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Sen. Mullet Newsroom

Mullet dispels reports of I-90/SR18 interchange construction delay

OLYMPIA – Recent reports that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is delaying construction of a new interchange at State Route 18 and Interstate 90 are incorrect, Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, said today in an email to constituents.

Mullet disputed reports that WSDOT’s current project timetable, which anticipates construction from 2021 to 2023, broke an alleged commitment to start and finish work sooner.

“Unfortunately, stories are circulating that WSDOT promised last year that work would run from 2019 to 2022,” Mullet said. “They seem to accuse the department of trying to slip a delay past without us noticing. But that’s not true.”

The 2017 Transportation Budget accelerated access to $150 million to start the process of building the new interchange right away, instead of waiting until 2023. That budget also included funds to widen State Route 18 between Interstate 90 and Deep Creek.

WSDOT began work on the new interchange last year, seeking a design consultant, which it selected in December. Earlier this year it started to conduct the necessary community engagement, environmental review and design process. In May, WSDOT announced that construction would run from 2021 to 2023, a timeline that the department said still stands.

Mullet said that some initial rough estimates may have been misinterpreted and he emphasized that no official timeline was set or given until May.

“It wouldn’t have made much sense to do so earlier, before WSDOT determined how to build the interchange and who would help do that,” he said. “And a start date of 2019 wouldn’t have given WSDOT enough time to do the necessary preliminary work to make sure the project is done right.”

WSDOT has acknowledged that its process selecting a design consultant took slightly longer than anticipated, leading to a delay of about two months last year as things got started. But that delay is reflected in the 2021 to 2023 timeline.

“Keeping traffic moving is a priority and I understand the urgent need for this project,” Mullet said. “Anyone who travels this section of I-90 knows how maddening and potentially dangerous the gridlock and traffic can be. But it’s important that we address it the right way and that the new interchange meets our community’s needs.”

Mullet also noted that another project adding lanes to I-90 between Issaquah and Bellevue is still on schedule, with construction set to start next year.

September 17th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Mullet calls on Seattle to drop ‘head tax’ proposal

OLYMPIA – Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, today called on the Seattle City Council to drop a proposal to tax large employers in the city to fund homeless services and affordable housing, citing the potential harm to job creation in Seattle and beyond, and warning that the plan could draw a response from Olympia.

The call came one day after online retail giant Amazon announced a halt to its expansion in downtown Seattle until the City Council votes on the proposed “head tax.” Supporters say the proposed tax of 26 cents per employee, per hour would target about three percent of businesses in the city, raising an estimated $75 million in the next year.

But Mullet – chair of the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee, which oversees aspects of housing regulation – said he disagreed with a plan that would “tax employers for providing jobs for Washington residents” and which he said would send the wrong message.

“Our committee goal is to send a message to the world that the public sector in Washington State will partner with the private sector if you are willing to set up business in our state and help create jobs,” he said. “The goal of attracting more jobs is too important to risk having a local municipality send the opposite message.”

Mullet agreed that more needs to be done to meet the ongoing crisis of affordable housing and homelessness across Washington. But he said the proposal’s benefits had to be weighed against the damage it could do – including the potential loss of thousands of jobs.

“Washington State, King County and Seattle have already dramatically increased funding and created new laws that help move people into permanent housing,” he said. “I know I speak for many of my colleagues when I say that more needs to and will be done to address homelessness at the state level. However, taxes can be an effective way to create disincentives in our economy. What message does Seattle send to companies by taxing the jobs they create in the city?”

Mullet predicted that the harm would not be limited to Seattle. As the owner of small businesses in King County, including a local pizza restaurant and ice cream stores, he said he could personally attest to the importance to the local economy of large employers that would be hit by the tax. He estimated that employees of companies like Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, T-Mobile and Starbucks, and their families, made up about half of his customers.

He also cautioned that adoption of the proposed tax could lead to action in the Legislature.

“It is these sort of local actions that often require a state-wide legislative policy fix to make sure that the message to the world is consistent,” Mullet said. “We want people to set up shop in Washington and employ our residents. If they do, we’ll reward them, not penalize them through a head tax on employment.”

May 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|
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    State should pay to mail in ballots, says pair of King County senators

State should pay to mail in ballots, says pair of King County senators

OLYMPIA – With Washington voters having cast their ballots through the mail since 2011, Sens. Joe Fain and Mark Mullet said today that the state should pay for postage to increase voter participation and reduce any confusion or barriers to participating in elections.

