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News

State Government Responds to COVID-19

April 16th, 2020|

From the Wahkiakum County Eagle

The Washington State Legislature included funding for covid-19 response in the recently passed budget, Senator Dean Takko, D-19, said during the round table.

Initially, there was a $2 million appropriation for virus response and another billion in support programs, and with a two-thirds majority vote, the legislature could appropriate money from the $3.5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, which is only to be used in emergencies.

“This won’t come close to solving our problems,” he said. “Nobody had any idea of how bad it would be.

“Gov. Jay Inslee did a good job of vetoing items from the budget to reduce spending,” Takko commented. Inslee vetoed some appropriations which Takko supported, but the senator said everyone lost expenditures, and the goal of freeing money for covid-19 response is worth it.

The adverse covid-19 impact on the economy will affect state revenues. The legislature will face a tremendous challenge next session to deal with loss of gasoline tax revenue for the Transportation Budget, and the legislature is waiting for resolution of a court case challenging the initiative to lower vehicle license fees.

Takko added that he and other Democrat senators have written to Inslee to ask him to allow construction on single-family and other housing to resume.

Broadband internet funding sought

Takko and other officials agreed that the pandemic crisis shows the need for funding of expanded high speed, broadband internet access in the county and other rural areas of the state.

“I think the virus has highlighted our need for rural broadband,” said Wahkiakum PUD Commissioner Gene Healy, a member of a committee trying to expand broadband county wide.

Sen. Takko agreed, pointing to difficulties students have accessing their studies from home computers.

“It just reinforces what we already knew,” Takko said.

Poor internet service is impeding the work-at-home efforts of Health and Human Services employees and their clients, Bischoff said.

“Almost daily, that comes to our attention,” he said.

“I saw, on Facebook, where a student had to sit in a car in the high school parking lot to connect to wifi,” Healy said. “I think, that as a society, we’re better than that.”

Officials: Resume hunting, fishing

Commissioners also said they would like to see the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife allow fishing and hunting this year.

The department ordered some spring seasons closed earlier this month and is considering closures of other seasons later this year.

Commissioners said they would draft a letter for signature next week to request the opening of the seasons.

By Rick Nelson

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    State review of Kalama methanol plant may progress without second study

State review of Kalama methanol plant may progress without second study

March 25th, 2020|

From The Daily News

Signaling a potential “change in attitude,” the state Department of Ecology may back off its demand for second study of the potential climate change impact of the proposed $2 billion Kalama methanol plant, according to area legislators.

“We believe (Ecology) can complete a through and effective evaluation of the project and come to a timely permit decision without resorting to a second” study of the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a March 12 letter from the legislators to the Cowlitz County commissioners and Port of Kalama. (See copy of the letter attached to this story on TDN.com.)

Ecology indicated a willingness to help modify a county/port greenhouse study that the agency found “insufficient,” according to the letter. In November, Ecology announced it would do its own, a process it said could take a year.

Legislators representing the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th districts met with Ecology during the recent legislative session about its second study requirement. On Tuesday, some of those lawmakers said Ecology has made no commitments, but they are hoping the project will move forward.
Ecology has been committed to doing this environmental review as quickly as possible, said Jeff Zenk, Ecology spokesman.

“We are open to exploring how we might be able to work with Cowlitz County and the applicants to share in the workload of providing the additional analysis that we require for this project,” he said in a statement. “We have had some initial discussions to see if that is feasible.”

State Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, said the March 12 letter asks the county to reach out to Ecology and formally request clarification on what the agency found wrong with the county/port greenhouse gas study. Walsh said he’s optimistic the county and Ecology can remedy the existing study.

Generating a new analysis would involve a “significant amount” of taxpayer money and Ecology staff time, Walsh said.

“Leaving aside local politics, I think that’s not a great use of taxpayer resources,” Walsh said. “NWIW (Northwest Innovation Works) paid for the existing EIS. It seems to me a better bang for the taxpayer’s buck is to remedy the shortcomings Ecology sees in that rather than to start the process all over again, funded by taxpayers.”

Ecology requested $600,000 for the study, but that money was not included in the budget the Legislature approved earlier this month, said state Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview.
Northwest Innovation Works wants to build the methanol plant at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas to methanol to be shipped to China to make plastic.

The county/port analysis said the plant would result in a reduction of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions by offsetting coal-based methanol production in China. Environmentalists scoff at that scenario and say it is based on old assumptions.

