May 20, 2013
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Somewhere behind closed doors in an office at the state Capitol, budget negotiators from all four caucuses are meeting. For the most part, the rest of the Legislative Building, including the House and Senate chambers, and the committee rooms across the street are empty and quiet, even though a 30-day special session began last Monday, May 13. Many of us were told to stay home because there is no budget to vote on, no action to take, and it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money for all of the lawmakers to return to Olympia just to sit around and wait for a budget agreement.
Anyone who knows me understands I’m not one to sit home and wait. I’ve been very busy back in the district with many activities and attending many events. This includes attending: the annual Armed Forces Day Luncheon in Bremerton by the Military Officers Association of America; the Navy League Armed Forces Festival Gala Dinner at the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton (which is now the largest armed forces event in the nation); the Communities and Schools Spring Event in Gig Harbor, which celebrated the mentoring and tutoring programs to help children in the Peninsula schools get ahead; the Annual Kitsap County Affordable Housing Dinner; Constitution Day events in Gig Harbor, the South Kitsap School Board budget meeting; welcoming home our men and women serving on the U.S.S. John C. Stennis; and working during the Women’s Build Day for the Bremerton Habitat for Humanity. What I’m enjoying most is spending time meeting with citizens all across the 26th District and listening to your thoughts, concerns, comments and ideas.
Our district office has also re-opened in Port Orchard and my assistant, Debbie Austin, and I are continuing to help constituents in their dealings with the Department of Labor and Industries, Department of Social and Health Services, and other state agencies.
My mind, however, is not far from the unfinished business in Olympia. We need to reach agreement on a state operating budget that funds education first, protects our most vulnerable citizens, and provides for the public safety needs of our local communities and neighborhoods. We need to do that without unnecessary tax increases that would hurt families, employers, and jobs. That’s what the fight is about in Olympia right now – prioritizing the needs in our state operating budget while protecting jobs that feed our families, put a roof over our heads, and provide tax revenue for the budget.
Our state’s economy is still very fragile. Decisions made during the special session could mean the difference of whether our economy continues to prosper and create more jobs, or whether we send it back toward a deeper recession. I firmly believe we cannot tax ourselves into prosperity. Instead, we need to give our small businesses the ability to recover and grow. Our brightest days can be ahead so long as the Legislature doesn’t usher in the black clouds of job-killing tax increases.
I welcome your comments in this discussion. Please read on for an update of our recently-completed regular session and now, the special session.
26th Legislative District
Tax increases vs. state living within its means – The reason we are in special session
Everyone seems to be asking, why didn’t the Legislature complete its business within its allotted 105 days? The primary reason is disagreement over the state operating budget. The state is expected to bring in an additional $2 billion in the next two years. That’s $2 billion MORE than the current budget cycle. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus passed an operating budget that would put more than $1 billion in additional funding toward education – and it would do it WITHOUT tax increases. House Democrats and the governor would also put more money toward education, but to do so, they’ve proposed to increase taxes by $879 million and deplete the state’s emergency “rainy day fund.”
Here are the working people who could be affected by the House Democrats’ plan to permanently extend the business and occupation (B&O) surtax on service businesses, such as: accountants, appraisers, architects, assayers, barbers, beauty shop owners, court reporters, employment agents, engineers, refuse collectors, janitors, kennel operators, landscape architects, loan agents, music teachers, oculists, orchestra or band leaders contracting to provide musical services, real estate agents, school bus operators, stenographers, certain warehouse operators, theater operators, undertakers, veterinarians and more. This would not only affect local businesses, but would increase the cost of these services to our citizens.
House Democrats would also place a new B&O tax on travel agents, tour operators, high-tech research and development, import commerce and resellers of prescription drugs. They would repeal the non-resident sales and use tax exemptions, especially affecting our border counties, and add a sales and use tax to bottled water (the same tax that was repealed by voters in 2010). Plus, they would impose a public utility tax on truck transport of goods in state that are destined for out of state, and add new taxes for fuel.