The two lawmakers from King County drafted legislation this month that they intend to file ahead of the 2019 legislative session.

“Voting is a critically important right and our state has an interest in removing barriers that keep people from exercising that right,” said Fain, R-Auburn, who has worked on election reform and proposals to expand voter access while a member of the state Senate. “Whether it is the cost or fact that many don’t keep stamps at home in an increasingly paperless society, this is one way to simplify the process and encourage people to participate in our self-government.”

While many states offer some sort of mail-in voting, Washington is one of only three to use all mail-in voting, in which elections are conducted entirely by mail. However, Washington voters are responsible for affixing postage to the ballot before sending it to their county election office.

“Seeing the increased voter participation in Maple Valley as part of a King County pilot project has convinced me that we need this to be a statewide effort, hence my support of this legislation,” Mullet, D-Issaquah, said.

King County, which has conducted elections by mail since 2009, before the practice was adopted statewide, has recently been exploring and testing the use of pre-paid postage in local special elections.

“While both a well-intentioned and effective way to boost turnout, if more affluent cities or counties are the only jurisdictions to provide postage-free ballots, lower-income voters in other parts of the state could be disenfranchised,” Fain said. “We shouldn’t try to restrict those efforts. Instead we should make them unnecessary by expanding access for all voters.”

April 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|

E News – 2018 Legislative Update

Dear friends and neighbors,

In my last newsletter, I shared information about the operating, construction and transportation budgets that we passed this legislative session.

This week, I wanted to give you a final update you on the bills I sponsored that were signed into law.

• Property tax relief: Senate Bill 6641 cut property taxes by $391 million, giving homeowners a break on their 2019 tax bill to offset the large increase in this year’s taxes passed in 2017 to fund K-12 education.

• Ban on credit freeze fees: Senate Bill 6018 eliminates credit bureaus’ fees to freeze your credit reports to protect your personal info.

• Allow GET holders to share in investment returns: Senate Bill 6087 lets participants in Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program directly share in recent investment gains, giving them a larger return on investment in the program.

• College credit for high school students: Senate Bill 5917 requires colleges and universities to develop a policy to give college credit to high school students who pass International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International exams.

• Supporting paraeducators and training requirements: Senate Bill 6388.

• Improving how we regulate our financial service sector: Senate Bill 6024.

• Letting local housing authorities continue to invest in affordable housing: Senate Bill 6371.

• Creating an easier system for the State Treasurer to replace lost checks: Senate Bill 6311.

We also passed the House version of my bill to save Maple Valley money by making sure the state continues to pay to maintain S.R. 169 and S.R. 516 (House Bill 2948). Altogether, we accomplished a lot during this year’s short, 60-day session. In addition to passing my nine bills above, the Legislature made it easier for people to register to vote, fully funded K-12 educators’ salaries, made college more affordable and invested heavily in our mental health system.

I’m proud to have played a lead role in addressing some of the most complex, difficult and important public issues facing our state. I look forward to continuing to fight for our communities throughout this year and in the next legislative session, and I welcome your thoughts on how we can best do that.

All my best,

April 6th, 2018|E-News, Uncategorized|

E News – 2018 Budget Accomplishments

Dear friends,

We were able to accomplish a lot during this year’s short, 60-day session. In addition to passing a wide range of bills improving the quality of life in our communities, we finished on time and passed operating, construction and transportation budgets.

Gov. Inslee signs Engrossed Senate Bill No. 6018, March 13, 2018. Relating to consumer reporting agency security freezes. Primary Sponsor: Mark Mullet

The operating budget provides $391 million in property tax relief, while fully funding K-12 education. It also directs funding to mental health care and college financial aid. Notably, it doesn’t raise or add any new taxes.

The construction budget includes funding to open a Teen Café in Issaquah – where teens can gather to explore creative interests in a safe place and access counseling and mental health services – and to build a playground in Maple Valley’s Summit Park.

It also contains funding to further improve Lake Sammamish State Park, help Eastside Fire & Rescue remove industrial chemicals from our groundwater, and expand and enhance Sandy Cove Park in historic Snoqualmie.

That all comes on top of a larger $4.2 billion construction package approved in January that included funding for projects in every community in the 5th Legislative District.

