Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last Friday we passed a supplemental budget agreement, House Bill 1086, to address the deficit in the current two-year operating budget, which runs through June 30. Unfortunately, it bears too much resemblance to the House budget passed earlier this session (which I also voted against) in that it continues to take money retroactively away from school districts who have already hired teachers in grades K-4. It also relies on budget gimmicks, and still only chips away at programs that we know have to be eliminated in order to fill the larger, $4.6 billion shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium.
I am concerned that the budgets of 295 school districts are being put in jeopardy in order to balance our one budget. The bill only reduced the near $600 million shortfall by about $367 million, still leaving a hole of about $250 million. For these reasons, I voted against this budget proposal.
At this point in the session, I am worried about some of the legislation being put forward by the majority party, especially in contrast to what we are trying accomplish by retaining and creating jobs.
Majority party focused on job-killing legislation
House Bill 1825 received a hearing last week. The bill would accelerate the timeline to shut down the TransAlta Centralia coal plant, leading to the loss of thousands of local union jobs – both employees and contractors who service the plant's equipment. Currently, closure of the plant is scheduled for 2025, but this bill would move the closure up to 2015 and institute a new tax on the company.
TransAlta is the largest private-sector taxpayer and fourth-largest employer in Lewis County. The company provides over 350 family-wage jobs at an average salary of more than $85,000 per year. The company injects over $100 million into the local and state economies each year. This plant is not only a steady job base, but it gives our state's power grid the stability it needs to heat homes and keep our lights on, all at a reasonable cost to ratepayers.
House Bill 1735, a proposal that would tax petroleum products and fertilizers to pay for stormwater clean-up, also received a hearing last week in the House Ways and Means Committee. Like last year's proposal to tax refineries to supplement the general fund under the guise of cleaning up our waterways, this proposal is a jobs killer. The proposal would extract about $345 million a year from farms, refineries and other users of the products in the bill. Every time the Legislature enacts a new tax, fee or “assessment” on employers, it hinders our state's ability to retain and create private-sector jobs.
House Republicans focused on saving and creating private-sector jobs, protecting taxpayers
Washingtonians need more job opportunities. House Republicans are focused on real solutions that will create certainty for employers – both in taxes and regulations. Our proposals are common-sense solutions that send a signal to employers, and our future employers, that we mean business! Here are some solutions we introduced to get Washington working again:
- House Bill 1091 – Unemployment Tax Relief and Reform – would create jobs by protecting employers from dramatic unemployment insurance tax increases. (Rep. Cary Condotta) signed into law
- House Bill 1151 – Cutting government red tape – would require that regulations drafted by an agency have specific statutory authority. (Rep. Norma Smith)
- House Bill1156 – Rulemaking Freeze – would create jobs by putting a freeze on new rules or regulations by state agencies until 2014, or when the economy recovers. (Rep. Ed Orcutt)
- House Bill 1341 – Oversight of agency regulations – would delay implementation of proposed rules until they have weathered the scrutiny of a legislative session. (Rep. David Taylor)
- House Bill 1388 – Addressing costly building code changes – would prohibit implementation of new energy building codes until April 1, 2012, giving the construction industry a chance to get back on its feet again. (Rep. Bruce Dammeier)
- House Bill 1592 – Suspending the GMA in areas of high unemployment – would suspend the Growth Management Act in counties and cities where the unemployment rate exceeds 7 percent for three consecutive months. (Rep. Shelly Short)
- House Bill 1671 – Reigning in state regulations – would require state agencies, before adoption of a rule, to determine whether compliance would have a specified economic impact on jobs and taxpayers. (Rep. Jason Overstreet)
- House Bill 1672 – B&O tax relief – would encourage small business job creation by doubling the small business tax credit. (Rep. Mark Hargrove)
- House Bill 1687 – Property tax transparency and fairness – provides property owners more certainty and fiscal stability by shifting the balance of power when they deal with counties in property tax disputes. The bill also would require more transparency to taxpayers in property tax ballot measures. (Rep. Ed Orcutt)
- House Bill 1807 – Addressing taxes and fees – would make sure that all taxes and fees have a clear and explicit basis in law. (Rep. Glenn Anderson)
- House Bill 1961 – Streamlining the permit process – would require permits be granted or denied within 90 days, or the permit is automatically granted. This would remove the red tape from state agency permitting process. (Rep. Hans Zeiger)
- House Bills 1964 and 1872 – Workers' compensation reform – together, these bills
would modify the definition of occupational disease for purposes of industrial insurance to require that the disease arise out of and in the course of the particular employment and meet other criteria; limit the time for filing occupational disease claims; and authorize voluntary settlement agreements regarding any or all aspects of industrial insurance claims under certain conditions. (Rep. Cary Condotta)
- House Joint Resolution 4213 – Taxpayer Protection Act – would make permanent the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes by passing a constitutional amendment. This would require 66 of the 98 members of the House of Representatives and 33 of the 49 members of the Senate to vote in support of a tax increase for it to pass the Legislature. (Rep. Ed Orcutt)
Other bills of interest
I have a number of bills making their way through the legislative process.
My bill, House Bill 1537, that would authorize a parent or guardian to teach traffic safety education if they are approved to do so, was recently featured by The Seattle Times. Read the article here. The Department of Licensing would have to grant the approval and ensure the person has met all of the agency's requirements. I am still hopeful the House Transportation Committee will pass the bill out of committee this week.
I have three other bills in the House Rules Committee.
House Bill 1467 – would provide some clarification of what constitutes as the definition of a “well.” As I mentioned in my update last week, the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) is considering regulation for simple actions, such as surface soil sampling and evaluation. The agricultural community should be concerned about increase enforcement from DOE unless we can tighten the definition.
House Bill 1538 – would make it a crime to transport animals, unless exempted, to a destination other than the address listed on the transportation document. There have been instances of livestock being diverted to feed lots and never arriving at their required destination.
House Bill 1542 – would make it a gross misdemeanor to possess or lend any device designed to start a motorcycle without a manufacturer's key with the intent to steal a motorcycle. Motorcycle theft has increased in California and they recently passed this legislation. Passing this bill would take a proactive approach in dealing with motorcycle theft in Washington. This bill is in the House Rules Committee and passed out of the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness unanimously.
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