Fall is in full-swing, and that means we’re only a few months away from heading back to Olympia for the 2024 legislative session. With so many important issues being discussed around our state, I wanted to hear directly from you about gas prices, taxes, crime, education and more.
Please take a few minutes out of your day to fill out my fall legislative survey. I am eager to see the results, read every comment and, before we head into session, I’ll share those results with you in a future email update.
Click here to take the survey: surveymonkey.com/r/VPHKQTZ
Gas prices are out of control
Last summer, Governor Inslee said the effect of the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) – the state’s new cap-and-trade program – on gas prices would be “pennies.” Fast forward to today, and Washington now has the second highest gas prices in the nation, after leading for much of the summer.
More than two years ago, I spoke against passage of the CCA on the House floor, and warned against doubling-down on our state’s regressive tax structure. High gas prices disproportionately affect our low-income residents – those struggling to get by and achieve the American dream. This new tax adds about 50 cents to the cost of gas per gallon – that’s a $500 bill annually for the typical two-driver household. The CCA has, in effect, doubled the state’s gas tax. High gas prices don’t just affect drivers, they compound the cost of so many goods and services we rely on every day.
I want to know how $5 per gallon gas has affected your life. You can let me know by answering question number two in my survey.
For more information about how regressive policies increased Washington’s gas prices, click here.
Commission recommends making bad long-term care program worse
On Sept. 19, the Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Trust Commission held a meeting to vote on several recommended changes to the state’s new long-term care insurance program, including a provision to double the number of hours required to qualify for the benefit from 500 to 1,000 hours a year.
Doubling the number of hours Washingtonians would have to work just to qualify for an already inadequate benefit is fundamentally unfair. This change would hurt many part-time and seasonal workers by forcing them to pay into a system they may never benefit from.
On July 1, most workers in Washington, including part-time and temporary workers, began paying up to $0.58 per $100 of their earnings for the WA Cares Fund. The $36,500 benefit, including access to services and supports, will not be available to qualified, eligible individuals until July 2026.
At a time when families in Washington are struggling to afford gas, groceries, housing, and childcare – those kitchen table issues that affect most of us – the last thing we need is state government creating more economic uncertainty. This change would make a bad program worse.
The LTSS will forward its recommendations to the Legislature, which will be debated during the upcoming session.
Learn more about the state’s new long-term care insurance program and payroll tax here: houserepublicans.wa.gov/repeal-ltc
Flashback to my floor effort to repeal the unpopular, unfair long-term care payroll tax: youtube.com/shorts/QzaSVZiqGOQ
The Northwest Renewable Hydrogen Conference
I had the honor of speaking recently at the 2023 Northwest Renewable Hydrogen Conference in Portland about Washington’s efforts to advance renewable hydrogen policy, as well as what needs to be accomplished to ensure states and the federal government are working together to help grow this industry.
Renewable hydrogen can be generated, stored, and transported quickly, making it a viable source of energy to support our electrical grids. Diversifying our energy portfolio will bolster our domestic and international security, grow our local economy, and improve our quality of life. There is not one single solution for our energy needs and ‘electrification of everything’ is not feasible.
This year, I sponsored House Bill 1729, a measure that would create and expand tax incentives for developing and selling hydrogen fuel products.
Other efforts I’ve been involved in include:
- Co-sponsoring House Bill 1236 (2023), which provides authority for state transit agencies to produce and distribute renewable and electrolytic hydrogen and own or operate fueling stations that can sell to the public – an opportunity that encourages public-private infrastructure partnerships to provide hydrogen fuel to vehicle fleets and the public;
- Supporting Senate Bill 5910 (2022), which authorized municipal, public, and state hydrogen production, sale, and use;
- Voting for $2 million to develop a “Green Hydrogen Hub” proposal for the U.S. Department of Energy; and
- Helping secure funding in the 2021 capital budget for Washington’s first hydrogen refueling station in Chehalis.
We must continue to invest in energy infrastructure and hydrogen is part of that equation. This is not a partisan issue – smart investments in hydrogen infrastructure will yield big economic benefits and commercial possibilities down the road. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the 2024 legislative session to ensure Washington becomes an international hydrogen hub.
Helping Tenino stone carvers teach future generations
The best thing about the capital budget is that it’s a grassroots budget based on the priorities of our communities. That was the case with $160,000 we helped secure for the Tenino Carvers Guild to build a workshop and classroom near the Tenino quarry. These funds will help train the future stone carvers and keep Tenino on the map.
On Sept. 22, I had the privilege of touring the site where the classroom will be. I also got to see completed works of art and a quarry at the stone carvers’ shed in downtown Tenino. There are so many students who are not collegebound. They may be career ready, they may have a passion for art and this medium that they’ve never really explored before. I like that it’s a good investment in the future, not only in our state and this trade, but in education. Especially here in Tenino.
Read more here.
I work for you year-round
Whether we’re in regular session, special session, or during the interim, I work for you year-round. Please call, write, or email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions about 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.