29 03, 2019

Senate Democrats’ introduce “Fix Our Tax Code” plan

March 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Washington’s tax structure is broken. Lower and middle-income families pay nearly 18 percent of their total income in taxes, while the very wealthiest Washingtonians pay just 3 percent.

The Evergreen State’s tax structure consistently ranks dead last in terms of fairness. It’s with this in mind that Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and others introduced a striking amendment to Senate Bill 5961 today to help fix Washington’s tax code.

“While we know we must do more to fix our upside-down tax structure, this would represent modest but concrete progress,” Billig said. “Our existing tax system disproportionately burdens the middle class and vulnerable households living paycheck to paycheck, which is the majority of households in our state.”

The proposal creates a capital gains tax that would impact approximately 8,000 of the wealthiest Washingtonians while offering tax relief to the vast majority of lower- and middle-class families in the state.

Washington is one of only nine states that give the ultra-wealthy a pass on capital gains taxes. Under the Senate proposal, if someone turns a profit of more than $250,000 on the sale of stocks, bonds, commercial real estate, or a large business, they will pay a tax of 8.9 percent on the profits above that threshold.

Revenue generated by the capital gains tax would be used to provide tax reductions for less wealthy Washingtonians. Under the bill, expected revenues of $780 million starting in 2021 would fund:

  • Working Families Tax Credit ($220 M): A tax break for 400,000 of the state’s most underprivileged families – phase-outs begin when income is greater than $19,000 per year.
  • Small businesses tax cut ($260 M): Up to $3,000 in B&O tax relief for businesses grossing less than $2.5 million in revenue annually. This would apply to approximately 350,000 – or 90 percent – of Washington small businesses.
  • Senior property tax reduction ($15 M): A property tax reduction for approximately 21,000 households to help senior citizens with economic and housing stability.
  • Eliminate sales tax on certain products ($235 M): Sales tax ended on diapers, medical and mobility equipment, feminine hygiene products and over-the-counter medications.

“Taxes are an investment we make together to pay for good schools, clean air and water, safe neighborhoods and countless other necessities every single one of us needs. It’s a good deal but we are not paying for it in a smart or balanced way,” Billig said. “Those that can least afford it are asked to carry an outsized share of the tax burden. This common sense plan will help fix our broken tax structure.”

29 03, 2019

Senate budget prioritizes education, behavioral health

March 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Senate Democrats today introduced a $52.2 billion state operating budget proposal to fund vital state services, including targeted support for the state’s behavioral health system, K-12 special education, higher education, and the environment.

More than 50 percent of the state budget pays for K-12 education, honoring commitments made in 2017 to increase basic education funding. A new investment of $283 million is dedicated to improving behavioral health services over the next two years.

“This is a smart budget that reflects our shared values and fulfills commitments to quality education and a more effective behavioral health system,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. “We deepen our commitment to quality early learning, give more kids a chance at college, invest in our state’s vital workforce, and address threats to our health and environment. This budget continues our commitment to putting people first.”

The budget represents a $4.5 billion increase in K-12 education spending above the last biennial budget, including a $937 million increase for special education.

Other budget highlights include the funding of Gov. Inslee’s climate initiatives and orca whale protection, investments in housing and homelessness, expansion of college scholarship programs, improving the foster care system, police de-escalation training, expanding access to early learning, and funding the sexual assault kit backlog at the Washington State Patrol.

Click here for Senate Operating Budget details.

Senate Democrats are proposing roughly $518 million in new revenue to pay for many of the new investments. The proposal calls for changes to make the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) more fair and the closure or reduction of three preferential tax rates: non-resident sales tax, prescription drug resellers, and travel agents. The budget also includes a tax increase on property, auto and casualty insurance, from 2 percent to 2.52 percent, to establish a dedicated account to fund wildfire prevention and suppression.

“Where more revenue is needed to address our state’s growing needs, the budget strategy is careful not to increase the burden on middle-class households,” Rolfes said.

“Democrats in the House and Senate have now released budgets based on the values all Washingtonians share. Both proposals focus on creating safe, healthy communities where people have access to quality education, affordable housing, and economic opportunity,” Rolfes said. “I look forward to working with the House to finish our work and pass a final 2019-21 budget before the session ends on April 28.”

Public hearing

A public hearing on the Senate budget proposal in the Senate Ways & Means Committee is scheduled for Monday, April 1, 1:30 p.m.

27 03, 2019

Senate capital budget proposal makes life-changing investments in Washington

March 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Senate Democrats introduced a capital budget proposal today that would invest in infrastructure to support behavioral health, affordable housing, education, and other priorities across the state.

