The cherry blossoms are in full bloom here at the Capitol as we spend the final quarter of the 2023 legislative session finalizing the three big state budgets – capital, operating, and transportation – and debating dozens of consequential policies.
The 20th Legislative District would see more than $75million for projects under the proposed 2023-25 House capital budget, which must still be reconciled with the Senate capital budget and signed by the governor. In addition, funding was included for many regional projects like the Chehalis Basin Strategy and efforts to improve north Lewis County/South Thurston County access.
The state capital budget, also known as the “construction budget,” appropriates money for statewide construction and repair of public buildings, and for other investments, such as land acquisitions and transfers, infrastructure, broadband, parks, and cultural and heritage facilities.
Unlike many other fiscal budgets, the state capital budget is based on community solutions. Many of the projects start with community-based individuals, organizations, and local governments identifying solutions for problems and then partnering with the state and my office to assist.
Significant investments went into statewide priorities, including:
- $893 million for behavioral health construction;
- $847 million for K-12 public school construction;
- $704 million for affordable housing, home upgrades, and utility connection grants;
- $710 million for infrastructure through the Public Works Board, Community Economic Revitalization Board and Broadband; and
- $653 million for fish barrier removal, riparian restoration, and Floodplains by Design.
Within the House proposal, the 20th Legislative District could receive a wide range of projects, including:
- A portion of the $73 million appropriated for the Office of Chehalis Basin to administer floodplain risk reduction and habitat restoration projects in the Chehalis River Basin, which spans districts 19, 20, 24, and 22;
- $8.6 million for Floodplains by Design on the East Fork of the Lewis River in Clark County;
- $3.05 million for a new emergency medical services and fire station in South Thurston County;
- $2.48 million for the Centralia Quad Infield Turf Project;
- $482,000 for the restoration of Centralia Historic Fox Theater;
- $450,000 for Ridgefield Outdoor Recreational Complex;
- $350,000 for the Scott Hill Park and Sports Complex of Woodland;
- $217,000 for Fire Mountain Arts Council in Morton;
- $160,000 for Tenino Stone Carvers Guild workshop and classroom; and
- $53,000 for Toledo City Hall structural assessment.
The capital budget is a great way to bring back some of the hard-earned money our district sends to Olympia and invest it into our communities. Different than the operating budget, which funds programs from “Olympia down,” the capital budget is a “community up” budget. The solutions come from community members and organizations who partner with the state and my office to help fund projects to address local needs. These proposed investments would provide jobs, help the local economy, and improve the quality of life. And while the enacted budget may look different from the original proposal, I am hopeful many of the local projects will remain in the final bill.
As the assistant ranking member on the House Capital Budget Committee, I have the opportunity to work with statewide and community organizations to help deliver important projects and help fund priorities. As we move through the legislative process, I’ll continue working hard to ensure our region receives the funds it needs to thrive.
The record-breaking $70 billion 2023-25 House operating budget proposal would increase spending by $6 billion over current spending levels and leave only $2.1 billion in the rainy-day fund by the end of the four-year outlook period – less than the State Treasurer’s minimum target of 10% of annual revenues.
Senate Bill 5187, as written, would provide Washington families with no tax relief and neglect many priorities my constituents believe are important. House Republicans offered amendments to fund police, clean up homeless encampments, properly fund special education, address learning loss, and repeal the long-term care payroll tax.
Unfortunately, the majority party continued down the path of prioritizing criminals over victims. They also want to stay the course on policies that have created more homelessness and more crime, despite decades of failures.
This July 1st, workers in Washington will begin see the long-term care payroll tax take a bite out of their paychecks. The timing of this new tax could not be worse with inflation at a record high and families seeing gas, groceries, and home heating bills skyrocketing. My amendment to the operating budget would have defunded enforcement of that tax until the Legislature comes up with a real solution to long-term care because the current program is:
- Unpopular: In 2019, almost 63% of voters opposed the long-term care payroll tax program on the general election ballot. Subsequently in 2022, more than 475,000 workers opted out of the program. Unfortunately, too many workers either missed the opt-out window or were unable to make alternative plans. For now, if you missed the opportunity to opt-out, your family is stuck paying the new tax.