The transportation budget includes funding for design work so we can get reasonable cost estimates to widen S.R. 18 to four lanes from Issaquah-Hobart Rd to I-90.

Moving forward, Gov. Inslee has already signed two of my bills: one banning credit freeze fees (SB 6018) and another creating an easier system for the State Treasurer to replace lost checks (SB 6311). Five others are still awaiting his signature. I’ll have a full report on them for you in the coming weeks.

All my best,

March 14th, 2018|E-News, Uncategorized|

Governor signs bill banning credit freeze fees

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee today signed a bill to eliminate the fees that credit bureaus charge customers who want to freeze their credit reports to protect their personal information.

Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, sponsored Senate Bill 6018 in response to the Equifax database hack last summer that exposed the private information of more than 143 million Americans.

“This important, bipartisan consumer protection measure will make it easier for people to protect themselves and their identities without financial penalties,” Mullet, who chairs the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee, said. “Consumers whose sensitive financial data has been exposed through no fault of their own shouldn’t have to pay to protect their credit ratings.”

Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, who chairs the House State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee and had sponsored a similar bill, helped shepherd Senate Bill 6018 through the House.

“It’s not right to charge these fees when people are simply trying to protect their personal data from online theft,” Hudgins said. “This measure will ensure that all Washingtonians can protect their identities by freezing their credit without paying a fee to do so. It’s the right thing to do.”

In addition to eliminating credit freeze fees, the bill requires the state to conduct a study on its impact on consumers and credit reporting agencies.

Following the Equifax hack, consumer watchdogs recommended that customers request credit freezes from credit reporting agencies to ensure that the stolen information could not be exploited. A freeze blocks access to a credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts using stolen data.

Credit reporting agencies charge Washington residents $10 to temporarily freeze their credit reports. But a consumer who needs to unfreeze the account to generate the credit report necessary to buy a car, take out a mortgage or open a bank account must pay the fee again to each agency. As a result, those who freeze and unfreeze reports with all three major agencies can actually face some $60 in fees.

March 13th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Senate approves $400 million statewide property tax cut

OLYMPIA – The Senate today approved an approximately $400 million property tax cut, giving homeowners a break on their 2019 tax bill to offset the large increase in this year’s taxes that was passed in 2017 to fund K-12 education.

Senate Bill 6614, sponsored by Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, would use some $400 million in projected revenue from Washington’s booming economy to roll back about 40 percent of this year’s state property tax increase while continuing to fully fund K-12 education.

Specifically, it reduces the state property tax rate in 2019 by 30 cents, from $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.40.

The 2018 tax increase resulted from a compromise deal lawmakers made last year to address the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling that the state unconstitutionally passed its responsibility to fund K-12 education on to local school districts. The deal essentially increased the state property tax rate starting in 2018 and reduced local levy rates starting in 2019, leaving taxpayers on the hook to pay both this year.

“If we had known last year what we learned last month – that projected revenue is much greater than expected – we would have waited to increase the state rate and decrease local rates at the same time, instead of putting so much on taxpayers in 2018,” Mullet said. “This bill is an attempt to return a portion of the 2018 property tax increase back to the residents of Washington.”

Mullet said he would have preferred to apply the cut to this year’s property tax bills. But doing so would be complicated, he said, given that bills due in April have already been sent to taxpayers. He also noted that some 70,000 Washingtonians have already paid their 2018 bill in full and Washington’s constitution bars the state from giving them a refund.

The Senate approved the bill 25-23. It now goes to the House of Representatives.

March 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|

E News – More investment in our community

Dear friends and neighbors,

As we near the end of the 2018 legislative session, I’m pleased that the Senate has approved supplemental operating, transportation and construction budgets to fund vital projects and services across Washington.

Funding will go to:

  • Open a Teen Café in Issaquah, where teens can gather to explore creative interests in a safe place and access counseling and mental health services
  • Build a playground in Maple Valley’s Summit Park
  • Further improve Lake Sammamish State Park
  • Help Eastside Fire & Rescue in removing industrial chemicals from our groundwater
  • Expand and enhance Sandy Cove Park in historic Snoqualmie

Working to make sure our community gets its fair share of support and investment is one of the most important responsibilities I have as a senator.

* * *

In other news, I also want to give you an update on public records and Senate Bill 6617, which I wrote about last week.