According to the legislator’s March 12 letter, Ecology officials indicated to lawmakers they would be willing to work with the port and county to address their concerns about the existing study.
Elaine Placido, county community services director, said Tuesday she is “happy to expand the collaborative effort with the port and the Department of Ecology.”

Dan Serres, Columbia River conservation director, said Ecology has been willing to help the county and port correct errors in the analysis, but the agencies have “consistently refused to do the scientifically sound environmental review necessary.”

The county/port analysis misrepresents the purpose and impact of the facility, Serres said, and doesn’t consider the potential burning of the methanol as fuel or the climate changing pollution associated with all aspects of the project. (Northwest Innovation rejects the contention that it will sell the methanol as fuel.)

“We will continue to support the State of Washington in holding this company accountable despite the company’s attempts to mislead the community and regulators,” he said.

Sen. Takko said he’s frustrated that it has taken so long to review the project, which first was proposed in 2014.

“This thing has been handled poorly to take this much time,” he said.

The plant would create about 200 permanent jobs, generate millions in local property and sales taxes and train a new generation of workers, according to Northwest Innovation Works.

“We believe this project represents a defining opportunity for rural economic development in Washington State,” says the March 12 letter, signed by state Reps. Walsh, Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama), Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), Paul Harris (R-Vancouver), Brandon Vick (R-Vancouver) Larry Hoff (R-Vancouver) and state Sens. Takko and John Braun, R-Centralia.

By Katie Fairbanks

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    Capitol Dispatch: Lawmakers secure funds for Longview police station, Community House

Capitol Dispatch: Lawmakers secure funds for Longview police station, Community House

March 15th, 2020|

From The Daily News

When the 60-day legislative session concluded Thursday night, the supplemental capital budget included money for a number of local projects, including $250,000 for a Longview satellite police station in the Highlands and about $250,000 for Community House on Broadway to purchase a new building and upgrade its kitchen. It also allocated about $55,000 for lead paint remediation at Cathlamet’s Pioneer Center.

All four local Republicans, however, said they were frustrated with the spending in the supplemental operating budget, which adds about $1 billion to the $52 billion two-year budget passed by lawmakers last year.

Sen. John Braun, a Centralia Republican, said the majority party didn’t spend all the money they had, which “showed some good restraint.” The final budget has an ending fund balance of about $800 million.

“They did an admirable job not spending all the money, but that said, they did spend quite a lot. It represents an overall growth 20% from the last budget,” Braun said. “So it’s hard to say it’s all good news.”

In response to the Republicans, Democrat Sen. Dean Takko of Longview said, “They probably would have said that no matter what we spend.”

Local Republicans and Democrats all praised the transportation budget as “bipartisan.” It released almost all of the projects that had been “frozen” after funding uncertainty related to Initiative 976, including Longview’s $1.9 million Beech Street extension, which is expected to open up about 48 acres for development.

All six local lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — said they were pleased that major gun control and carbon emissions measures were knocked down. These measures included an assault weapon ban, high capacity magazine ban, ammunition tax and a low carbon fuel standard.

Coronavirus

The Legislature also approved $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund to combat the new coronavirus. Local lawmakers agreed that was the right amount of money, but Rep. Ed Orcutt of Kalama said he would have liked to fund it with additional tax revenue, rather than emergency funds.

“We are going to have an economic downturn at some point, whether the virus causes it or something else does,” he said. “I’m concerned that we dipped into that when we didn’t really need to.”

Rep. Jim Walsh, an Aberdeen Republican, said Washington’s coronavirus outbreak is an example of what the emergency funds are there for.

Sex education

Discussion of sexual health education legislation dominated the last week of the session. Lawmakers said it spurred the largest response from constituents they had seen in a while.

“I’ve heard from more school districts and people on this bill than any other bill in last 10 years,” said Rep. Richard DeBolt, who has served more than two decades in the Legislature.

DeBolt, Walsh, Orcutt and Braun all said they opposed the legislation primarily because they felt it moved control over curriculum away from local school boards to the state.

“To have this control at the state level doesn’t make any sense to me,” Braun said. “(Teaching this topic) is a parental issue and a school board issue. We shouldn’t step into that as the state.”

Democrats Takko and Rep. Brian Blake of Aberdeen disputed that claim, saying school boards still get to decide the curriculum, as long as it meets state standards of being “scientifically and medically accurate.” Both said there’s been a lot of misinformation about the bill.

