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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this email finds you and your family well! We are heading into the final stretch of the 2022 legislative session which is scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, March 10. We have finished up what's left of our committee work and are back on the House floor debating and voting on bills that came over to us from the Senate. We are also working on the final details of the state's supplemental operating, transportation, and capital budgets.

For a brief explanation of the budgets, plus a quick update on emergency powers reform, I welcome you to watch my latest video update. You can do so by clicking here or by clicking on the photo below. In this e-newsletter, I will provide a detailed update on these budgets.

Supplemental transportation budget

As one of the assistant ranking members on the House Transportation Committee, I was hoping to have a seat at the table to provide input, direction, and feedback into the supplemental transportation budget. This budget is normally written in a bipartisan manner. As with many other policies we have seen this session, the budget was unfortunately solely written by our Democrat colleagues.

The budget does provide funding to keep our transportation system functioning, funds the completion of projects, addresses staffing issues within the state ferry system and the department of transportation, and makes investments for our transportation future. It passed off the House floor with a vote of 91-3. It now moves back to the Senate for revision and further deliberation, including implementation of the Move Ahead Washington transportation package.

Late Tuesday night, on a near party-line vote, Democrats in the House passed their 16-year, $16.8 billion Move Ahead Washington transportation package.

Senate Bill 5974 is the revenue proposal that would raise various transportation-related fees and taxes. It would also tap into the state's Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA) with a transfer of $100 million per year for the life of this package. The strategy to use the PWAA replaces the controversial 6-cent-per-gallon tax on fuel exported from Washington's five refineries to neighboring states.

I have heard from our own city leaders that they do not support the use of the PWAA as a viable and sustainable revenue source for transportation projects. There are many public works infrastructure projects around our communities that depend on funds from this account. Sweeping it for Seattle-centric transportation goals – especially at a time when our state is flush with cash – should not be an option.

Where this package does not raise the state's gas tax, it is dependent upon revenue from the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) of 2021. One source of revenue in the CCA is cap-and-trade, which will impact the price at the pump later this year.  

Here are our debate highlights on this policy.

Senate Bill 5975 sets forth the spending plan for the revenue received from Senate Bill 5974.

House Republicans have a better vision for Washington state. In December, we introduced a plan that would modernize transportation funding by utilizing the general fund, preserving and maintaining our existing infrastructure, completing the backlog of projects, and redirecting the vehicle sales tax to transportation projects – all without raising taxes and fees on anyone or anything.

Supplemental operating budget

Much like the transportation budget, the House Democrat supplemental operating budget looks more like a biennial budget than a supplemental budget considering the massive increase in state spending. This budget spends $65 billion in state funds, an increase of $6.2 billion (10.5%) over current 21-23 spending.

Families in our district, and across the entire state, are facing the highest inflation rate in over 40 years. This increase to your cost of living is one of the things you most frequently contact me (or my office) about.

With historic revenue collections, and a surplus of $15 billion, we can afford real tax relief for working families without compromising state services. Republicans introduced bills this session to provide property tax relief, repeal the long-term care payroll tax, expand the working families tax credit, and reduce the B&O tax on sectors which inflation has impacted the most.

In stark contrast to the House Democrat spending priorities, my seatmate Rep. Drew Stokesbary introduced the House Republican's SAFE Washington budget framework, which would reduce the state sales tax, put more police officers on the streets, protect and create jobs, and transfer an extra $1 billion to the rainy-day fund, all while leaving a four-year surplus of $2.1 billion for new spending.

One common theme I have noticed this session: House Republicans continue to provide budget frameworks and real solutions that will benefit every Washingtonian and our thoughts, voices, and ideas are being silenced.

Supplemental capital budget

The bipartisan supplemental capital budget makes changes to the biennial budget in response to feedback from administering agencies and local government to address emerging issues and act on new opportunities.

The House supplemental capital budget would make important investments in housing, infrastructure, mental health facilities, broadband, and school seismic safety.

Once the final budget negotiations between the House and the Senate take place, I will update everyone on funding and projects for our district. 

Policy update

We had a marathon floor debate on House Bill 1837. The debate started around 9:00 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 14, and ended at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15. This policy would overturn a 2003 initiative prohibiting state ergonomic regulations beyond federal OSHA regulations. This horrible policy would make things more expensive for consumers and negatively impact every part of our state economy.

I was proud of my Republican colleagues for not letting an all-night debate derail us from standing up and fighting for consumers, small businesses, and jobs across Washington state. We did not back down and had one of the closest votes on a policy in some time – 50-48. If this bill had been a 49-49 tie, it would not have passed off the House floor. I commend my Democrat colleagues who joined us in voting against a bad bill.

We are starting to see businesses voice their concern on this bill. Here is a news report from KING 5 regarding the impacts this bad policy will have on our state's local grocery stores.

Good Republican bills killed by the majority include:

  • HB 1788 (which I sponsored) – Allowing law enforcement to chase suspects when there is reasonable suspicion a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a criminal offense.
  • HB 1656 – Changing the definition of theft to include concealment in order to curb the rise in retail theft.
  • HB 1772 – Enacting meaningful emergency powers reform.
  • HB 1594 – Repealing the majority's long-term care trust act and mandatory payroll tax.
  • HB 1787 (sponsored by my seatmate Rep. Drew Stokesbary) – Increasing funding for the recruitment of law enforcement officers.
  • HB 1737 – Rolling back a number of harmful provisions passed in last year's “police reform” bills, restoring tactics and tools to help police bring criminals to justice and help keep communities safe.
  • HB 1873 – Cracking down on the growing problem of catalytic converter theft. The majority did actually pass a bill on this issue, but remarkably, it's a study bill. A catalytic converter theft work group will be convened to “study and provide options and recommendations related to reducing catalytic converter theft in Washington.”

Bad bills that did not make it past cutoff include:

  • House Bill 1767 – Targeted electrification/utility bill increases
  • House Bill 1486 – Expanding reasons an individual may voluntarily quit their job and receive unemployment insurance
  • House Bill 1727 – Eliminate statewide general elections in odd-numbered years
  • House Bill 1692 – Lessen the criminal penalty for drive-by shootings
  • House Bill 1838 – Creates riparian management zones, effectively killing much of the state's farmland.

Our focus wasn't solely on bad policy. There were good bills that advanced before the House of Origin cutoff, including:

  • House Bill 1973 – Requires school board meeting to be recorded
  • House Bill 2019 – Increases educational and training opportunities for careers in retail
  • House Bill 2044 – Protecting critical constituent and state operational data against the financial and personal harm caused by ransomware and other malicious cyber activities.
  • House Bill 2037 – Defines physical force and modifies the standard for the use of force by peace officers (i.e., one of the fixes to last year's police reform bills)
  • House Bill 1643 – Provides an exemption from the real estate excise tax for certain sales of real property for affordable housing
  • House Bill 1785 – Making sure Washington State Patrol are paid comparable wages to the top law enforcement agencies in the state.

It's an honor to serve you.

In your service,


Eric Robertson

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