As 2020 session opens, is Olympia really listening?

Note: The following op-ed appeared in the Prosser Record-Bulletin and the Dayton Chronicle:

By Sen. Maureen Walsh, Rep. Bill Jenkin, Rep. Skyler Rude

Tax collections are booming, but some in Olympia think record revenues are not enough.

OLYMPIA – As the Washington Legislature settles in at the state Capitol for its 2020 legislative session, the biggest issue we face is Olympia’s lack of fiscal restraint.

The voters have told us time and again they don’t want an expansion of state government bureaucracy, nor are they interested in higher taxes to pay for it. Our challenge, as your lawmakers from the 16th Legislative District, is to convince urban legislators to listen to Eastern Washington perspectives. Consider:

  • The income tax. Washington voters have said no to an income tax 10 times, but advocates are hard at work to find a way to implement this new tax. We can expect much discussion of their proposal to tax capital gains. The tax is unnecessary, creates constitutional concerns and contradicts the historic will of the voters.
  • Low-carbon fuel standards. Urban lawmakers are pushing a plan that could add as much as 57 cents to a gallon of gas. Before implementing policies that significantly increase the cost of fuel for families, we need to consider that Washington already has some of the cleanest energy in the nation. Washington alone has limited ability to impact global emissions.

Other issues demonstrate the same disconnect. Urban lawmakers continue to push dam-breaching on the Snake River, and may attempt legislative action to influence upcoming Army Corps of Engineers recommendations. They ignore massive improvements in fish passage and survival, the ocean conditions that are a major cause of recent declines in fish runs, and the warnings by the utility community about a looming power shortage.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed tapping into the state’s rainy-day fund to boost spending for homelessness. The homelessness issue is a complex problem that needs to include major policy changes, not a $300 million infusion of reserve funds into existing programs. Yet we’re spending millions already, to limited effect. In this economy, we should hold the rainy day fund for fiscal and economic emergencies.

Fiscal responsibility remains a priority. Each of us is working on proposals to make government more effective. Sen. Walsh will be working on reform of marijuana laws and improved services for our citizens with developmental disabilities. Rep. Jenkin’s agenda includes capital budget funding for Walla Walla YMCA lobby project, to assist with its active shooter/risk mitigation efforts, and to restore funding for reconstruction of Highway 12 that was suspended by the governor. Rep. Rude will be working on K-12 and higher education policy improvements

As a reminder, three of our House committees are eligible for remote committee testimony at Columbia Basin College in Pasco. Information can be found at > House of Representatives > Committees. We look forward to serving you, and if you have a comment or concern, please do not hesitate to contact us at our offices listed below.

Sen. Maureen Walsh: 205 Newhouse Bldg., (360) 786-7630,

Rep. Bill Jenkin: 470 John L. O’Brien Bldg., (360) 786-7836,

Rep. Skyler Rude: 122G Legislative Bldg., (360) 786-7828,