On Thursday, there was a breakthrough. The Seattle Times and the Associated Press, which had sued seeking public records, agreed to put their case on hold. In exchange, lawmakers promised to work with advocates and the media to strike a balance in the 2019 session allowing the release of legislative records.

The agreement means that constituent correspondence will remain private for the time being and it removes the risk that a judge’s ruling could force me to turn over letters or emails from constituents.

Constituent privacy has always been my number one concern. Knowing that the case is on hold made me comfortable in asking the governor to veto the bill.

Going forward, I pledge to support balance in public records disclosure to keep constituents’ information private while ensuring transparency in our interactions with lobbyists.

All my best,

March 6th, 2018|E-News, Uncategorized|

E News – The Legislative Public Records Act

Dear friends and neighbors,

This week, you may have heard a lot of discussion about public records and Senate Bill 6617.

The bill isn’t perfect and I regret that more time wasn’t set aside for public input. But I voted for it to protect the right of my constituents to share opinions with me or reach out for help without having to worry that this information will be released indiscriminately or even used against them.

Since 1972, it has widely been understood that Washington’s public disclosure laws do not apply to legislators. But media organizations filed suit using a novel theory and a judge made a ruling last month that is unworkable and potentially harmful.

The ruling would open information you share with me to corporations, political parties and anyone else who wants it. Constituents regularly write to me about issues dealing with domestic violence, mental health, issues with their children and personal medical issues. I am adamantly opposed to those messages being open to public records requests.

No constituent should fear that a message they send to me may end up in some blog or on the front page of some newspaper. How is it good for democracy if constituents are fearful of writing to their representatives in government?

In order to balance these concerns with the need for real transparency, we passed Senate Bill 6617. It may not go as far as some would like, but I feel that it strikes a responsible compromise.

Constituents who have contacted me on this issue have said their main concern is distrust of interactions between lobbyists and legislators, and “backroom deals.” But the public discussion has lost sight of the fact that Senate Bill 6617 will open all communication between legislators and lobbyists to public disclosure.

It’s important to note that this is the first time in the history of Washington’s Legislature that this much information will be readily accessible to the public.

Going forward, the bill ensures that legislators’ contacts with lobbyists will be public, while contacts with constituents will stay private. I believe that it will go a long way towards easing concerns about inappropriate interactions or efforts by legislators or lobbyists in Olympia.

To illustrate my commitment to transparency, I encourage you to call my office (360 786 7608) anytime you have questions about what is happening in Olympia. That includes who I meet with and why I voted a certain way. As my constituent, you will always have a right to open and honest answers from me.

All my best,

February 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Ban on credit freeze fees clears Legislature

OLYMPIA – A bill to eliminate the fees that credit bureaus charge customers who want to freeze their credit reports to protect their personal information is headed to the governor following passage yesterday by the House of Representatives.

The House voted 81-15 in favor of Senate Bill 6018. Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, sponsored the bill in response to the Equifax database hack last summer that exposed the private information of more than 143 million Americans.

The bill, which the Senate approved in January by a vote of 46-2, now needs only Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

“This bill is an important, bipartisan consumer protection measure that will make it easier for people to protect themselves and their identities without financial penalties,” Mullet, who chairs the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee, said. “Consumers whose sensitive financial data has been exposed through no fault of their own shouldn’t have to pay to protect their credit ratings.”

Senate Bill 6018 received strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, who chairs the House State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee and had sponsored a similar bill, helped shepherd Senate Bill 6018 through the House.

“I don’t think it is right that consumers are paying to protect their data when credit agencies are the ones making that data vulnerable,” Hudgins said. “This measure will ensure that all Washingtonians can protect their identities by freezing their credit without paying a fee to do so. It’s the right thing to do.”

Following the Equifax hack, consumer watchdogs recommended that customers request credit freezes from credit reporting agencies to ensure that the stolen information could not be exploited. A freeze blocks access to a credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts using stolen data.

Credit reporting agencies charge Washington residents $10 to temporarily freeze their credit reports. But a consumer who needs to unfreeze the account to generate the credit report necessary to buy a car, take out a mortgage or open a bank account must pay the fee again to each agency, meaning that those who freeze and unfreeze reports with all three major agencies actually face some $60 in fees.

In addition to eliminating credit freeze fees, the bill requires the state to conduct a study on its impact on consumers and credit reporting agencies.

February 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|