Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The summer season has gone by fast. I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy some vacation time and be with loved ones. There are a number of things happening related to state government issues and I want to provide you an update. I also want to thank everyone who is contacting me with questions, comments and concerns. I appreciate hearing from those I represent.
Crime escalating in Washington
In July, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs released its Annual Crime in Washington Report. The report indicated Washington state experienced its highest murder rate since the 1980s. The crime report is evidence 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 again when we convene for the 2024 legislative session.
To check out some of the solutions we offered during the legislative session to improve public safety and make our communities safer, go to our priorities page and click on the “making communities safer” section.
Also, on a positive note, Washington state opened its first local regional crime lab earlier this month. There was a ribbon cutting to celebrate the Yakima Valley Local Crime Lab.
This will speed up investigations. Time is a crucial part of solving criminal investigations.
Fuel prices remain among the highest in the country
After about six weeks of leading the country with the highest gas prices, Washington has given that honor back to California.
- Washington follows California above $5 a gallon as fuel prices heat up nationwide (The Center Square)
As of Thursday, Washingtonians are paying $5.04 for a gallon of gas, with California at $5.17. Both prices are much higher than third place Hawaii at $4.79, and our neighbors Oregon at $4.69 and Idaho $4.10. Our prices remain $1.17 higher than the national average of $3.87.
Gas price map courtesy of AAA. You can find more information here.
Many factors impact fuel prices. However, much of this increase is due to the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), or the cap-and-trade program passed by the Democratic 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. Fuel prices affect 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. It has definitely had an impact on summer plans.
- Report: Nearly 40% of WA drivers canceled summer travel plans due to high gas prices (KIRO TV/MyNorthwest)
The governor has attributed the high fuel prices on price gouging by the oil companies and pipeline that was under repair, but is now operational.
- Pipeline that Inslee blames for gas price spike has been open for nearly a month (Washington State Standard)
- 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)
A recent article in the Capital Press, “Washington’s cap-and-trade take tops $900 million for year,” states that since cap-and-trade went into effect Jan. 1, gasoline prices in Washington have risen by $1.25 a gallon, compared to increases of 76 cents a gallon in California and 88 cents a gallon in other Western states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Over the past year, gasoline prices nationwide have fallen by 70 cents a gallon, but have risen by 23 cents a gallon in Washington, the most in the U.S., according to AAA. Over the same period, Oregon gas prices fell by 16 cents a gallon.
- Washington senator calls for cap-and-trade changes (Capital Press)
- Washington Democrat calls for price cap on carbon pollution permits (The Center Square)
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 in the upcoming session.
Is your paycheck smaller?
Was your paycheck smaller in the month of July? The WA Cares Fund, the new state-run, long-term care insurance program started July 1. The payroll deductions started for many Washington workers, including part-time and temporary workers. Those in the program are paying about 58 cents on every $100 of their earnings.
I am adamantly opposed to this payroll tax program passed by the majority party in 2019 for the following reasons:
- Inadequate. There is a limited lifetime benefit of up to $36,500. That does not cover long-term care needs or costs for very long.
- Unfair. It is regressive, impacting lower-income individuals the most. 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 that money that was taken from your paycheck. Your spouse is not eligible for your benefit contributions. Finally, it is not portable – meaning if you leave the state you lose your the money and/or benefits.
- Unpopular. You, the voters, voiced your strong opposition to the plan in the November 2019 general election. Nearly 63% of you 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)
At the very least, we should consider making the plan optional in the 2024 legislative session. Washingtonians should be able to decide for themselves what kind of long-term plan works best for them and how much they need for their long-term care needs.
Following your state government
While the Legislature is not in session, there is a lot happening with state government issues. A couple of websites to stay tuned in to what is happening related to state issues are listed below. I encourage you to check them out.
Please do hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns or comments. Your questions and input are important to me.
It is an honor to serve the great 15th District!