- Unfair: The long-term care payroll tax hurts the families that are least able to pay the new tax. The tax takes 58 cents per $100 earned. A family with a household income of $60,000 would pay an additional $348 per year for the program regardless of their ability to pay. Workers close to retirement earning $60,000 would also pay an additional $29 per month even though they won’t be eligible for the program. The program is not portable to another state, therefore, a person retiring in Arizona after contributing to the program for 50 years would not be eligible for any of the benefits and would lose all the money they invested. A spouse contributing to the program for 50 years could not transfer the benefit to a stay-at-home spouse who might need long-term care.
- Inadequate: The long-term care payroll tax program provides only $36,500 worth of total benefits, regardless of the amount invested in the program. The benefit, even adjusted for inflation, would provide inadequate care and is not a “long-term” solution. Testimony from care providers indicated this could be as short as one to two months of care; not long term as promised.
House Bill 1011, legislation I pre-filed last year, would have repealed the program altogether. You can learn more about the new state-run long-term care insurance program here: HouseRepublicans.wa.gov/Repeal-LTC
Zack’s Law update
Last Friday, the Senate unanimously passed Zack’s Law, House Bill 1004 – my effort to prevent cold water shock drownings.
I want to thank Senator Braun and Representative Orcutt for their efforts on this policy. All three of our delegation members in the 20th District helped with this policy and worked with the family. Ultimately, I am happiest for Zack’s family.
The measure is now on its way to Gov. Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.
Background: Zack’s Law honors 18-year-old Zachary Lee Rager, who fell victim to cold-water shock and drowned in the Chehalis River on March 23, 2021. I am sponsoring this bill to help inform the public about the very real dangers posed by diving or jumping into cold water. If this measure saves even a single life, then I believe it’s worth passing.
Read my full statement on the passage of Zack’s Law by clicking here.
- Lawmaker again tries to rid workers of a payroll tax that begins in July – The Washington Policy Center, April 6
- Peter Abbarno Commentary: Impact of New Payroll Tax Is Unpopular, Unfair and Inadequate – The Chronicle, April 5
- Rep. Peter Abbarno proposes amendment to eliminate unpopular, unfair long-term care payroll tax – HRC, April 3
- Capitol Report with Rep. Abbarno: Update on the House capital budget – HRC, April 3
- Senate unanimously approves ‘Zack’s Law,’ Rep. Peter Abbarno’s effort to prevent cold-water shock drownings – HRC, March 31
- ‘We’d Have to Close’: Hope Alliance Faces Budget Cuts, Director Tells Morton City Council – The Chronicle, March 29
- 20th District in Line for $76.3 Million for Projects in House Capital Budget Proposal – The Chronicle, March 29
- Abbarno helps direct millions of dollars to local projects in proposed House capital budget – HRC, March 27
- 20th Legislative District Lawmakers Talk Guns, a ‘Bad Bill,’ Taxes and More During Virtual Town Hall – The Chronicle, March 24
- Capitol Report with Rep. Abbarno: Update on townhall and current legislation – HRC, March 24
Your involvement is crucial!
If you have questions about getting involved in the legislative process, follow this step-by-step guide on the House Republican website: Participating in the Legislative Process
You can also use the Legislature’s official guide on how to comment on a bill, give your position, submit written testimony, or sign up for public testimony, remote or in-person here: Participating in the Process
Finally, you can find news releases, email updates, videos and radio reports highlighting the good and bad bills throughout the 2023 session on my website at RepresentativePeterAbbarno.com. Please contact my office if you have questions or comments on legislation that you would like directed to me. My contact information is at the bottom of this email update.
Stay involved and in touch!
Your involvement and input are critical to the process. Please call, write, or email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions about legislation, committee hearings, the legislative process or state government. I am here to serve and represent you!
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to be your voice during the 2023 legislative session.