Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The summer season seems to be going fast. I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy some vacation time and be with loved ones. There are a number of things happening related to state government issues and I want to provide you with an update. I also want to thank everyone who is contacting me with questions, comments, and concerns. I appreciate hearing from those I represent.

Concerning crime report

Last month, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs released its Annual Crime in Washington Report. The report indicated Washington state experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s. The crime report is evidence that our public safety policies need work and staffing levels are too low. Washington has the lowest number of police officers per capita in the country. If Washington had the national average of officers-to-population, we would have more than 7,000 officers commissioned than we do right now.

I expect public safety issues to be a high priority once again when we convene for the 2024 legislative session.

To check out some of the solutions we offered during the legislative session to improve public safety and make our communities safer, go to our priorities page and click on the “making communities safer” section.

Long-term care payroll tax takes effect

Your paycheck may have been a little smaller in July and moving forward. The WA Cares Fund, the new state-run, long-term care insurance program, kicked in on July 1, and started payroll deductions for many Washington workers, including part-time and temporary workers. Those in the program will pay up to 58 cents on every $100 of their earnings. That means someone making $50,000 per year will pay $290 a year.

The payroll tax comes from partisan legislation, House Bill 1087, passed in the 2019 legislative session.

People were given an opportunity to opt out if they could find their own long-term care insurance plan before Nov. 1, 2021, but insurance companies were flooded with requests and couldn't cater to many who had still hoped to opt out of the mandatory plan.

Instead, many are now stuck with this plan which is inadequate and poorly designed. The limited lifetime benefit of up to $36,500 will hardly cover health needs for the long term. There is also no guarantee you will get the benefits of the program. The plan is not portable, meaning if you leave the state at any time, you lose your benefits. If you do not need the benefit, you forfeit all the money invested from your paycheck, and your spouse is not eligible for your benefit contributions if you do not use them.

The unpopularity of the program is reflected in Advisory Vote No. 20 from the general election in November 2019 when nearly 63% of voters said the tax should be repealed.

I have opposed this flawed state program from the beginning. There was legislation introduced. With the long-term care payroll tax now in place, there are plans in the upcoming session to introduce legislation that would make the program optional. Folks should have the option to determine their own needs and long-term care. I could support legislation that makes this program optional and provides more flexibility to those who want to invest in and may need long-term care.

Strengthening ties with South Korea

As part of our duties, many legislators serve on committees or boards outside of the Legislature's policy committees. I am a member of the Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations (LCEDIR), which studies and reviews economic development issues. The committee's duties include an emphasis on international trade, tourism, investment, and industrial development, and assisting the Legislature in developing a comprehensive and consistent economic development policy.

Earlier this summer, I led a delegation of legislators to South Korea to strengthen international relations and get a firsthand look at economic development occurring in the country. Washington state is home for about 60,000 Koreans. It was a great experience, and our hosts were very gracious.

We toured a carbon fiber facility that supplies Boeing with wing parts. They would like to expand the use of carbon products produced by the facility in our region. There is also a facility that produces hydrogen tanks.

South Korea expressed great interest in working with us on economic issues, including having Washington state grow crops for them. This would be a big boost for our agricultural industry.

Their country is also working on biopharmaceuticals, or medical grade supplements.

I enjoy being part of this committee, as it gives us an opportunity to promote our state's competitive advantages and industries. Collaborating with South Korea and other countries on these types of industries can only benefit us in the future.

Second highest fuel prices in the country

For almost six weeks, Washington had the highest fuel prices in the nation. This week, California edged back ahead of us. As of Wednesday, Washingtonians are paying $4.97 for a gallon of gas, with California slightly ahead of us at $5.02. We are paying $1.17 more than the national average of $3.80.

There are many factors that impact gas prices. We have one of the highest gas taxes in the country, but that goes toward infrastructure and maintenance and operation. One of the main reasons our fuel is so expensive is the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), or the cap-and-trade program passed by the majority party in 2021. According to a report by Affordable Fuel Washington, the CCA is adding $.44 per gallon for gas and $.55 for diesel. There is no quantifiable transportation benefit, as the dollars generated by the CCA are not dedicated to any infrastructure.

Fuel prices are affecting those who can least afford it – the working middle class, people on a fixed income, those who travel a long distance for work, and farmers, who were supposed to be exempt from the new carbon law.

There are legislators working on solutions to address some of the government intervention and environmental regulations impacting our fuel prices including senators Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup, and Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah.

I have signed on to a letter submitted to the Department of Ecology by Sen. Gildon and 42 other legislators, proposing changes to the cap-and-trade program.

I continue to hear from many across the district on transportation. I can assure you I am having continued conversations with the Department of Transportation and am committed to addressing the challenges and meeting the needs of the 12th District on both the west side and east side of the mountains.

Following the Legislature and state government

Please continue to contact me with any questions, concerns, or comments regarding state government issues. I appreciate your input as it helps me better represent you in the Legislature.

I urge you to utilize these websites.

It is an honor to serve the 12th District in the state House of Representatives. Sincerely, Keith Goehner


User menu

Ward Media Newspapers