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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

WA Leg - End of session update

The Legislature adjourned Sine Die on Thursday, March 8. It was only the second time since 2009 the Legislature has adjourned on time. It was a fast and furious session – starting with a Hirst solution and passage of the capital budget in the first two weeks. The last few weeks were action-packed included some very interesting twists in the legislative plot. There are a number of issues to apprise you of in this email update. Let’s talk taxes first.
Property taxes
I am sure property owners have received their property tax statements by now, and there are likely some that are not happy or in a little bit of shock. Due to changes in state education funding, the McCleary fix, some are seeing substantial increases. The Legislature did pass property tax relief – but I am very disappointed on when and how much. Democrats decided to move the property tax relief to 2019. It may be difficult for many to even realize they are getting a property tax break by the time it kicks in. They also decided to use money that was supposed to go to our rainy day fund. Because they were not taking money out of the rainy day fund, they only needed a simple majority, rather than a super majority, to do it. Many of us question the constitutionality of the move.
I will remind you, I introduced House Bill 2303 at the beginning of session to reduce the property tax in 2018. We have been pushing for this since we arrived in January. With four years of record revenue increases we could have given some back this year! Since the operating budget was enacted last June, state revenue projections have increased by $2.7 billion. However, the majority party decided not to do that and instead played politics with a property tax break our taxpayers deserved, while increasing spending dramatically. I believe doing this will force a tax increase in 2019, very counterproductive to say the least.
You can watch comments I made to Q13 Fox TV in their story: Some lawmakers say property tax relief passed by lawmakers is not enough.
Operating budget
I voted against the operating budget, Senate Bill 6032. While we were able to defeat the carbon tax and a capital gains tax, the budget still increases spending substantially. Spending is up 16 percent over the last biennium. There was also no transparency in the budget process. Republicans were left out of the budget negotiations, and the budget was voted on before the ink was dry.
After a lot of hard work, we were finally able to get a tourism bill through the Legislature. We passed Senate Bill 5251, the companion bill to my House Bill 1123, which puts a tourism marketing plan in place for the first time since 2011, when the statewide tourism office was cut out of the budget.
The bill directs 0.2 percent of retail sales taxes collected on lodging, car rentals, and restaurants, up to $1.5 million in 2019, and up to $3 million per biennium after 2019, to fund the implementation of the statewide tourism marketing plan. The bill would also require the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to evaluate the work of the WTMA.
It is a great return on investment and it is efficient. The private industry must put up two dollars for each dollar the state invests. This is a big win for our region and the tourism industry throughout Washington state.

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