Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Tomorrow is day 30, the halfway point of the scheduled 60-day session. Last week, we passed the first significant deadline of the session, with “policy cutoff.” That means all policy bills must have passed from the committees in their respective house of origin or they are considered “dead.” The fiscal bill cutoff is tomorrow, Feb. 11. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from the deadlines. These deadlines are necessary to keep the Legislature on track to complete its business within the allotted 60 days. Following these deadlines, much of our work will transition from the committees to the House floor. We will have until Feb. 18 to pass out any committee-approved House bills. You can see the entire session cutoff calendar here. Also, you can read our list of “Dead and Alive Bills” here.
Tax increases unnecessary
As the ranking member of the House Finance Committee, we have been discussing tax preferences. These are essentially tax incentives provided to businesses and others that help to create and keep jobs in Washington. The Business and Occupation tax preference extension the Legislature approved in November for Boeing and the aerospace industry is an example.
In addition to tax reduction legislation, our committee also considers legislation that would increase taxes. Our state's revenue is up slightly. We're in a supplemental budget year, meaning we should only be considering minor and unforeseen changes to the two-year operating budget approved last year, rather than re-negotiating the entire budget.
Since our state's economy remains fragile, is it really necessary to raise taxes? Gov. Inslee wants the Legislature to eliminate seven tax preferences, raise taxes by $200 million this year and $417 million in the next budget cycle, and use that money for K-12 education. This is despite the fact that the Legislature approved additional appropriations of more than $1 billion for K-12 education last year – and did so without raising taxes. (Read the governor's proposal.) Many of the tax increases are the same as the governor proposed last year, such as adding sales taxes to the trade-in of used cars over $10,000, eliminating a tax break for a certain fuel byproduct at refineries, raising taxes on janitorial services, and taxing bottled water (a tax that was repealed by voters in 2010).
State Supreme Court oversteps its constitutional duties
On Jan. 9, the Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling that said unless the Legislature steps up its funding for K-12 education even further, it could be held in contempt. This was a follow-up ruling to the McCleary decision last year, which stated the Legislature had failed in its constitutional duty to amply provide for the education of children in Washington. To address that decision, the Legislature appropriated more than $1 billion in additional money to K-12 education last year. However, this latest ruling said that wasn't good enough. The court began to prescribe to the Legislature where it fell short.
While we respect the court's original ruling on McCleary, many of us in the Legislature feel this latest directive goes too far. I recently co-authored an opinion editorial on this issue. You can read my views here in the Tri-City Herald.
Telephone town hall successful
Many thanks to all who participated Jan. 27 in our telephone town hall meeting. At one point, my seatmate, Rep. Maureen Walsh, and I had more than 700 callers on the line. Issues discussed included: jobs, taxes, Obamacare, marijuana, lottery, education funding and much more. If you would like to listen to the program, click here.
Public hearings were recently held in the House Judiciary Committee on two opposing gun initiatives. Initiative 591 would prevent the state from adopting universal background checks during gun sales. Initiative 594 would establish universal background checks on all gun sales and transfers in the state. I recently submitted an opinion editorial to the Prosser Record-Bulletin, discussing these initiatives. I invite you to read my views here.
Also, the two initiatives are the subject of my latest Legislative Video Update. You can watch that video here.
Listen to my radio program
Throughout the legislative session, I record a radio program entitled, “Capitol Report,” which is aired on KWHT/KWVN in Walla Walla. You can also listen to the program right here from my e-newsletter or from my website.
Capitol Report – Feb. 9, 2014 – This program discusses how the Legislature is dealing with the issue of legalized recreational marijuana.
Capitol Report – Jan. 26, 2014 – This program is about tax preferences and the different views between the governor and Republicans on taxes.
Capitol Report – Jan. 20, 2014 – I delve into the state Supreme Court's ruling on education funding in this program.
Contact me with your questions, comments, concerns and suggestions
The legislative process is all about representing your concerns and interests. That's why it works best when you are involved. To find out more information about bills, schedules and visiting the state Capitol, go to: www.leg.wa.gov. I also invite you to visit my website at: www.representativeterrynealey.com. Please contact my office any time you wish to provide or seek information about legislation. My contact information is listed below.
It is an honor serving and representing you.