Session ends with big new taxes — and a few bright spots

The following newsletter was sent to Sen. Tim Sheldon’s subscribers May 7, 2019. To subscribe to Sen. Sheldon’s newsletters, click here.

At the Capitol.

Session ends with big new taxes — and a few bright spots

State’s urban-versus-rural split on full display

We’ve just finished our 2019 legislative session, and let’s be honest about it. Life in this state is about to become more expensive. This was a tough year for anyone who lives, works and pays taxes in Washington. This is especially true in districts like ours, that have not shared in the boom times of the central Puget Sound area.

Big new taxes aside, there were a number of bright spots, however. We won funding for a number of important projects for our district. We stopped an income tax, defeated some of the year’s worst proposals, and scored some other victories along the way.

The real problem this year was a disconnect between urban and rural areas. Our urban colleagues controlled the House and Senate. They enacted policies that sounded good to Seattle, with little interest in the needs of the rest of the state. Here’s a rundown on what happened.

The good news this year

  • Projects for the 35th District. Heading the list is $27 million for flood-control efforts in the Chehalis River basin. Other projects include a $650,000 roundabout for Shelton at the intersection of Wallace Kneeland Boulevard and Shelton Springs Road, continued investment in corrections facilities, restoration of the Skokomish River floodplain, and money for the Belfair sewer extension. For more information, click here.
  • Money for rural broadband. Washington will launch a $21 million program to promote high-speed Internet service in rural areas.
  • No income tax. Proposals for an income tax on capital gains went nowhere this session. This “starter” income tax, should it ever pass the Legislature, would almost certainly lead to a general income tax, once all court challenges are resolved.
  • No low-carbon fuel standards. The costliest of several proposals to increase the cost of driving, low-carbon fuel standards would have imposed a hidden tax on fuel of up to 71 cents a gallon, with no measurable impact on world climate.
  • Agenda-driven proposals are defeated. These included an Olympia-driven sex-education curriculum that would have started in kindergarten; requiring law enforcement agencies statewide to follow Seattle-style policies toward the homeless; forcing independent contractors such as hairdressers and barbers to work as employees; and mandating that farmers file reports indicating whether they employ slaves.
  • Second Amendment rights. Several bills placing onerous new restrictions on law-abiding gun owners were defeated, including a measure that would have imposed a costly and unnecessary training requirement on holders of concealed pistol licenses. We also passed a bill protecting some gun owners’ names from public disclosure.

Tax breaks for professional hockey?

 Our state’s urban-and-rural split was evident on a bill that would allow developers of a hockey arena in Seattle to defer payment of sales taxes on construction for 10 years. We all love sports, of course, but whenever any of us tries to start a business in Shelton or any of the communities of the 35th District, we get to pay full freight. And as I pointed out in my speech of April 27th, with all the proposals afoot to increase the cost of driving, it’s going to be pretty darned expensive for any of us to get up to Seattle to watch a game. Though I voted no, the bill passed and now awaits the governor’s signature. To see video, click here.

Now the bad news

  • $2.4 billion in unneeded tax increases. This year the state was in its best financial shape in decades, with more than $5 billion in additional tax collections – more than enough to meet the state’s needs. Nevertheless our urban colleagues raised taxes on small business, real estate transactions, banks and others, largely because they had the votes to do it.
  • School-financing solution undone. The Legislature’s proudest accomplishment of recent years, a school financing plan assuring equal funding for all students across the state, was gutted as our urban colleagues raised caps on local levies. This will allow wealthy districts to raise more and spend more. The likely result is more lawsuits and more pressure for higher taxes in the future.
  • Higher energy costs. You can expect higher electric bills and higher fuel prices as a result of tough new environmental policies enacted this year. Coal and natural gas generation will be phased out, with nothing that can reliably take their place. Hidden taxes on fuel also were increased.
  • Important legislation rejected. Bills reflecting the needs of rural areas were left bottled up in committee.These included two bills I sponsored, establishing target-shooting areas on public lands and banning Seattle’s plan to impose tolls on downtown streets. High tolls will be an issue for those of us who must drive long distances.
  • Making Washington a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants. Senate Bill 5497 forbids law enforcement officials and other public agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
  • Enabling racial discrimination. The Legislature’s urban majority passed Initiative 1000 without referring the matter to the ballot, allowing state programs to discriminate against individuals based on race.

Thanks to all who served as Senate pages!

With Matt Alexander, Alison and Jenny Cylwik, Bruno Felipe Juan and Syrinna Arrendondo-Villarreal.

Matthew Alexander, 14, an 8th grader at Jefferson Middle School. Matt is the son of Brian and Angela Alexander of Olympia.

Alison and Jenny Cylwik, 16 and 14, homeschooled 11th and 8th graders. Alison and Jenny are daughters of Mark and Esther Cylwik of Hoodsport.

Bruno Felipe Juan, 14, an 8th grader at Hawkins Middle School. He is the son of Domingo Ivan Perez and Francisca Juan Jose of Belfair.

Syrinna Arredondo-Villarreal, 14, an 8th grader at Hood Canal School. She is the daughter of Dan and Giovanna McCullough of Shelton.

Sean McCullough, an 8th grader at Oakland Bay High School. Sean is the son of Dan and Giovanna McCullough of Shelton.

Cheyne Mooney, 14, an 8th grader at Hawkins Middle School. Cheyne is the daughter of Keith and Carrie Mooney of Allyn.

Brandon Petersen, 15, a 9th grader at Mercer Island High School. Brandon, of Mercer Island, is the son of Kurt Petersen and Jeanette Petersen.

Serenity West, 14, an 8th grader at Hawkins Middle School. Serenity is the daughter of Destiny West of Belfair.

Caitlyn Wilson, 15, a homeschooled 10th grader from Union. Caitlyn is the daughter of Phil and Erin Wilson.

Contact us!

Phone: (360) 786-7668

Office address: 417 Legislative Building, Olympia, WA  98504

Mailing address: PO Box 40435, Olympia, WA  98504

Email address: Timothy.Sheldon@leg.wa.gov

Website: http://www.senatortimsheldon.org

To leave a message for any lawmaker, call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000.