Not more than a week ago we had a chance to adjourn the session on time with a good budget for Washingtonians. Unfortunately, House Democrats have continued to push for the largest tax increase in state history without the votes to pass it. Now they are forcing the legislature into overtime. The special session will begin on Wednesday, April 29th. Republicans pushed to start the session right away so we can get down to business immediately but Democrats want a few days to strategize and raise money.
I’m opposed to wasting your money by discussing public policy that we could have addressed in the regular session. Instead, my primary focus during this special session is going to be getting a good budget as soon as possible that helps Washington families. The only reason we’re going into special session is to complete this budget. School districts face a May 15th budget deadline. It’s important to reach agreement on the budget so our schools can have the resources they need to educate our kids. If Democratic decide to continue delay tactics past June 30th, they will shut down the state government. This course of action will force massive furloughs, risk state credit, and put our most vulnerable citizens at risk. That is simply unacceptable.
We don’t need big tax increases to invest in our communities. The Senate Republican budget takes $3 billion in new revenue we already have and puts it to good use. Our budget funds education at the largest percentage since John Spellman was Governor 30 years ago. Our budget supports higher education, cutting college tuition costs by 25%. Democrats have suggested they may shutdown the government if they don’t get their way. We cannot allow them to hold Washington families hostage. I’m committed to defending working families and putting dollars in our classroom. These are real solutions to the real problems you elected me to solve. I’m committed to fight for you in the legislature.
When Senate Republicans pushed out Senate Bill 5987, they ensured every region of the state got a piece of the action. Whether you live in the Puget Sound or North Spokane, there is something in it for you. However, there is one caveat; the bill would also minimize the threat of Governor Inslee passing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) by executive order – at least not without significant hardships on pedestrian, public transit (especially Sound Transit’s taxing ability), and bike paths. These are not things we wish to see sacrificed from the package, but they are issues that squarely fall in the Governor’s wheelhouse. Republicans want a safeguard to maintain the current bipartisan efforts going on in both the Senate and House chambers, without the damage a cap and trade tax would inflict on the process.
Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen has already begun his attempt at breaking these new found bonds by declaring the new 2/3 majority initiative (passed by voters by almost 2/3′s) as unconstitutional, which he announced during the transportation package that wouldn’t have even been affected by the rule. All that we (the Senate majority) are asking for is something to show for the money we will be collecting from taxpayers.
One other thing this bill does is add accountability and efficiency. Did you know that we charge a sales tax on construction projects in this state? The sales tax raised currently goes into the general fund. Why not re-infuse that money back into the transportation budget?
Everything in this package has been intentionally clear, whether our fellow Democrat counterparts feel inclined to support it has yet to be known. This was actually the very first transportation package I’ve supported enough to vote for over my entire tenure in the Senate, and I hope Democrats are willing to meet me half way.
The Seattle Times took the time to verify my observation that it isn’t just factories, refineries, and other forms of industry that will be impacted by Governor Jay Inslee’s cap and trade plan. Such ‘carbon emitters’ would also include both Washington State University and the University of Washington. Some Democrats think that because these universities are included in the list, it shows good faith that there is no double-standard occurring just because a polluter is public versus private, but Governor Inslee himself stated the universities would likely receive extra funding in order to comply with the $2 Million in added yearly penalties. How would this incentivize these institutions to reduce their emissions even if it were a concern?
To read the article- Click Here
I was recently interviewed by the Pacific Northwest United Christian Church’s online publication – The Fig Tree. The article shares my family’s deep roots in the church and in my hometown of Ritzville.
Read the full article here
What an exciting couple months! I am proud to have been selected to serve as the new senate majority leader. I’m grateful to my Senate colleagues for their vote of confidence and am eager to continue working on solutions for the people of Washington. In case you missed it, here are a few stories about my election to senate leadership -
Seattle Times by Joseph O’Sullivan
The Olympian by Jordan Schrader
KHQ by staff
The Spokesman-Review by Jim Camden
Herald Net by Jerry Cornfield
Daily Journal by The Associated Press
Seattlepi by staff
Washingtonians sent a clear message to Olympia in the 2014 midterm elections—their votes aren’t for sale and neither is the Washington State Senate. Despite the best efforts of environmentalists and the Democrats to take back control of the State Senate, Republicans saw one of the most significant electoral victories in decades.
Republicans swept three key Senate seats to gain the first outright majority in the State Senate in 10 years. If that wasn’t enough, Republicans picked up more seats in the House, reducing the Democrat majority.
The election was a vote for candidates who represent the people of Washington and an outright rejection of the costly climate change agendas of Governor Inslee and Tom Steyer, a California billionaire who has dumped $2 million in Washington State to elect Democrats in the last two years.
Steyer is a radical environmentalist and liberal who made his fortune in hedge funds. The California billionaire is not from Washington and seems to have no personal connections here, yet he has invested a fortune trying to change control of the state Senate with no success. In the end, Tom Steyer’s biggest “investment” in creating jobs in Washington was opening a post office box so that he could send mail pieces attacking actual pro-jobs candidates. That is all he can show for his $2 million investment.
Had he been successful, Steyer’s efforts to help Democrats regain a supermajority would only serve his and Governor Inslee’s own radical environmental agendas and drastically increase the cost of energy for working families and the small businesses that drive our economy.
The projected costs of increased gas and electricity prices and onerous regulations would have hindered economic growth and hit working families where it hurts the most—their wallets. What’s more, because of our abundant hydroelectric power, Washington has already made remarkable progress for clean energy and an improved climate—much of which has been driven by the market and private industry. We don’t need the heavy hand of the government to micromanage industry that is working well on its own.
I believe the election was also a message to Washington lawmakers to focus on critical priorities in the 2015 Legislative Session—the economy, education and maintaining a balanced state budget.
In the days following the election, Governor Inslee has been pounding the same drum, standing strong by his commitment to major climate change legislation. The beat, however, has been muffled by the deafening voice of the voters.
Governor Inslee’s climate change discussions surround cap-and-trade and a carbon tax on emissions. His Climate Change Advisory Committee will deliver its findings toward the end of November—just in time to advise the Governor’s proposal for the 2015 Legislature.
Time will tell, but one thing is certain—the 2015 Legislature will be driven by policy and legislation that represents the voters. Our chief concerns in the Senate will be jobs, education and budgets, consistent with the momentum the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has built over the last two years.
Thanks for your support,
Humbled by Education Honor
There are few things more important to the future of our great state than education. It’s essential that we create opportunities for Washington’s youth to maximize their potential and, consequently, build a brighter economic future for our communities.
As Senate Republican Leader, I’ve worked hard alongside other members of the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) to maintain affordability in our state colleges and universities. Recently, I was humbled to receive the Legislator of the Year award from the Associated Students of Washington State University. I spoke at a recent meeting about my work in higher education, and the MCC’s success freezing tuition for the last two years after nearly 30 years of dramatic annual tuition increases. Reforms in government spending will ensure that we can stop or slow these past increases and invest properly in our state’s higher education.
Green Promises Loom
Apparently, Governor Inslee’s new number one issue is climate change and green energy. Although he campaigned on promises of improving education and the economy, his energy is most certainly centered on the environment. Like I’ve said before, finding common sense, market-based solutions to protecting our environment is important. There are, however, critical issues our state and nation is facing from spending reform to the economy to education.
I’ve written recently about Governor Inslee’s sweeping increases to our state’s water quality standards, and now he’s also proposing a carbon emissions tax. Both will increase regulations and taxes and will hit small business and the middle class the hardest.
His agenda fits in perfectly with that of California billionaire and green activist, Tom Steyer, who is putting big money in Washington State to try and regain Democratic control of the State Senate. Steyer is investing in numerous states where his money has a chance to influence state politics to fulfill his climate change agenda. If the Democrats regain control of the Senate, it would make it very easy for the Governor to achieve his costly, green goals.
Steyer is investing at least $1.25 million into Washington state elections. Much of Steyer’s money was given to the Washington branch of his NextGen Climate Action Committee, and he donated another $50,000 to the Kennedy Fund, a political action committee that supports Democrats in the State Senate.
This is a huge boost for local Democratic campaigns. But while it furthers Steyer’s and Governor Inslee’s political interests, it will certainly increase the bottom lines for working Washington families. Governor Inslee’s solutions to environmental challenges lack scientific evidence and market-sound common sense.
Governor Inslee’s proposed carbon tax will increase the price of gas, diesel, natural gas and electricity. And, historically, gas prices have a sweeping effect on the economy and on the taxpayers’ pocketbooks.
Although a detailed proposal hasn’t been submitted to the Legislature yet, the Governor’s Climate Change task force is hard at work. In the meantime, Washington State Economists researched the effects of a carbon tax at the level that would reach Governor Inslee’s climate change goals. The results were astounding–the hypothetical tax would increase gas prices by nearly 60 percent and natural gas prices by 35 percent.
Friends, I consistently hear from constituents who are struggling daily to meet the rising costs of government regulation and increased taxes on the state and federal level. As lawmakers, we need to prioritize better, spend smarter, and steward taxpayer resources as we would our own budgets. Environmental stewardship is also important, but drastic increases in regulations and taxes are not the way to do this.
Although temperatures outside are deceptive, we are at the doorstep of fall. One of my favorite seasons, fall brings harvest, football (Go Hawks and Cougs) and the approach of the warmth of the holiday season. Amidst the flurry of back to school and the busyness that the season brings, it’s important that we don’t forget another critical election season is right around the corner.
Although it’s hard to predict the outcome of the general election based on the primary showing, this year’s August primary seemed to favor the Republicans. Nonetheless, it’s important that we support business-friendly candidates in critical elections across the state and work to get out the vote to ensure balance in Olympia.
The mid-term elections might not seem as critical as a presidential election year, but the November 4 General Election could decide who controls the State Senate and, most importantly, whether or not there is balance in the State Legislature.
As you probably already know, the House of Representatives is controlled by the Democrats. The Senate, however, has been controlled by the bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus, a group of Republicans and Democrats united together to form a caucus dedicated to the creation of a government that lives within its means, grows jobs and economic vitality, and improves education. The MCC is focused on policy, not politics.
The MCC also provides balance to the House and a concerted effort to refocus your State Legislature on sound policies that support Washington State’s economic progress and the taxpayer’s pocketbook while working to advance opportunities for small business and education.
Here are a handful of key races to watch and support, if possible:
- 35th District: Mason and Parts of Kitsap and Thurston Counties. This race is tight and pits Tim Sheldon (D, MCC member) against challenger Irene Bowling (D). Senator Sheldon has been a long time supporter of common sense solutions to inappropriate government spending, even when it requires going against his own party. As a business owner and farmer himself, Senator Sheldon truly understands the challenges facing individuals struggling to support their families, grow their businesses, and build legacies. Senator Sheldon is facing an uphill battle, as the Senate Democrat’s Political Action Committee has invested a lot of money to elect Irene Bowling, Sheldon’s challenger.
- Bellingham’s 42nd District pits incumbent Republican Senator Doug Ericksen against challenging Democrat Seth Fleetwood. Senator Ericksen has been a solid voice for limited taxes, efficiency in government spending, property rights and land use issues and sensible solutions to environmental protections.
- Republican Mark Miloscia is facing Democrat Shari Song in the 30th District, which includes most of Federal Way. The District is up for grabs as incumbent Democrat Tracy Eide is not running for re-election. Mr. Miloscia served seven terms in the House of Representatives, where he was dedicated to reforming government spending and improving education.
- Incumbent Senator Steve O’Ban (R) is facing challenger Tami Green in the 28th District. Sen. O’Ban’s legislative record has been dedicated to improving education, protecting at-risk youth, stewarding spending to improve transportation and supporting our servicemen and women.
- Incumbent Republican Senator Andy Hill is facing a fierce battle this election season against Democrat challenger Matt Isenhower. Sen. Hill has an outstanding record of battling wasteful government spending and helping to create a sustainable budget in Olympia. He is a key part of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.
- Incumbent Senator Michael Baumgartner (R) is a strong voice on the MCC for budget reform, sound economic policies and protecting our state’s veterans and seniors. He represents the 6th District, which borders the 9th District and covers part of Spokane. Rich Cowan (D) is challenging Sen. Baumgartner’s Republican hold in the MCC.
The above races are all in battleground districts for the Majority Coalition Caucus. I challenge you to do your part to support these worthy candidates and encourage informed voting. We can all do our part to preserve a balanced voice in the State Legislature.
There’s a lot at stake the November. Depending on who wins these elections, we may continue to put more money into education and implement budget reforms, or we may go backward. We may be able to hold the line on new taxes, or we may go back to leadership that keeps taking more and more from taxpayers.
Another aspect of what’s at stake is obvious in a piece in the Seattle Times this week. It talks about the push to adopt so called clean-fuel standards. This move would cause a significant increase to gas prices and essentially just be another tax. Here’s an excerpt from the article that gives you an idea of what’s at stake here:
The Washington Coalition for Clean Fuels Jobs lists supporters ranging from labor unions to clean energy businesses and environmental advocacy groups. The group’s website says fuel standards would pump money into the local economy, clean up the air and cut carbon emissions.
But Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, dismisses the coalition and questions its motives.
“They’re a front group that was created at the same time that the governor created his task force,” Schoesler said Tuesday afternoon.
And Schoesler repeated earlier Republican criticisms that clean-fuel standards would raise transportation costs; he urged the state to look at “smart, market-based ways to include air quality and environment.”
Schoesler earlier this year wrote an opinion piece criticizing the governor for not representing Eastern Washington on his climate-change task force. And the list of signatures on Tuesday’s letter reads like a who’s who of the Puget Sound: officials from King, Kitsap and Thurston counties, Bellingham, Everett, Kent, SeaTac, and Seattle, among others. Besides a handful of progressive Spokane City Council members, the letter doesn’t much represent Eastern Washington.
“It’s all pretty predictable,” Schoesler said.
This is just one example of an issue whose outcome is dependent on the elections this fall.
I will continue to keep you informed about major issues such as these in the months to come.
Important Dates to Remember:
Issue Focus: Fish Consumption Rules
Here in Ritzville we’re in the middle of wheat harvest season. As a fifth-generation Washington wheat farmer, my work in the field is a constant reminder of the need for lawmakers to work with our farmers, producers, business owners and various industry champions.
I am proud to have recently received a Certificate of Commendation from the Washington Farm Bureau. This particular acknowledgment honors state lawmakers who support critical agricultural-related legislation. The Farm Bureau represents more than 41,000 member families throughout the state, and is essential to the continued success of our state’s thriving agricultural industry. Below are the two bills I worked on in the 2014 Legislative Session that earned the Farm Bureau’s recognition:
- Supported Senate Bill 6087, the agricultural water quality bill, and;
- Helped to defeat Senate Bill 6246, the maritime heritage area bill.
I also have received an “In the Bag!” award from the Washington Food Industry Association. This organization represents smaller and independent grocers. Their award recognizes my pro-agricultural voting record and leadership.
Agriculture is Under Attack Again
Unfortunately, a recent proposal from Governor Inslee and the Department of Ecology has the potential to hurt jobs and economic growth here in our state. The proposed update to Washington’s water quality standards is a drastic increase from current standards set in place in 1992.
While the federal Clean Water Act, enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requires states to adopt appropriate water quality standards, many are concerned about the lack of data, and science behind the extreme standards and regulations proposed.
The Governor is proposing to increase the current average fish consumption (from Washington rivers and lakes) from about a quarter of an ounce per day, per person, to about 6 ounces a day, per person. Simply put, the new rule assumes Washington residents eat 23 meals per month that include a half pound of fish and shellfish from Washington waters. That’s nearly 27 times the current rate and, again, it assumes this fish consumption is all from Washington rivers and lakes.
The proposal also increases the cancer risk rate as a result of fish consumption from one in a million to one in 100,000. Seventy percent of the chemicals currently regulated will be more restricted—even arsenic, which is a naturally occurring toxin in Washington water.
I agree that it’s critical to analyze and address our state’s water quality and implement higher standards as necessary. It is critical, however, that any new standards balance a cleaner environment with protecting family budgets, economic opportunity and jobs. And, it’s imperative that we don’t arbitrarily choose numbers, but through careful research and scientific support, we arrive at a reasonable rate of consumption and risk of disease.
Alarmingly, the city of Bellingham estimates that sewer bills will increase by $200 per month if the consumption rule passes. This is legislation that will risk jobs and hurt struggling Washington families.
We must demand that Governor Inslee and the DOE produce more details and information before these rules progress any further:
- Where is the scientific data? The Governor has revealed his plan, but the legislative language has not yet been released.
- What about the large percentage of fish and shellfish that Washingtonians eat that is farm raised or originated outside Washington waters? Recognizing this number is high, how is it possible to accurately assess the health risks?
- What will be the economic impact of the required implementation of technology and increased regulation for cities, counties and business, respectively?
- What will be the economic burden on taxpayers? Major industry leaders maintain that passing these stringent standards will cost Washington jobs.
The preliminary draft should be finished by September 30. The Legislature will have time to review comments from business, industry and the public as well as examine the policy during the 2015 Legislative Session.
In addition to all this, there is another crisis in agriculture: wheat farmers are being forced to stockpile goods as a labor dispute at the Port of Vancouver has slowed exports to a stall. The situation could be severe for Washington’s $1.2 billion wheat industry–especially out here in Eastern Washington. What makes matters worse is that Governor Inslee has backed off of providing escorts to grain-inspectors, a move that is hurting the industry and could have damaging effects on our local economy.
If you want to read more about this crisis, click here.
As always, I’ll keep you posted on these issues as they progress. I encourage you to be informed, as this legislation could have sweeping effects on Washington’s economic health. It could hit close to home via increased sewer costs but also cripple major job producers such as Boeing and the homebuilding industry.
It’s summer…and though it’s the best time of year to be outside and going to events, it’s never too early for families planning to send kids to college to think ahead to what they have to expect.
Last month I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at the Eastern Washington University commencement ceremony. It was an honor to speak there, and there was a lot for graduates to celebrate. But at the same time, it was a good moment to reflect on the challenges families with kids going to public colleges and universities will face…
College isn’t as easy as it used to be, and I’m not talking about tests here. Students and families have faced higher costs and less certainly in recent years than perhaps ever before. Since 1986, tuition rates for state colleges and universities in Washington have increased each year.
Under the leadership in Olympia, even a 7% cap on tuition increases that I had successfully pushed through in 2007 was overturned and tuition was raised by 14% in 2009, 2010, and 2011!
Because of this, Washington State is now ranked #2 in terms of the increase in the average cost of tuition at public colleges and universities. That’s unacceptable. But that’s why the Senate Majority Coalition went to work and froze tuition in its place for two straight years. That hadn’t happened since 1980-1981!
It was a mistake to do away with the 7% cap on tuition growth.
It was a mistake to allow 14% tuition increases each year.
I don’t know how long we can sustain the tuition freeze, but we simply cannot have a repeat of those mistakes. Let’s keep them in the past.