I support a budget that prioritizes and funds education first, provides for our state’s most vulnerable citizens, and ensures our communities and neighborhoods remain safe – and provides for those needs without increasing taxes. Our state’s economy remains too fragile to boost taxes on small businesses and families. The Senate budget has shown we can have a responsible budget that supports education without inflicting job-killing tax increases on those who can least afford it.
Today, May 20 – An important date for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Two events of significance for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge are scheduled for today.
First, the governor signed the state transportation budget bill this afternoon. This is significant because it contains a provision that directs a work group to be convened to study refinance options for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Senate Bill 5024 states: “The Joint Transportation Committee shall convene a work group to identify and evaluate internal refinance opportunities for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The study must include a staff work group, including staff from the Office of Financial Management, the Transportation Commission, the Department of Transportation, the Office of the State Treasurer, and the legislative transportation committees. The Joint Transportation Committee shall issue a report of its findings to the House of Representatives and the Senate Transportation Committees by Dec. 31, 2013.”
By investigating refinancing options, it could open the possibility to prevent significant increases in tolls for the bridge. As you may be aware, I worked throughout the legislative session to find options to prevent toll increases, including several bills and amendments that would have allowed selling the bridge naming rights, extending financing, and returning toll-setting authority to the Legislature. Unfortunately, those proposals were rebuffed by the House majority party. However, I was able to successfully weave this refinancing study provision into the state transportation budget. (Read my press release on this provision.)
The second event of importance today is a final public hearing in Gig Harbor by the Washington State Transportation Commission, which is expected to vote this evening on new toll rates for the Narrows Bridge. Under the commission’s proposal, toll rates would increase by 25 cents, beginning July 1, which would bring the price to $4.25 for electronic (“Good to Go”) tolling, $5.25 at the toll-booth, and $6.25 for pay-by-mail. The tolls would increase by another 25 cents on July 1, 2014.
Your input is vital! The meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Gig Harbor Civic Center, 3510 Grandview Street, in Gig Harbor. (Read the press release.)
People are still struggling in this fragile economy. I remain very concerned about toll increases and how they would affect families, workers and employers. That’s why I am looking for other options to keep those rates low.
Transportation budget keeps ferries whole
One of the reasons I supported the 2013-15 transportation budget (Senate Bill 5024) is because of its support for our state ferries. There were no reductions in ferry runs, which is important for our local commuters. The budget provides $143.6 million for completion of two new 144-car ferries (both currently under construction). It provides $35 million to fund ferry vessel fuel costs and $11.5 million to increase crew levels mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Status of my legislation
I’m very pleased the governor signed two of my prime-sponsored bills into law:
House Bill 1056 would allow a corporate officer, especially that of a very small business, to collect unemployment benefits if that officer’s wages with the corporation are less than 25 percent of his or her total wages. This bill was a result of a constituent coming to me, having her own small business of which she was the corporate officer of same. This business was not making enough to support her, so she set it aside and went to work for someone else. She was then laid off, and because she was a “corporate officer” of a corporation (even if it was just her), she could not claim unemployment. This was an unexpected error in legislation passed about two decades ago. It was discovered when the state’s economy began to decline. This bill corrects that error in the law.
House Bill 1074 would increase the timeline for final plat approval submissions from nine years to 10 years for qualifying plats. This measure will give developers additional time to finance and complete the platting process. It will help to create and retain jobs in our local communities.
Click here to read about all of the bills I introduced during the 2013 session and their status.
State Representative Jan Angel
26th Legislative District
Web site: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/angel
Olympia Office (January-April)
434 John L. O’Brien Building – P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7964 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000
District Office (May-December)
1700 SE Mile Hill Drive, Suite 236 (South Kitsap Towne Square Mall – Second floor)
Port Orchard, WA 98366