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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the 2010 legislative session underway, I would like to touch base with you on two issues that will dominate the 60 days state lawmakers will be in Olympia: the economy and state budget.
Our state economy continues to struggle. I firmly believe we cannot tax our way out of this economic recession and, thus, I stand opposed to any proposals that would increase taxes. The key to our economic recovery will be job creation in the private sector.
To help stimulate job creation and economic recovery, our state should immediately provide workers' compensation and unemployment insurance rate reductions, along with business and occupation (B&O) tax incentives, so that employers – especially small businesses – will have the ability and confidence to hire more workers.
However, I am deeply concerned Olympia will take the direct opposite approach and attempt to raise taxes, which will only further damage our business climate, hurt families and prolong the economic recession. I will strongly oppose any attempts to raise taxes.
The state budget
Regarding our state budget, I am troubled to report that our state is facing a $2.6 billion shortfall. Although Governor Gregoire submitted a balanced budget relying exclusively on cuts to fill this shortfall (to view the governor's budget, click here), all signs indicate that significant tax increases are on the table.
As I mentioned above, I am strongly opposed to any tax increases because this would only hurt families and small employers, send more people to the unemployment lines, and prolong the economic recession. There is a better, more sensible way forward.
There are many reasons for Washington's budget crisis. Although the worldwide economic recession is a significant factor, here at home, on a more fundamental level, our state budget has grown to an unsustainable level. During the past few years, the percentage increase in state spending has been double the percentage of revenue intake. Simply put, we cannot afford all of the programs, caseload increases, agencies, and obligations that are currently funded in the budget. We must cut state spending, restore fiscal responsibility, and enact a sensible and sustainable budget.
Priorities of government
In addition to growing the size and scope of state government to unsustainable levels, another reason our budget is in so much trouble is because Olympia has abandoned the priorities of government model that successfully balanced the budget in 2003. We must reinstitute this approach, and prioritize education, public safety and the protection of our most vulnerable citizens. Those state programs and services that fall below these priorities need to be closely examined, and either drastically scaled back or eliminated entirely. While some of these areas of state government may be doing good things, they are not critical priorities.
The bottom line is our state must find meaningful savings instead of asking more financially from struggling families, individuals and employers. Small, on-the-margins changes in state government will not get us off the budget roller coaster. If we continue on this dysfunctional budgeting path, it will only lead to further economic instability and strain on people. During these tough economic times, we must get the state's financial house in order and reinvent programs and services. In my view, there is simply no other reasonable path forward.
The following are common-sense steps that we can and should take immediately to help balance the budget without resorting to tax increases. The following solutions would result in significant savings, help grow our economy and put us back on the path to economic recovery:
- enact tax incentives for small employers to encourage economic growth;
- end the state's monopoly on liquor sales and use these savings for priorities of government;
- allow state agencies to contract out, which is currently not happening enough in state government;
- reduce workers' compensation rates for employers by allowing competition in the state-run monopoly system;
- reduce unemployment insurance rates to help struggling small businesses and make our state more competitive with others; and
- provide access to affordable health care for individuals, families and small employers (to view a sensible, alternative health care reform plan, click here).
Protecting property owners from eminent domain abuse
I am working with State Attorney General Rob McKenna and concerned citizens throughout the state to enact responsible eminent domain reform. I have introduced legislation, House Bill 2425, which would prevent the government from taking private property for economic development. The bill has broad, bipartisan support.
Eminent domain is the extraordinary power of government to take private property. Although the power of eminent domain is granted to government by our state and federal constitutions, government must only use its eminent domain authority for a legitimate public purpose. However, there have been abuses in Washington in which private property has been taken for private economic development. House Bill 2425 will prevent this from happening.
I joined the Attorney General and others at a news conference this morning on the Capitol Campus. We shared the findings of a task force study on the abuse of eminent domain, and explained why reform is needed. Some citizens who have been personally impacted by this issue also shared their stories. I want to thank them for taking the time to come to Olympia and let their voices be heard.
Hearing from you
I value your input and need to hear from you in order to be an effective voice for you in Olympia. If you ever have any questions or comments, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you. If you would like to e-mail me, please do not reply directly to this e-mail. Please enter my e-mail address below in a separate message. Thanks.
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420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7852 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000