16th District lawmakers wrap up the 2018 legislative session

The following op-ed appeared in the Prosser Record Bulletin and the Dayton Chronicle during the week of March 12.

By Sen. Maureen Walsh, Rep. Terry Nealey, and Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser

Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, and Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser.

One thing we can always count on, in good times and bad, there will always be pressure on the state Legislature to raise taxes, and to spend every last penny it has available. Our 2018 legislative session certainly proved that point.

We adjourned Thursday night after 60 days at the state Capitol, one of the hardest-fought short sessions in recent memory. Our problem wasn’t a shortage of money – we had an extra $2.3 billion in revenue over the next four years, thanks to taxes generated by a booming economy.

Yet, many of our colleagues in the majority party maintained we still didn’t have enough. As Republicans, we worked across the aisle to offer reasonable and fiscally responsible solutions to the challenges before us. Ultimately we were able to make a difference for our district and the citizens of Washington state.

  • Energy taxes: The governor championed a proposal to impose a steep tax on carbon, as part of his aggressive climate change agenda. This tax would have significantly increased the cost of gasoline, energy, and natural gas. It also would have driven up the cost of groceries and anything requiring transportation, and would have eliminated the state’s competitive advantage of low-cost power. The good news: Advocates couldn’t find the votes to pass this proposal this session.
  • Capital gains income tax. For years our colleagues tried to pass an income tax on capital gains – a “starter tax” that likely would lead to a general income tax in the future. This year the excuse was property-tax reduction, even though this particular proposal would not have provided relief until 2021, long after this year’s temporary spike in property taxes has passed. The good news: The capital gains tax did not move forward this session.
  • Property tax reduction. Though the Legislature had more than enough money to eliminate this year’s one-time billion-dollar property tax increase, our colleagues chose instead to use this money for new spending. What finally passed was a modest reduction, too small and too late – a $400 million cut that will not take effect until next year. Worse yet, the money was plucked from our Rainy Day Fund, reducing our reserves against a recession that economists tell us is just around the corner. We agree property taxes need to be reduced, but also believe the state can afford to give taxpayers full relief when they actually need it most.

The 60-day session ended with the passage of the supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets.

  • Supplemental operating budget. The final budget increases spending by $1.8 billion over the next four years – resuming the unsustainable spending practices that got us into trouble when the last recession hit. We should have learned our lesson the last time – good times never last forever. We could not support this budget.
  • Supplemental capital budget. The supplemental budget appropriates $198 million in bond revenue for projects statewide, including K-12 school construction and institution and community-based mental health facilities, leaving $13 million for future adjustments. We supported this budget.
  • Supplemental transportation budget. The supplemental budget appropriates approximately $9 billion for transportation-related projects across the state. It provides agency requested modifications that will help these agencies to provide necessary transportation services. We supported this budget.

It is an honor to represent you and the citizens of the 16th District in Olympia. Thank you for allowing us to serve you!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton;  Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla; and Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser; serve the 16th Legislative District.