Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings from rural Monroe! My “freshman session” representing the 39th Legislative District grew to a hard-fought 153 days, and it sure is good to be home.
Many of us felt the Legislature took way too much time to complete its work. However, the good news for employers, families, consumers and those looking for a job is the fact that we were able to defeat most of the tax increases proposed by the majority party in the state House of Representatives. The $1.3 billion tax plan sponsored by House Democrats and the governor would have permanently extended the business and occupation (B&O) surtax on service businesses. This onerous tax package would have impacted over 144,000 small employers in our state, seriously hampering our economic recovery efforts.
We were also successful in defeating a 10.5-cent increase in the state's gas tax, which is already one of the highest in the nation at 37.5 cents per gallon, not including federal and local taxes and fees. With all the questions, problems and concerns surrounding our state's Department of Transportation (WSDOT) projects recently, we feel very strongly that we should fix it before we fund it. That is, we should repeal laws that unnecessarily increase the cost and time for transportation projects, ensure accountability at WSDOT and make sure more of our transportation dollars go toward decreasing traffic congestion.
However, B&O and gas taxes will be back, as will many of the tax-increase proposals we saw this year. Our state has certain obligations and responsibilities described in our state constitution, and tax revenues are needed for these services. But the desire to continually grow government is not going away any time soon. There are individuals occupying government seats in D.C., Olympia and at the local level who simply can't say “no.” And, in the end, normal everyday taxpayers like you and me end up footing the bill for the many “good ideas” that come along.
As we look forward to the next legislative session in 2014, my priorities of a more efficient, accountable and responsible state government have not changed. At a time when the average family in our region lost wealth over the last few years, state government continued to grow. Simple bills that were introduced this year to reduce taxes or eliminate the “death tax” did not get public hearings and were not seriously considered in the state House of Representatives. Legislation to streamline government services and put a temporary moratorium on state rulemaking activities died a silent death in committee. New ideas proposing fresh solutions to old problems were easily turned aside by the mantra: “That's not how we do things here in Olympia.”
While the final budget agreement reached this year was better for citizens and taxpayers than in recent years, the fact is the Legislature spent little time and effort enacting policies to help the private sector create more jobs. This is my task – my passion – for my time in the state Legislature.
I want to work across the aisle and across the Rotunda with anyone else who is: willing to look at things differently; willing to acknowledge that more bureaucracy at the expense of less personal freedom is seldom the answer; and willing to work hard and listen to the small employers, farmers and ranchers who are not only the backbone of our state economy, but are the heart and soul or our Northwest independent spirit and entrepreneurial mindset.
In the end, I'm pleased that we were able to decrease the rate of state government expansion and block major tax increases, but there remains much work to be done. I look forward to continuing to work with you to make Washington the best state in the nation to live, work and raise a family.
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7816 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000