Takko said he spoke with local superintendents this week and they told him the new legislation doesn’t differ much from what they are currently doing.

Blake said the bill is intended to reduce teen pregnancies, suicides, bullying, sexually transmitted diseases and child molestation.

The bill passed out of the House 56-40 and out of the Senate 27-21.

A voter referendum to repeal the legislation was submitted on Friday. If it gets enough signatures, it would be on the November ballot.

Other matters
  • Orcutt said he was concerned that legislation regulating facial recognition tools got “watered down” this session and may not adequately protect citizens. He said he expects to revisit the matter during next year’s session.
  • Takko said he was proud of legislation allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote.
  • Braun said he was pleased there was some progress on special education funding and support for developmentally disabled people, although not quite as much as he had hoped.
  • Braun also successfully passed a constitutional amendment authorizing future payroll tax revenue to be invested in stocks and bonds. The matter will come before voters on the general election ballot in November.
  • Blake said he was pleased to secure $24 million for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which gets the agency close to being fully funded.
  • Walsh said it was “a good session for conservatives” because they were able to knock down some major progressive efforts.
  • DeBolt, who announced he won’t run for re-election, said he was pleased to pass a bill during his final legislative session that focused on salmon recovery, flooding and culverts in the Chehalis basin. “We’ve got to make sure that keeps moving,” he said. “The neat thing about Olympia is when you leave, somebody else comes. It’s kind of their job now.”

By Rose Lundy

Sen. Takko secures money for Pacific County drug task force

March 13th, 2020|

From The Longview Daily News

Pacific County will receive $391,000 in state funding to establish a drug task force thanks to a budget proviso by state Sen. Dean Takko, Takko’s office reported Thursday.

“This has been a goal of mine for a long time,” Takko, D-Longview, said in a prepared statement. “The community brought this problem to me, and I’m glad we can provide law enforcement the resources they need to keep our county safe.”

Pacific County had a drug task force from 2006 to 2015, paid for jointly by state, federal and local money. It disbanded in 2015 due to lack of funding.

“This is huge for us,” Pacific County Sheriff Robin Souvenir said in a prepared statement included with Takko’s. “One of the big issues here we have is the drug problem. We don’t have dedicated and sustainable funding. As a rural county, there’s no way we could fund a program on our own.”

Takko secures funding for US 12-rail separation project

March 12th, 2020|

From The Aberdeen Daily World and The Montesano Vidette

The City of Aberdeen will receive $700,000 for the Highway 12 Rail Separation Project in East Aberdeen, thanks to a provision added to the Legislature’s final transportation budget by Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview.

The money will fund preliminary work for an overpass and roundabout to raise South Chehalis Street above Highway 12 and the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, where train traffic regularly causes congestion and backups on Highway 12 near the Gateway Mall at the entrance to Aberdeen.

The number of freight trains traveling along this corridor has significantly increased over the past 15 years and is predicted to continue growing as the Port of Grays Harbor handles cargoes of timber, agricultural products and autos, among other goods.

“This funding is a major milestone for the project, officially moving the project out of the planning stage and into preliminary engineering,” said Kris Koski, Aberdeen City Engineer.

“An added benefit is that this State support will strengthen federal grant applications for additional funding. The City is already planning the next grant application due in May of this year through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) federal grant program, so the timing of this news is perfect. The project is gaining momentum,” he said.

“This funding is crucial because it keeps this project moving and positions us competitively for big federal transportation grants,” said Takko. “Having more freight trains on the tracks is a sign of a strong economy — a good problem to have — but we need the overpass to cut down on traffic jams when those trains come through town.”

Koski said the project’s roots go back to a 2006 regional circulation plan and that planning has been underway since 2017,

“The design concept for the project was identified through a rigorous alternatives analysis completed in 2015. Planning work has been underway since 2017, including geotechnical explorations, traffic modeling, and public outreach. It takes a long time to complete big projects like this, but progress has been steady, and this funding will allow work to go on while we continue to search out funding for the next phase of work,” Koski added.

The City of Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, and the Port of Grays Harbor together have committed $700,000 to match the state’s appropriation.

A 2019 cost-benefit analysis calculated that this project will return a benefit of $1.72 for every $1.00 invested.

By Thorin Sprandel

Museum set to receive state funds for roof repairs

March 12th, 2020|

From the Chinook Observer

ILWACO — After getting battered by storms in January, the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum is on the road to relief.

The Washington State Legislature’s supplemental capital budget bill for the 2020 session was approved unanimously and contains $150,000 in state funds earmarked for the repair of the museum’s roof. The bill now awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

Betsy Millard, the museum’s executive director, said the 55-year-old building has worn down over time and undergone several patch jobs as museum staff tried to come up with funding for fixes.

Noreen’s pet project

The building was formerly home to the Ilwaco Telephone Utility Company and was constructed in 1965 as a sort of “super-structure” that tied together several buildings. When the company was acquired by Pacific Telecom in the early 1980s and its employees relocated to Vancouver, the building was deeded to the city of Ilwaco. Noreen Robinson, a city councilor during that time, was tasked by the mayor to figure out what to do with the building.

After holding brainstorming sessions with other community members, the group decided to use the building to host a museum. Robinson was able to obtain help from the Smithsonian Institution, which sent her information and recommended she get professional guidance. Robinson hired an intern from the University of Washington’s museum studies program, who instructed the all-volunteer staff on how to manage the museum.

It has gone on to become a model professionally managed facility under Millard, serving as a sort of “mini-Smithsonian” for the memories and heritage of history-rich South Pacific County.

Patched up

The last time the museum had any major work done was 1990. During that remodel, a second roof was added to the original roof. Millard said that the current situation is untenable.

“We’ve patched it, but you can sort of see some of the areas where the water comes,” Millard said. “We’ve had leaks and we’ve had random leaks. We’ve just been patching, patching, patching.”

The situation got worse a couple of years ago, and the museum had two different roof companies come and submit bids of what it would take to make the necessary repairs. Both bids came in around $200,000.

“We were like ‘Oh my God,’” said Millard, who noted the museum is funded solely by grants, donations and fundraisers, not public funds. “We run this place on less than $200,000 a year. That includes all of our salaries, electricity — the whole shooting match.”

The roof problems got worse in January, when torrential rain and severe wind caused substantial flooding throughout the building. It was during an American Legion meeting in the museum’s community meeting room when one of the legion’s members said that the museum needed some help.

Takko comes up with funds

From there, several community members reached out to Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, to see what could be done at the state level. Takko grew up in Ilwaco, and Millard said that he has deep connections with the museum and other organizations in the city.

“He knows the museum and he knows what an important place it is in the community,” she said.

It didn’t take much time for the museum staff to hear that funds for the repair had been set aside in the capital budget. The $150,000 from the state will cover about 75% of the expected repair costs, with the museum on the hook for about $50,000.

Millard said that the museum’s facility meeting met earlier this month with representatives from the city to discuss other potential fundraising opportunities. The museum will also make an appeal to its supporters for donations, and hopes to be listed in the Pacific Community Foundation Spring Grant Catalog.

By Brandon Cline

 

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    Senate passes bill to align timber industry with state carbon goals

Senate passes bill to align timber industry with state carbon goals

March 9th, 2020|

From the Aberdeen Daily World

State agencies would recognize and support efforts by timber companies to reduce carbon emissions through reforestation and other management practices under a House bill passed on a 46-3 vote by the Senate Thursday.

“There’s a longstanding presumption that timber harvesting and environmental protection are mutually exclusive, but the truth is just the opposite,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, the prime sponsor of similar legislation in the Senate. “By aligning timber practices and cycles with the state’s carbon reduction goals, we can boost our rural economies and improve our environmental health at the same time.”

House Bill 2528 recognizes the role of forest products in carbon sequestration and directs the state Department of Commerce to promote markets for the state’s forest products.

Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, told a crowd in Aberdeen before the session started, “Managed forests can have a real value in carbon sequestration.” He and fellow 24th District Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, co-sponsored the bill, which passed the House on Feb. 16 by a 95-0 vote. Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, of the 19th District co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

“The cool thing about this bill is it makes forest products a part of the carbon discussion,” said Van De Wege at the Greater Grays Harbor legislative sendoff in Aberdeen Jan. 10.

Carbon sequestration is the process by which trees and other plants absorb carbon from the air through photosynthesis and store it in trunks, foliage and soils. Recent studies suggest that young forests sequester more carbon than mature forests.

“We can reduce carbon emissions and enable our private timber forest owners to stay competitive at the same time,” Van De Wege said. “Clean air and a robust local timber industry can be, and should be, natural partners.”

Having been amended in the Senate, House Bill 2528 must return to the House for full approval before it can be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

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    Capitol Dispatch: Local lawmakers prepare for final week of session

Capitol Dispatch: Local lawmakers prepare for final week of session

March 8th, 2020|

From The Daily News

With the legislative session scheduled to conclude on Thursday, local lawmakers are hustling to wrap up their priorities.

Sen. John Braun, a Centralia Republican, said his main focus in the final week is the state supplemental budget.

As a member of the minority party, “it’s not likely going to be a budget I will support because the enormous amount of money being spent I don’t think is sustainable … (but) that doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility to make it as good as I can get it,” he said Thursday.

He’s also working on a number of bills that deal with protections and support for developmentally disabled people, including one that would eliminate the waitlist for about 290 people statewide who have been approved for services but aren’t receiving it.

In addition, Braun said he still is working on funding for K-12 education, especially special needs programs.

Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat, said he wants to fully fund the Department of Fish and Wildlife and provide support for increasing fish hatchery production on the Columbia River and the coast. “Things are looking fairly good at the moment,” Blake said Wednesday.
Sen. Dean Takko, a Longview Democrat, said he hopes to get funding to combat the new coronavirus, which he said he thinks will “get worse before it gets better.”

The House and Senate this week both unanimously approved $100 million in funds for state and local public health officials to respond to the outbreak. The measure will go back to the House for a final vote before going to Gov. Jay Inslee to sign into law.

Takko said he’s also working on funding for a number of small capital projects in places like Cathlamet and Ilwaco. However, Longview’s request for $500,000 to fund a new satellite police station in the Highlands neighborhood is likely too big of a request during the short session, he said.

He’s also trying to pass legislation out of the Senate that would reallocate tourism tax dollars to local cities instead of Cowlitz County. The measure would not impose a new tax. It would allow cities to keep the 2% lodging tax generated in their borders instead of allowing the county to collect it. The measure passed out of the House last month.

Walsh said he opposed a mandate for comprehensive sex education in public schools because he was concerned it would give the state more control over curriculum and textbook decisions. Local school boards should make those calls, he said. Nonetheless, the measure passed out of the House late Wednesday night. The bill now will return to the Senate for a final vote.

He added on Thursday that he is concerned about a vote that could come to the floor of the House which would abolish the death penalty. Walsh said his position is “nuanced,” but ultimately he’s heard from prosecutors that the death penalty is a useful tool when negotiating sentences for people who committed “heinous” crimes. Therefore, we would vote against abolishing the death penalty.

By Rose Lundy

 

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    Capitol Dispatch: Local projects released in bipartisan transportation budgets

Capitol Dispatch: Local projects released in bipartisan transportation budgets

March 2nd, 2020|

From The Daily News

New state House and Senate transportation budgets this week respect voters’ rejection of vehicle taxes but still manage to finance Longview’s high-profile Beech Street extension project, local legislators say.

But lawmakers warned that the budget adjustments are a one-time solution and shortfalls expected next year could be harder to address.

At the request of Longview Democrat Sen. Dean Takko, the Senate also added $5 million in its supplemental operating budget to help Washington businesses whose trade has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The House on Friday passed its transportation budget nearly unanimously, with only one vote in opposition. All four representatives from the 19th and 20th districts, which jointly represent Cowlitz County, voted for the budget.

“We came in here and wrote a budget that respected the vote of the people regarding I-976 and made adjustments in the budget and tried to get projects back on track,” said Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat.

Rep. Jim Walsh, an Aberdeen Republican, said the transportation budget was “one of the best things I’ve been involved with in Olympia.”

Democrats in the majority took suggestions from the minority party and came up with something bipartisan, he said. The budget includes some cuts to overhead costs and delays for projects that aren’t “shovel-ready,” he added.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, a Kalama Republican, said the transportation budget funds immediate needs while implementing the will of voters. It may be a one-time solution, he said, but there are some options that lawmakers can consider next year to make up for the following shortfall.
As of Friday evening, the Senate’s transportation budget had been referred to the Rules Committee.

Next week, the House and Senate will work to reconcile the two transportation budget proposals for final approval before the session is scheduled to adjourn on March 12.

Sen. Takko said the Senate transportation budget is “O.K., given the constraints of operating under the initiative.”

I-976 passed statewide in November with 55% of the vote. About 73% of voters in Cowlitz County voted for the initiative, which reduces and eliminates authorities for state and local governments to impose vehicle taxes and fees to pay for transportation projects.

The measure is estimated to eliminate $453 million in state funds in the 2019-21 biennium. That is expected to increase to about $685 million in the next biennium.

Opponents of the initiative, including King County and the City of Seattle, are challenging it in court, saying the initiative is unconstitutional. While the court process plays out, however, lawmakers are trying to fill the budget gaps.

To make up the gap in the short-term, lawmakers delayed some projects and used some money that hadn’t yet been allocated, Takko said. However, that only works once, he said, and finding ways to fill the funding gap next year will be the “real challenge.”

“We didn’t get any new money,” Takko said. “You can only move things around the board once and then it’s, where do you get the new money?”

After I-976 passed, Gov. Jay Inslee put a number of transportation projects on hold until funding could be secured. Those projects included $1.9 million for the Beech Street extension in Longview, which is expected to open up about 48 acres for development, create 200 family-wage jobs and attract $111 million in private investment.
Pending Inslee’s approval, most of those projects could be released under the new budget proposals.

Longview City Manager Kurt Sacha on Wednesday said the Beech Street design phase is “virtually complete” and the city is ready to put it out to bid as soon as it receives final word on funding.

“Assuming everything goes well, we will see that street constructed this year,” Sacha said.

Combating coronavirus

“They had to cancel all their orders and they’re just sitting there with no new orders,” Takko said. “We’re trying to see if we can find a way to prop them up legally. We’re not going to just hand a check to them. We have to somehow incentivize them, whatever it takes.”

Takko said his colleagues “on the other side of the mountain” also are worried about the outbreak impacting the coming cherry season, which also depends heavily on the Chinese market.

Rep. Blake said he “absolutely” supports adding funding for businesses impacted by coronavirus. He wasn’t sure if the House would include a similar amendment in its operating budget, but now that it’s been added to the Senate budget, the measure will be discussed next week when the two chambers reconcile their budgets.

In addition, Rep. Walsh introduced a proposed operating budget that fully funds Gov. Inslee’s budget proposal while implementing a property tax cut that matches the additional tax revenue. Revenue forecasts for the 2019-21 budget cycle have increased by $1.5 billion since the end of last year’s legislative session.
“That’s something we should do with this much additional revenue: Allow taxpayers to keep some of that rather than collect and spend it,” Orcutt said.

Walsh said his proposed budget had an uphill battle with Democrats, but if it sparks a debate about what tax cuts look like, he said that would still be a success.

Blake said he was pleased to see the minority party put forward a budget because it will give lawmakers a chance to debate different proposals.

“I’m happy to see the first time I can remember that (the minority party) put a budget that reflects their values on the bar,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing.”

 

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    State Senate Operating Budget Adds $5M to Offset Business Losses Due to Coronavirus

State Senate Operating Budget Adds $5M to Offset Business Losses Due to Coronavirus

March 1st, 2020|

From The Daily Chronicle

The state Senate passed its supplemental operating budget Wednesday containing an additional $5 million in funding to help area businesses facing financial setbacks because of coronavirus outbreaks.

The addition to the budget was requested by state lawmakers representing the 19th and 24th legislative districts.

“This is a local business that has thrived despite disruptive tariff and trade wars, pays its employees strong wages, and has robust potential to expand, but it’s been thrown for a loop,” said Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview), who sponsored an amendment to increase the funding pot by $3 million. “They’ve done all the right things, but through no fault of their own they haven’t received a single order in more than seven weeks, and their vessels are stranded at sea loaded with products they cannot deliver.”

Lawmakers highlighted the urgent need of businesses such as Cosmo Specialty Fibers, a Cosmopolis textile producer that does more than 97 percent of its business with Asian companies. The closure of ports in affected countries has hampered the businesses ability to function, according to a news release from the Washington State Senate Democrats.

The assistance comes from the state’s strategic reserve account to promote economic development, funded by a third of all unclaimed lottery money.

“Local businesses like Cosmo are the lifeblood and future in rural communities in regions like ours,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), who cosponsored Takko’s amendment. “Cosmo is a very well-run company that makes environmentally friendly products and is considering a major expansion in the area of biofuel — but the stoppage of trade could mean the end of all of that.”