Saturday, April 13, 2024

Rep. Keith Goehner’s Legislative Update: Budget time in Olympia, the latest on two key public safety issues, and capital gains tax ruling

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Friends and Neighbors,

The cherry trees are in bloom on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, and that usually means it is budget time in the legislative session. Recently all three House budgets - operating, transportation and capital - have been unveiled, gone through the public hearing process and been voted out of their respective committees. The full House of Representatives took action on the transportation and operating budgets late Monday April 3.

I wanted to let you know where we stand in the budget process and provide an update on the two critical public safety measures we are tracking this session, as well as some information on the state Supreme Court's capital gains tax ruling.

Operating budget

The 2023-25 House operating budget proposal would increase spending by $6 billion over current spending levels which would push the budget to more than $70 billion. As you can see by the chart below, the operating budget has more than doubled since 2011-13, when the state operating budget was just over $30 billion.

The House spending proposal would allocate money to fund about 1,500 new or expanded programs, that in addition to other general fund ongoing programs. It would only leave $2.1 billion in the rainy-day fund by the end of the four-year outlook period, which is less than the state treasurer's minimum target of 10% of annual revenues.

Although there are many worthwhile programs in the operating budget, it is irresponsible for us to commit to such massive spending at this time. If anything, we should be providing tax relief to our citizens like we see so many other states doing. The operating spending plan passed the House on a party-line vote of 57-40.

Transportation budget

Although the transportation budget process was more bipartisan than in years past, we would have approached things differently – including our priorities and how we would have allocated resources.

The proposal spends about $13.2 billion, including $646 million for the Washington State Patrol with money to help trooper recruitment and retention. It also gets some of the major Connecting Washington projects back on track that the governor had pushed out or postponed in his budget. The House transportation budget did pass by a vote of 97-1.

Capital budget

We have not voted on the House capital budget proposal, but I can assure you it is another strong, bipartisan capital spending plan. My seatmate, Rep. Mike Steele, was once again the lead negotiator for House Republicans. Colleagues on both sides of the aisle have high praise for the spending plan that appropriates $8.34 billion, $4.18 billion of which is from the sale of newly authorized, general obligation bonds. The remaining $4.15 billion is comprised of a combination of reversion of previously authorized bonds, other dedicated funding sources, and federal funds. 

It invests in immediate needs and priority issues in Washington state including $175 million for the 12th District for projects such as:

 

• $45 million for The Center for Technical Education and Innovation (Wenatchee);

• $19.6 million for The Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment (Wenatchee);

• $11 million for the Chelan Valley EMS;

• $6 million for the King County Area Readiness Center;

• $2 million for the Lake Chelan Food Bank building remodel and addition;

• $1.7 million for the Community Center at Lake Chelan;

• $1 million for Leavenworth Affordable Workforce rental housing;

• $1.5 million Fall City Business District Septic;

• $1.03 million for the Wenatchee Valley YMCA;

• $1 million for the Wenatchee Valley Museum expansion and redesign;

• $628,000 for water line repair in Index;

• $420,000 for the North Fork Skykomish River 911 Extension;

• $231,000 for the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Center Barn with Storage in North Bend;

• Manson Fire Station: $206,000;

• Manson School District: $262,000; and

• Skykomish School District: $25,000.

 

Negotiators from the House and Senate capital budget committees are working out the differences between the two spending plans. We will vote on a final agreed upon plan before we adjourn April 23.

Capital gains tax upheld, new tax proposals being introduced

In late March the Washington State Supreme Court decided to ignore longstanding legal precedent and upheld the 7% capital gains tax approved on party lines by the majority party during the 2021 legislative session.

The court's 7-2 decision is disappointing and seems to go against common sense. Every other state in the country, the IRS and Justices McCloud and Johnson recognize capital gains as income.

We are concerned this ruling will provide a blueprint for future tax increases as lawmakers try to circumvent the state's constitutional tax limits. Recent headlines from around the state seem to confirm this.

Public safety

The two key public safety bills of the legislative session survived the policy committee cutoff. I am hopeful Senate Bill 5352 (vehicular pursuits) and Senate Bill 5536 (drug possession and treatment) will be before us on the House floor soon. Unfortunately, in their current form the bills do not give law enforcement the proper authority needed to do their job effectively and keep our streets and communities safe. It is time to return to a common-sense approach for vehicular pursuits and drug possession laws or we will continue to see crime escalate. See this story, Violent crime up 55% in Washington state amid ‘missed opportunity’ for reform,  The Center Square.

Following the Legislature and state government

Please contact me with any questions, concerns or comments you have. I appreciate your input as it helps me better represent you in the Legislature. I urge you to utilize these websites: The Ledger - a legislative news aggregator; Capital Buzz - Daily news clips; and How you can be involved in the legislative process. It is an honor to serve the 12th District in the state House of Representatives.

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