from the House Capital Budget Committee. However, I was able to attach it as an amendment to House Bill 1181. That measure passed the Legislature and has been delivered to the governor for his signature. Learn more here.
  • SUCCESS – Imagination Library: A bill I co-sponsored with Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, to expand early learning reading in Washington state is on its way to the governor. House Bill 2068 recognizes the Dolly Parton's Imagination Library as a statewide Washington program and sets up the early reading program throughout Washington state. The national program is named after country singer Dolly Parton, who began it in 1995 to inspire a love of reading and provide free books to children ages birth to five-years old. The gifting program mails quality, age-appropriate books to children's homes at no cost to families. This is a great way to inspire children and their parents to read together. I've been involved with the local program for several years. Read my news release.
  • SUCCESS – Capital gains tax ruled unconstitutional: Last year, I joined with fellow Republicans in voting against Senate Bill 5096, the capital gains income tax. We said the bill was unpopular, unnecessary and unconstitutional. Last week, a Douglas County Superior Court judge ruled the capital gains income tax was unconstitutional. This issue is not settled though. Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his office would appeal. Democrats have fought hard for new tax increases, including the long-term care insurance payroll tax, and are standing by them. You can find a list of these bills here.
  • DISAPPOINTINGZack's Law: Likely most disappointing is that while Zack's Law (House Bill 1595) passed out of the House Transportation Committee, the majority party allowed this important legislation to languish in the House Rules Committee and never brought it to the House floor for a vote. Named in honor of Zachary Rager, a Centralia teen who drowned last year in the Chehalis River near the Willapa Trail, the bill would raise awareness of cold-water shock drownings through signage. I find it most disappointing that while Democrats prioritized the passage of other less important bills, they didn't move this legislation forward, such as this measure. Zack's family, friends, and I are committed to saving lives through Zack's Law and preserving his memory. Next year is a longer legislative session, and it is my hope that Zack's Law to prevent cold water shock and drownings will receive a greater priority and become law. Read more about this bill here.
  • DISAPPOINTING – Tax incentives to hire veterans and their spouses: Except for providing a Labor Day weekend sales tax holiday, majority Democrats had no interest in providing any kind of tax relief. That included my House Bill 1677. The measure would have increase an existing $1,500 business and occupation tax credit up to $3,000 for veterans hired full-time on or after July 1, 2022. It also would have expanded that tax credit to veteran spouses, or spouses of active-duty military members. Plus, veterans would no longer have to meet the requirement of being unemployed for at least 30 days to be eligible. In addition, it would apply to seasonal employers. The bill passed the House Finance Committee, but died in the Rules Committee as it awaited to be pulled to the floor for a vote. Read my news release.
  • DISAPPOINTING – Long-term care payroll tax delayed, not repealed: The controversial long-term care insurance program and payroll tax have been put on hold until July 2023. Unfortunately, Democrats rejected motions to bring my legislation to the House floor for a vote. House Bill 1594 would have repealed the insolvent program in its entirety. I felt that to be the better option and let people decide for themselves whether to seek out a private long-term care insurance program. At least the state program is on hold, which I hope will give us time to work out the many flaws in this legislation. 
  • VERY CONCERNING: Ammunition magazine restriction: Late Friday, Democrats brought Senate Bill 5078 to the floor. This measure would prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of large capacity magazines. Many constituents have contacted my office who are very concerned this is another assault on our Second Amendment rights. I fought against this bill in the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee. You can read about that fight here. We had hoped the measure would die before the 5 p.m. Friday cutoff. Unfortunately, House Democrats saved this legislation until last and introduced it to the floor at 4:45 p.m. House Republicans offered 22 amendments in defense of constitutional rights and we debated and fought the measure for three-and-a-half hours, but the bill passed on a 55-42 vote. It's now heading to the governor's office for his signature.

Sign up for legislative text alerts

You can now get the latest news and information from the Legislature directly to your cell phone. We have a new text alert system that was recently activated. Click here to sign up.

Listen to my Capitol Report radio programs

Each week during the 2022 session, I record a two-minute program that reports on the week's news in the Legislature. Capitol Report is aired on KEDO in Longview and KELA in Chehalis. However, you can listen to my programs here:

Contact my office

Please contact my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions about legislation and/or state government. My contact information is below. Go to my website, RepresentativePeterAbbarno.com to get the latest local legislative news and information.

Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving you and your neighbors across the 20th Legislative District.

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