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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

For months, my Republican colleagues have been calling for a special session to get financial relief to our families, communities, and businesses who still struggle under the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their calls were never answered.

Fast forward to today. We have nearly completed the first month of the 2021 session, and I must say I am disappointed that we have yet to approve substantial financial relief.

In my video update, I talk about a solution my seatmate, Rep. Drew Stokesbary sponsored and I co-sponsored, that would bring the relief you need right now. Click on the photo below to watch my video. For more detailed information, continue reading this update.

My Republican colleagues and I continue to put real solutions on the table to bring relief to the people of Washington state. We are the first caucus to introduce a comprehensive relief package.

House Bill 1334 (sponsored by my seatmate Rep. Drew Stokesbary, and co-sponsored by me): REAL Recovery for Washington Act. This bill would provide immediate financial support to struggling families and businesses, accelerate the safe reopening of schools, and expand COVID testing and vaccine administration. This bill would use a large portion of the state rainy-day fund and also utilize federal funding.

It's pouring rain! It's time to use the rainy-day fund for meaningful relief.

Recently, we had our first lively and extensive virtual floor debate of the 2021 session. House Bill 1368 is one of many bills responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through state actions. This bill in particular supports the use of federal funding. This bill is too little, too late, for too many. We need bolder solutions to provide real relief for our struggling families, communities, and businesses. We had the opportunity, through the six amendments House Republicans proposed, to make a good bill better.

Our amendments would have:

House Democrats struck down all of our amendments but one. For these reasons, I, along with many of my Republican colleagues, had to reluctantly vote no on this bill.

Here is a comparison chart of House Bill 1368 and the House Republican REAL Recovery for Washington Act. You can also find this chart by clicking here.

Real solutions for COVID relief

I have co-sponsored these bills which would also bring additional financial relief to our families, communities, and businesses.

  • House Bill 1467: This bill would authorize funds from the budget stabilization account – otherwise known as the rainy-day fund – to replace prior state expenditures from federal coronavirus relief funding.
  • House Bill 1228. This bill would end the statewide eviction moratorium and provide relief to landlords and tenants.

Budget and taxes

Good public policy, in the shadows of COVID-19, requires us to carefully examine statewide needs and prioritizing “wants” below policies that address “needs” which bolster recovery.

Although the pandemic-driven recession initially caused a steep decline in tax revenue, the forecast has steadily improved. Our economy is in the slow process of recovery. Even with the economic impacts of COVID, state tax collections continue to increase. This means budget writers in our Appropriations, Transportation, and Capital Budget committees have enough money at their disposal to be fiscally responsible. We can write budgets that allow us to stay within our means, and not raise your taxes.

As one of the assistant ranking Republicans on the House Transportation Committee, I am working with my colleagues to address budgetary priorities, including going line by line through the programs and projects – reducing spending, shifting costs, and making tough decisions on discretionary spending.

Unfortunately, our democratic counterparts believe raising your taxes is the answer to our budget shortfalls. In the first four weeks of session, here are some of their tax proposals:

Low-carbon fuel standard. House Bill 1091 would enact a low-carbon fuel standard and authorize the state Department of Ecology to create a clean fuels program, which could eventually increase the cost of gas by 57-cents per gallon and diesel by 63-cents per gallon. This proposal has been brought forward by House Democrats for several years but has never made it through the Legislative process. This bill will receive a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m. I encourage you to voice your opinion on this bill. During our virtual session, you may testify remotely. If you are uncomfortable providing oral testimony, you can submit written testimony. By clicking here, you can learn more about how to access the Legislature remotely. I will fight against this proposal.

Increasing the price of gas and diesel by almost $1 a gallon. House Democrats have introduced a massive $26 billion transportation package that includes an 18-cent gas tax increase, and a 21-cent diesel tax increase, over the next two years, plus a fee on carbon emissions, bringing the price of a gallon of gasoline up by almost $1. If this proposal were to pass, it would give Washington state the highest gas tax in the nation. Raising transportation costs will cut deeper into the pockets of our district more so than it will an urban area like Seattle. A bill has not been introduced yet, but we believe one is forthcoming. I will fight against this proposal.

Capital gains income tax. Democrats have pushed for a state graduated capital gains income tax several times over the years. This year, the proposal is back as Senate Bill 5096. This bill would impose a 9% income tax on capital gains of $25,000 or greater. Not only is a capital gains tax prohibited by our state's constitution – and likely to be challenged legally if passed – it is a widely unpredictable way to collect revenue. I will fight against this proposal.

What to know about the breach of personal data of those who've filed for unemployment

Recently, the Washington State Auditor announced that a security incident might have exposed sensitive data belonging to Washingtonians – including personal information from about 1.6 million unemployment claims made in 2020. You can read the Washington State Auditor's news release here.

Since many of you have contacted my legislative office in the past regarding an unemployment claim with the state Employment Security Department, I want to make you aware of this recent incident and provide links to information on what you can do if you are concerned you are affected. You can find that information below.  

Office of the Washington State Auditor

Stay connected and in touch

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns you have. While my office in Olympia is closed, my “virtual door” is always open and I look forward to hearing from you. My Legislative Assistant, Meagan, is also happy to help in any way she can. I also encourage you to stay engaged and involved in the legislative process. Together, we will navigate through these challenging times.

In your service,

Eric Robertson

State Representative Eric Robertson, 31st Legislative District
465 John L. O’Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7866 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000