I want to thank those of you who were able to participate in my recent survey asking if you would support creating a 51st state east of the Cascades. We had nearly 1,600 responses with over 1,000 comments. The end result is that 75 percent of you would like to see a 51st state in Eastern Washington! Here are a few of the comments:
“Yes. I-594 is a classic example. Only passed in one county on the east side yet is now the (unconstitutional) law of the land.”
“Yes. The divide between Eastern and Western WA has never been worse. The views of the people around Seattle do not reflect those in E WA in general. They control the vote, but we are the workers here.”
“Yes. Eastern Washington does not receive representative government because every issue is decided by those who represent people in King and Pierce counties. We need to be able to govern ourselves.”
“No. We need the money for health care and education and infrastructure from that side of the state. Continue to work hard in the Legislature to stand up for our side of the state and make our voice heard.”
“Yes. I love the idea of having an ag-based economy. We would be more like Montana and Idaho. Voting is more exciting when we have a fighting chance. I believe we would see vast improvement of E. WA if we branch of to #51.”
“Yes. Government without representation with an ability to affect how we live is not American. Off with the I-5 corridor and the big three counties. Please don't just talk, do it.”
“Yes. I'm so tired of the three counties ruling the entire state, whether it be on the 2nd amendment, building codes and enforcement, removal of renewable energy dams, and sanctuary city (sic) for criminals. Thank you for asking.”
“No. Eastern Washington could not afford to support itself. Embracing hate and wanting to take away people's rights isn't how a state should come to be.”
As you can see, this is an issue where people have strong opinions. As I've said before, this is one of the issues I hear about the most when travelling around the 4th District and Eastern Washington in general. What this really tells me is that the thirst for liberty and freedom is alive and well. We still cling to the belief that government of, by and for the people is best. Taxation without representation is a divisive situation and no one wants to feel like their voice isn't being heard.
Here's an interesting opinion piece (51st state movement alive and well) written by Roger Harnack of the Daily Sun.
No matter where you stand on this issue, please know that I'm working hard to protect your liberties, rights and freedoms as guaranteed by our state and national constitutions. It is my passion; it's what keeps me going through the long days and nights away from friends and family while I serve in Olympia. Thank you for that privilege. It truly is an honor to serve you in the state House.
Budget update and special session
With only about 10 ten days left in the 105-day 2017 regular session, budget negotiations have slowed to a crawl. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus presented their budget proposal, which includes local levy reform so that all homeowners across the state would pay the same amount per $1,000 of assessed value. This would result in some property-rich school districts like Seattle and Bellevue paying a little more, whereas property-poor districts in most of Eastern Washington would pay a little less. This is a more fair and equitable way to pay for our basic education obligations.
However, despite nearly $3 billion more in state revenue for the next two-year budget cycle, House Democrats want to raise taxes by $8 billion over the next four years. That's not a typo; $8 billion! For reference, our entire state budget was only $31 billion in 2011-13. If their budget passes, our 2019-21 budget would be more than $51 billion. This is an increase of $20 billion in just eight years and is completely unsustainable.
Their new and increased taxes include a 20 percent B&O tax increase on residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, hospitals, grocery distribution, bottled water and purchases by out-of-state residents, which is particularly damaging to border areas like the 4th Legislative District. But the big tax they want is an income tax on capital gains, which is the first step toward a state income tax and is likely unconstitutional. Hedging your budget bet on a tax that Washington citizens don't want, and the court's will likely rule to be invalid, is not the way to go, folks.
As I write this, House Democrats have refused to take a vote on these tax increases. As a result, their budget is really no more than a “wish list.” Which makes it very difficult in negotiations. One side has passed a completely funded budget while the other side has passed a wish list with no way to pay for it. I fear this irresponsible tact taken by House Democrats will pull us into another special session, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a day. Stay tuned.
Barker Road amendment approved in House Transportation budget, but 'miles travelled' pilot program remains intact
Late last night, I offered an amendment to the House Transportation budget to include $1.5 million for the Barker Road bridge overpass project. Completing this project will help improve safety and attract more investment into our Spokane Valley industrial sites.
I want to thank Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins and the other members of the city council. They were instrumental in making our case for the Barker Road project. In fact, their input and diligence also helped secure significant capital budget projects including the Appleway Trail Amenities project. We are blessed to have such hardworking, dedicated representation in Spokane Valley.
I also offered an amendment to defund the Vehicle Miles Travelled pilot project. There is a continuing effort to shift the transportation tax burden onto those of us living in more rural central and eastern Washington who often travel more miles. Apparently, sitting in an idling car stuck in traffic for hours on end each week in Puget Sound burns gas. The powers that be on the West side of the state feel that's unfair. However, this pilot project is a waste of taxpayer dollars. No one has come up with a viable solution to handle out-of-state drivers. My amendment was not adopted, but I'll continue to fight against this “solution in search of a problem.”
Industrial hemp bill passes Legislature
House Bill 2064 removes industrial hemp from the controlled substance act in accordance with efforts at the federal level. This is good for area farmers and entrepreneurs as industrial hemp has a long history of being a versatile and valuable crop. At one time, Washington was an exporter of this important commodity. I'm pleased to see us heading in that direction once again as our region needs more jobs and economic opportunities for residents.
Concealed Pistol License bill passes Legislature
I cosponsored House Bill 1100 which requires the Department of Licensing (DOL) to send out notices to those holding concealed pistol permits in Washington. Currently, this is one of the only – if not THE only – license issued by DOL that doesn't have this requirement. This subtle jab at our Second Amendment rights was rectified and as a result, CPL holders will save money as it is more affordable to renew a concealed pistol license before it expires.
Legislation to streamline the Department of Ecology passes Legislature
My bill to help streamline and bring accountability to the state Department of Ecology, House Bill 1010, has also passed the Legislature. It requires the department's website to list information regarding the current interagency agreements to which the department is a party or participant. Anything we can do to bring more of this agency's activities into the light of day will be a benefit to our citizens and local jurisdictions.
House Democrats are refusing to fix the Hirst problem. Senate Bill 5239 passed the Senate with bipartisan support, yet House Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee are working to kill the bill. SB 5239 would take our state back to the point prior to the controversial court decision and put the onus back on the Department of Ecology to determine instream flow impairment, rather than local jurisdictions who are now passing this expensive burden on to the individual landowners.
I've also heard from many of you this past week who are frustrated with the decision by Spokane County officials to create a water bank, which would purchase water rights from one entity to sell to another. I understand your concerns. Many feel like this decision was not vetted thoroughly with landowners and citizens. I don't feel this is the way to go. We need to continue to put pressure on Democrats and fix this at the state level.
As always, feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns.