Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope your summer is going well. I wanted to provide you an update on some state-related issues that may be impacting you and your family.
Fuel prices remain near highest in the country
After about six weeks, Washington has given the honor of having the highest fuel prices in the country back to California. Not by much. As of Tuesday, Washingtonians are paying $4.96 for a gallon of gas, with California at $5.01, followed by Hawaii at $4.71, and Oregon $4.62. Our prices remain $1.18 higher than the national average of $3.78.
There are many factors that impact gas prices. However, much of this increase is due to the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), or the cap-and-trade program passed by the majority party in 2021. According to some estimates, and a report by Affordable Fuel Washington, the CCA is currently adding $.44 per gallon for gas and $.55 for diesel.
Last year, the governor and the Department of Ecology said the new state tax on CO2 emissions would have “minimal impact, if any.” That is not the case. The fuel prices are affecting everyone – especially those who can least afford it – the working middle class, people on a fixed income, those who travel a long distance for work, and farmers, who were supposed to be exempt from the new carbon law.
The governor continues to point the finger at the oil companies claiming they are price gouging.
- EDITORIAL: Inslee distances himself from impacts of his climate policies (Capital Press)
- OPINION: Inslee lied about the cost of the carbon cap and trade program (Donald Kimball, Communications Manager at Washington Policy Center/The Center Square)
- Washington senator calls for cap-and-trade changes | Capital Press
- Washington Democrat calls for price cap on carbon pollution permits | The Center Square
I have signed on to a letter submitted to the Department of Ecology by Sen. Gildon and 42 other legislators, proposing changes to the cap-and-trade program. You can read that letter here.
Lowering fuel prices for those we represent in Washington state should not be a partisan issue. I am hopeful we can work together to decrease prices.
Is your paycheck smaller?
Was your paycheck smaller in the month of July? You may recall in my last email update I talked about the WA Cares Fund, the new state-run, long-term care insurance program. On July 1, the payroll deductions started for many Washington workers, including part-time and temporary workers. Those of you in the program will pay up to 58 cents on every $100 of their earnings.
I am adamantly opposed to this payroll tax program passed by the Democratic majority in 2019. It is
- Inadequate. There is a limited lifetime benefit of up to $36,500. That will not cover long-term care costs for very long. The solvency of the program has also been brought into question, meaning the Legislature may have to increase the payroll tax in the future.
- Unfair. This tax is regressive, impacting those who can least afford to pay it. Also, there is no guarantee you will get the benefits of the program if you are paying the tax. If you do not end up using the money or benefit, you forfeit all the money invested from your paycheck. Your spouse is not eligible for your benefit contributions. Finally, if you retire out of state, you lose your benefits.
- Unpopular. In November 2019, nearly 63% of Washington voters in the general election said the long-term care payroll tax should be repealed in Advisory Vote No. 20.
Last session, I signed onto House Bill 1011, that would have repealed the program. The bill did not get a public hearing. Now there is discussion to make the plan optional.
- WA Republicans propose making new long-term care tax optional (The Seattle Times)
- Washington Republicans propose opt out on long term care payroll tax (The Center Square)
I am hopeful this proposal, and possibly others to this inadequate, unfair and unpopular program, can be considered in the 2024 legislative session.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs recently released its Annual Crime in Washington Report. The report indicated Washington state just experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s. The crime report reflects our public safety policies need work and staffing levels are too low.
Washington has the lowest number of police officers per capita in the country. If Washington had the national average of officers-to-population, we would have more than 7,000 officers commissioned than we do right now. For more on the report check out the stories below.
- Report: Washington sees record-high violent crimes in 2023, record-low officers per capita (FOX 13)
- Homicides, violent crime up in WA as police staffing hits all-time low (The Seattle Times)
- Murders hit record, auto thefts soared in 2022, new figures show (Washington State Standard)
I expect public safety issues to be a high priority once again when we convene for the 2024 legislative session.
Support for law enforcement
Last month I was invited to attend the monthly meeting of the Spokane County Sheriff Office chaplains. I was presented with the Spokane County Chaplain coin based on my support of law enforcement officers and crime victims.
They do great work – providing emotional, physical and spiritual needs to law enforcement, their families and members of the community when needed or requested.
Following your state government
I urge you to stay informed even though the Legislature is not in session. Below are some informative websites.
- Capitol Buzz – Daily news clips | Daily news clips.
- The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator.
- The Current | An online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans.
Please keep in mind I am your legislator year-round. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating state government, want to schedule a meeting, would like me to tour a facility, or speak to your association or organization.
It is an honor to serve the 4th District!