“This budget is good for Washington from east to west, and I am pleased it already has bipartisan support,” said Sen. David Frockt, vice chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee and the Senate’s lead capital budget writer. “We continue to prioritize behavioral health, provide more than $1 billion in funding for school construction, and we invest heavily in fish habitat restoration in and around the Puget Sound as part of our orca recovery strategy. We even provide funding for the first new state park in decades.”

The budget invests more than $200 million in behavioral health, including 117 million in behavioral health capacity grants, helping patients transition to care in their own communities. These investments are consistent with proposals by Gov. Jay Inslee.  

The Senate also joins the House in providing design planning for the proposed Behavioral Health Innovation and Integration campus within the University of Washington Medical School. This proposal has broad bipartisan support, and will be a critical component of Washington’s long-term strategy to create a new paradigm for mental health treatment in Washington State. 

“The budget will dramatically improve the quality of behavioral health treatment in our state as we transition to a better system,” Frockt said. “We have also made a critical down payment on housing for those most in need, with the second-highest investment ever in the Housing Trust Fund, including $35 million dedicated specifically for housing with behavioral health supports. “

The budget also continues to provide grants to create more bed capacity for children in the foster system. 

The Housing Trust Fund would receive $175 million to address a number of different needs in the community including house people with disabilities, people experiencing chronic homelessness, and people receiving treatment for substance abuse disorders.  It includes millions of dollars for housing in Seattle and King County.

The capital budget invests about $230 million in toxics cleanup, prevention and stormwater assistance to local governments.

Additional environmental investments would prevent wildfires and help orca. Forest hazard reduction would receive $14 million. The budget contains funding spread across a variety of projects that would aid orca recovery, including habitat restoration.

About $310 million and funding available through the Recreation and Conservation Office would fund habitat protection, salmon recovery, conservation and recreation.

The $63 million invested in state parks would expand Washingtonians’ options for environment recreation. About $3 million of that funding would go to a new, full-service Nisqually State Park near Eatonville. About $33 million would fund park maintenance.

An additional $90 million would fund outdoor recreation projects though Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grants.

The budget would invest about $1.1 billion in K-12 education, with about $1.02 billion dedicated to the School Construction Assistance Program. About $23 million would fund small district modernization, and $6 million would fund STEM grants.

The state’s higher education system would receive $1.1 billion.

26 03, 2019

Senate Transportation budget highlighted by investments in ferries, I-5 Bridge and I-405

March 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Sen. Steve Hobbs on Tuesday introduced the 2019-21 Transportation Budget, totaling nearly $9.8 billion in appropriations.

Hobbs, the chair of the Transportation Committee, highlighted several new investments made as well as the continued delivery of projects first adopted as part of the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package.

“This budget keeps the promise we made in Connecting Washington to reimagine transportation in Washington,” Hobbs said. “These projects continue forward and are complimented by the additional investments made in this budget.”

The transportation budget is highlighted by an $8.5 million investment in the creation of a project office to continue the work of replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge across the Columbia River. This office will begin the reevaluation of scope, schedule, and budget for a reinvigorated bi-state effort.

Additional investments include providing $35 million in savings and $20 million in toll revenue to advance the design and complete right-of-way acquisition for the I-405 north end completion. Several projects had funding advanced including $40 million for the SR 167/SR 509 Puget Sound Gateway project and $17 million for I-90 Snoqualmie Pass.

Ferry investments include providing for the start of building a new 144-car hybrid electric vessel as well as the conversion of two existing ferries. The ferries division was provided $990,000 for the planning work needed to prepare for hybrid-electric vessel terminal charging investments. The Colman Dock project in Seattle and the Mukilteo terminal also received additional funding to keep those projects moving forward. Also included is $160,000 for a vessel noise reduction study aimed at helping protect the endangered southern resident orcas.

The Commute Trip Reduction program received a $1 million investment for a new first/last mile transportation demand management pilot program and $1 million for the continuation of a small businesses transit pass incentive.

With continued issues with maintaining a stable Washington State Patrol force $4.2 million was funded for a third cadet class and a position was funded for a recruitment and retention captain position.

“By ensuring the continuation of the Connecting WA package and making additional investments, the present and future of Washington’s transportation infrastructure is strong, but this budget contains more modest investments than we’ve made in recent years,” Hobbs said. “We have many transportation needs in this state. We must pay for fish culverts, storm water cleanup and numerous new projects throughout Washington. In order to keep up with demand, we will need to identify new ways to fund these projects going forward.”

You can view the full transportation budget, SB 5214, here. Additional documents can be viewed here.

