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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.

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.

28 02, 2019

Democratic lawmakers to host district town halls

February 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Democrats in the Legislature will host town halls in their legislative districts in March to hear from their constituents.

Senators and representatives from multiple legislative districts will provide a brief overview of their work so far this session before making themselves available for questions, comments and concerns from the public.

Below is a list of all scheduled town halls. More dates and locations are expected to be announced in the coming weeks, and this post will be updated.

  • 3rd Legislative District – March 16 at 10 am with Senate majority leader Billig and Reps. Riccelli and Ormsby. More information here.
  • 43rd Legislative District – March 16 at 10 am with House speaker Chopp, Sen. Pedersen, and Rep. Macri. More information here.
  • 22nd Legislative District – March 19 at 6 pm with Sen. Hunt and Reps. Dolan and Doglio. More information here.
  • 33rd Legislative District – March 23 at 10 am with Sen. Keiser and Reps. Gregerson and Orwall. More information here.
  • 41st Legislative District – March 23 at 10 am with Sen. Wellman and Reps. Senn and Thai. More information here.
  • 32nd Legislative District – March 23 at 2 pm with Sen. Salomon and Reps. David and Ryu. More information here.
  • 5th Legislative District Town Hall – March 16 with Sen. Mullet and Reps. Callan and Ramos. Three town halls will be held between 10 am – 3:30 pm. See more information here.
  • 26th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 with Sen. Randall. There will be three town halls between 9 am – 4:30 pm, each at a different location. Find out more here.
  • 27th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 10 am with Sen. Darneille and Reps. Fey and Jinkins. More information here.
  • 29th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 10 am with Sen. Conway. More information here.
  • 33rd Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 10 am with Sen. Keiser and Rep. Gregerson. More information here.
  • 37th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 10 am with Sen. Saldaña and Reps. Pettigrew and Santos. More information here.
  • 40th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 10 am with Sen. Lovelett and Rep. Morris. More information here.
  • 47th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 10:30 am with Sen. Das and Reps. Sullivan and Entenman. More information here.
  • 48th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 10:30 am with Sen. Kuderer and Reps. Slatter and Walen. Location and more details here.
  • 21st Legislative District – March 23 at 11 am with Reps. Peterson and Ortiz-Self and Sen. Liias. Find out more here.
  • 1st Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 1:30 pm with Sen. Palumbo and Reps. Stanford and Kloba. More information here.
  • 36th Legislative District Town Hall – March 24 at 2 pm with Sen. Carlyle and Reps. Frame and Tarleton. Find out more here.
  • 30th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 2 pm with Sen Wilson and Reps. Reeves and Pellicciotti. More information here.
  • 45th Legislative District Town Hall – March 24 at 11 am with Sen. Dhingra and Reps. Goodman and Springer. More information here.
  • 23rd Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 with Sen. Rolfes and Reps. Hansen and Appleton. There will be two town halls between 10 am – 3 pm. More information here.
  • 44th Legislative District Town Hall – March 23 at 9:30 a.m. with Sen. Hobbs and Reps. Lovick and Mead. More information here.
21 02, 2019

The Everblue State: Transportation and nerd stuff with Sen. Steve Hobbs

February 21st, 2019|Podcast|

This week on The Everblue State, Sen. Steve Hobbs updated us on Washington’s transportation policy. He also went in-depth about his nerdy pursuits — including Dungeons and Dragons.

He even told us which members of the Legislature he would pick for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

Hobbs represents the 44th District, and is a combat veteran.

18 02, 2019

Week 6: Legislature faces first cutoff

February 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA — It’s day 36 of the 105-day session and the snow is finally melting away at the Capitol. It will be a busy week as lawmakers will be holding hearings on hundreds of bills ahead of the session’s first cutoff on Friday. Policy bills that do not pass out of committee by the end of the week cannot receive further consideration. (View cutoff calendar). Health care, preventing bullying, and tax fairness will be among the hot topics discussed in committee this week.

What to watch this week

HEALTH & LONG TERM CARE COMMITTEE
Monday, Feb. 18 @ 1:30 p.m.

The committee will hear SB 5526, which creates a public option health care plan; SB 5805, which protects threatened Obamacare mandates like preexisting conditions; and SB 5822, which establishes a pathway to universal health care in Washington.

EARLY LEARNING & K-12 EDUCATION COMMITTEE
Monday, Feb. 18 @  1:30 p.m.

The Senate will hold a hearing on SB 5689, which is designed to end bullying, harassment, intimidation and discrimination against transgender students in public schools.

HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE
Tuesday, Feb. 19 @ 8 a.m.

Should collegiate athletes get paid? The Higher Education Committee will explore that issue when it hears SB 5875.

MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Tuesday, Feb. 19 @ 11 a.m.

Democratic leaders in the Senate and House will hold their weekly media availability in the Senate Majority Caucus room. 

HEALTH CARE COMMITTEE
Wednesday, Feb. 20 @ 1:30 p.m.

With the spread of measles on the rise, the Senate Health Care Committee will hear SB 5841, which will eliminate the personal/philosophical objection exemption to common vaccinations. A press conference will precede the hearing at 12:30 p.m. in JAC 211.

WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE
Thursday, Feb. 21 @ 3:30 p.m.

SB 5810 will address inequities in our state’s tax structure and help give working families a leg up. The Working Families Tax Credit is a proven tool to increase family income, reduce child poverty and improve overall quality of life for low- and middle-income households.

Click here to access the entire schedule of Senate hearings.

14 02, 2019

The Everblue State: Sen. Joe Nguyen on marijuana policy and opportunity

February 14th, 2019|Podcast|

For this episode of The Everblue State, we spoke with another one of our new legislators: Sen. Joe Nguyen.

Nguyen represents the district he grew up in (the 34th District) and is passionate about providing opportunities for Washingtonians regardless of their income level. He’s also working this session to vacate some marijuana convictions.

13 02, 2019

Washington state’s expansion of voting rights to be discussed in Congress

February 13th, 2019|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA — Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman is set to testify Thursday morning on HR 1, a measure sponsored by Congressional Democrats to strengthen and expand voting rights across the country.

HR 1, called the “For the People Act,” replicates many measures that were part of the Access to Democracy package passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2018.

In November 2017, Democrats in Washington state took control of the Legislature after five years of Republican control in the state senate. When Democrats took the gavels heading into the 2018 legislative session, they prioritized expanding voting rights for all Washingtonians. In other states where legislative control flipped back to Democrats, similar efforts have reversed years of Republican bills to limit voter access.

Prior to their passage here in Washington state, each of the Access to Democracy bills passed the Democratic-controlled House only to die in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Bills in the 2018 Access to Democracy package included:

  • Washington Voting Rights Act (SB 6002)
  • Automatic Voter Registration (HB 2595)
  • Disclosure of campaign spending by nonprofit organizations  (SB 5991)
  • Same Day Voter Registration (SB 6021)
  • 16 and 17-year old Pre-Registration (HB 1513)

Senate Democrats have continued the push to expand voting access in 2019. Already, the Native American Voting Rights Act passed the Senate with bipartisan support. In addition, a bill restoring the right to vote for the roughly 18,000 individuals on probation or parole and a bill to permanently provide prepaid postage for all elections are expected to pass the Senate in the coming days.