It's been nearly six months since the Legislature convened in Olympia on Jan. 12. Here we are almost a half-year later and nearly a week into a second special session without agreement on a two-year state operating budget. The reason?
Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee insist on raising taxes!
The May revenue forecast should have settled the tax increase debate once and for all when it revealed our state will have an additional $415 million for the ongoing and next budget cycles. Taken together, it means we have $3.2 billion in new revenue — a 9.2 percent increase from the last budget cycle!
On Monday, House Democrats released their latest budget proposal. They reduced their original tax increase proposal from $1.5 billion down to $550 million. But Democrats continue to insist on imposing a new capital gains income tax on more than 32,000 people in Washington. Voters in our state have rejected various forms of an income tax not once, but FOUR separate times on the ballot, the latest in 2010.
The Senate Republican budget proposal of $37.7 billion does not raise taxes and would fund the essential needs and priorities of government, including cost-of-living increases for teachers and state employees. The House Democrat proposal would grow state government by spending $38.4 billion, and would raise taxes by more than a half-billion dollars.
There's also a proposal to increase the state's gas tax by more than 11 cents a gallon. Yet, there is a lengthy list of waste within the state Department of Transportation, which needs to stop.
We have plenty of money to fund the essential needs and priorities of government. There is NO GOOD REASON to increase taxes! It is time to pass a no-new-taxes state operating budget now!
Please join me and our other advocates of The Freedom Agenda in saying “NO” to tax increases and “YES” to less government and more freedom.
Protecting consumers against utilities' mistakes
Last October, a couple in Veradale received a power bill from Vera Water & Power for $3,140.85, along with a letter that read, “You may have noticed that your Vera bill has been lower recently or over the past several years.”
It turns out that an automated meter reading device that had been added several years earlier to transmit this couple's electricity usage over power lines started slowing down. The company caught the error in an equipment audit and then back-billed the customer for the actual usage. (Read this story in the Spokesman-Review.)
This is not an isolated incident. Seattle television reporter Jesse Jones found it's happening frequently. Utilities discover their own equipment is faulty and then they back-bill customers for the difference, which is often in the thousands of dollars. (See Jesse Jones' story on KIRO TV.)
This back-billing places an extreme hardship on consumers, especially the elderly and disabled on fixed incomes. For these reasons, I introduced legislation on Monday to protect consumers from being responsible for utilities' mistakes.
Under House Bill 2261, utilities may only back-bill customers for amounts owed for one previous billing cycle, once the customer has been informed of the error. The measure has been referred to the House Technology and Economic Development Committee.
Governor signs Shea's electronic home monitoring accountability bill
I'm pleased to report that a bill I authored to enact strict new accountability standards on the state's electronic home monitoring program for convicted criminals was recently signed into law.
As I've reported in earlier e-mail updates, the state's home detention program was a mess. Dangerous offenders were cutting off their ankle bracelets or “buying time off the clock” from monitoring agencies and freely walking around our neighborhoods and communities. It was discovered by a Seattle television station that offenders on the program who weren't being properly monitored stole a Seattle ferry, kidnapped a six-year-old Seattle girl, murdered a 13-year-old girl in Vancouver, and stabbed a man in Seattle 80 times, dumping his body into a shopping cart.
House Bill 1943 creates the most substantive reform of the electronic home monitoring program in the state's history. Among other things, the bill will:
- Prohibit home detention for offenders who have previously violated the terms of a home detention program;
- Require monitoring agencies to notify the court and other entities within 24 hours when a monitored individual is unaccounted for, or beyond an approved location for 24 consecutive hours;
- Require monitoring agencies to notify the court or other entities when there are known violations of electronic monitoring;
- Prohibit post-trial home detention for offenders who have a prior conviction for a violent, drug or sex offense, unlawful imprisonment, harassment, third-degree assault, third-degree assault of a child, and reckless burning in the first or second degree;
- Provide that a person who knowingly violates the terms of home detention is guilty of “escape in the third degree;” and
- Allow courts to fine monitoring agencies up to $1,000 per violation and cancel contracts for failing to comply with monitoring requirements.
You can read more about the bill in my press release here.
Legislative Youth Advisory Council provides voice in government
Enrollment for the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) is now open and I encourage youth in the 4th District to participate.
LYAC is the formal voice for Washington youth in the state Legislature. Students between the ages of 14 to 18 and in grades 9 through 12 may apply for membership on the council. Every member serves a two-year term; 11 positions are open for new appointments each year.
Students on the council have the opportunity to get involved with Washington state government, learn and experience the legislative process, voice their opinions regarding issues of importance to youth, and become more politically aware and engaged in the civic process.
The deadline to apply is June 21, 2015. The application can be found here: http://www.k12.wa.us/socialStudies/LYAC/