6 03, 2019

Senate passes Carlyle’s Washington Privacy Act

March 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate today overwhelmingly approved the Washington Privacy Act, one of the nation’s strongest privacy protection measures based on global standards to strengthen consumer access and control over personal data held by companies and the government.

A bipartisan group of senators voted 46-1 in favor of Senate Bill 5376, sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle).

“We’re so proud that Democrats and Republicans voted together to recognize that consumer privacy is essential and that data belongs to individuals,” said Carlyle, who chairs the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee. “This bill carefully, responsibly takes the best practices from Europe, California and other states to build a data privacy regulatory framework that will help set a standard and lead the nation in bringing our data privacy laws into the 21st century.”

The comprehensive act reflects central elements of the European Union General Data Protection Regulation and gives Washington residents meaningful tools to determine how their personal data is used and shared. That includes the right to know who is using consumers’ data and why, the right to correct inaccurate personal data, the right to delete certain personal data, and the right to restrict the sale of data in key areas.

The bill also sets out steps companies must take to prevent practices that might compromise the security of personal information and limits how companies and law enforcement can use facial recognition technology to ensure it is not irresponsibly deployed.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

4 03, 2019

Presidential primary bill passes full Legislature

March 4th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA — A measure to make Washington’s presidential primary process more accessible and relevant—and to end reliance on precinct caucuses—passed out of the state House today on a 54-42 vote.

Senate Bill 5273, sponsored by Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), would move Washington’s presidential primary to the second Tuesday in March, bringing it in line with nearly two dozen states across the country that are expected to hold primaries or caucuses by that date.

The current date for Washington’s primary, the fourth Tuesday in May, was so late that the state had no meaningful impact as nominees had effectively already been determined. This bill ensures that both major political parties in Washington state will have a voice in the nominating process and that their decisions will help dictate their party’s presidential nominee. 

“The earlier date will make the presidential primary more meaningful in our state and will increase participation,” Hunt said. “It also will enable the major political parties to use primary election results instead of caucuses to allocate Washington’s national convention votes to presidential and vice presidential candidates.”

In 2016, voter participation rates were three times higher in states with presidential primaries than in those with caucuses. The change will ease participation among voters who have non-traditional work schedules, lack childcare, or cannot commit to spending hours on a weekend in caucus. The bill allows voters to express their preferences through the state’s vote-by-mail system, as they do in all other elections, effectively ending the use of caucuses to choose presidential candidates.

“The presidential primary is part of the national presidential nominating process.  For the primary to be part of Washington state’s delegate selection process, it must be consistent with nominating rules established by the national political parties. The states are not free to enact whatever primary they want.  The parties require that only ballots from voters who identify with that party may be considered as valid,” said Hunt. As to allowing voters to cast an unaffiliated vote that would not be part of the process, he said, “it’s not participation if your vote does not count.  We want to work for high voter participation, but we also want to have a meaningful presidential primary where peoples’ votes count.  This bill accomplishes that.”

SB 5273 passed in the Senate on Jan. 30 on a 29-18 vote.          

1 03, 2019

The Everblue State: Sen. Jesse Salomon talks fracking and restorative justice

March 1st, 2019|Podcast|

For this episode of The Everblue State, we spoke with Sen. Jesse Salomon, the first-year senator from the 32nd District.

Salomon has spent his career in public service — working as a public defender, serving on the Shoreline City Council and more. In the Senate, he’s working hard on environmental and early childhood education issues.

1 03, 2019

Bill committing Washington to 100 percent clean energy passes Senate

March 1st, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate today approved a sweeping, historic bill to commit the state to 100 percent clean energy from renewable and zero-emission sources.

Senators voted 28-19 in favor of Senate Bill 5116, sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle). The bill would require all electric utilities in Washington to transition to a 100-percent, carbon-neutral electricity supply by 2030 and to 100-percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.

“It’s simply time to move past the era of carbon into the next generation with modern, 21st-century energy systems using integrated wind, hydro and solar power,” Carlyle said. “I’m proud that this is the strongest, 100-percent clean energy bill adopted in the nation, and we thank Hawaii and California for paving the way. Now, it’s up to the other states to follow our lead.”

Electricity remains the largest source of carbon emissions worldwide and is the third-highest emitting sector in Washington, after transportation and buildings.

Senate Bill 5166 would make Washington one of the first states in the nation to commit broadly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity while adopting a precise action plan to do so. It is also the most extensive measure on climate action that Washington’s Legislature has adopted since 2008, when it committed the state to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.

The bill is part of a wider package of Senate legislation to make a meaningful reduction in Washington’s carbon footprint.

It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.