Senator Annette Cleveland, Representative Monica Stonier and I will host a Telephone Town Hall tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018 @ 6:30 p.m.
There are three ways to participate:
1 – Over the phone – Calls will go out to landlines throughout the 49th legislative district. When you pick up, you’ll be able to listen live and ask us a question. If you don’t get a call but want to participate, please call 877-229-8439 and use ID Code 116294
2 – Sign up on wireless phone: https://vekeo.com/whdc49/ When you go to the Vekeo site, click on the “Let’s Talk” tab, and fill out a short form to take part in the event.
3 – Livestream at: http://video.teleforumonline.com/video/streaming.php?client=16294
We want to give you an update on the current legislative session, and we also want to take your questions on issues that matter to you, such as education funding, healthcare, public safety, transportation, the environment, the economy and the state budgets.
I hope you’ll join us.
Lowering the Republican Property Tax Increases
Property tax bills for 2018 will hit mailboxes soon and you’re probably going to be shocked. Property taxes are going up this year for just about every property owner in Washington State.
Last Friday, the House Finance Committee that I sit on had a public hearing on a modest Capital Gains EXCISE tax aimed at lowering the property taxes of 2.3 million Washingtonians.
How did we get here?
Last year, as the state government was on the verge of a shutdown over a contentious budget that needed to fully fund schools, Democrats proposed comprehensive tax reform.
That tax reform included lowering taxes on homeowners looking to sell, and small business owners trying to survive, while asking powerful corporations and the wealthiest individuals to pay a fair share.
Republicans, who were then in control of the Senate, refused to even consider those options and were ready to shut down the government unless we accepted their Property Tax plan, which raised property taxes on Washingtonians by $5.5 billion. That’s the largest property tax hike in state history. You can read more about the proposals in this op-ed written by the House Democrat’s chief budget negotiators last May.
While Democrats did compromise and agreed to the Republicans’ property tax increase in order to keep the government running and fund schools—we managed to lower the taxes down considerably from their original plan.
Still, for many homeowners in our state a few hundred dollars more in property taxes can be a significant hardship.
Watch this week’s ASK SHARON for more information on the Capital Gains Tax proposal.
There are other tax relief bills in play to help people, especially those on fixed incomes, stay in their homes as long as possible. For example, I introduced a bill to allow medical expenses to be deducted in order to qualify for income-based tax relief for aging and disabled homeowners.
For many years, I have advocated for a more fair tax system in Washington. At the same time, I remain committed to fully funding education and other essential state services. It’s a balancing act: lower taxes and you have to cut school funding, or funding for foster kids, or staff at mental hospitals. Raise taxes to pay for increased costs and middle and working class families suffer.
Protecting victims of abuse from workplace discrimination
No one should lose their job because they are victims of abuse. Unfortunately, some still do. HB 2661 prohibits businesses from firing or otherwise discriminating against employees because they are domestic violence or sexual assault victims. The bill also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for safety if requested by an employee who is a survivor.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are too common in our society. A key to getting out of an abusive situation is economic stability. This bill provides a tool for economic security so that women can remove themselves from dangerous situations.
Taking on Corporate Crime
In 1924, the state created laws to punish corporate entities that broke laws. When a corporation committed a crime, the corporate officers could be charged and there were penalties for the business as well. The maximum fine was set at $10,000.
These days, $10,000 is nothing to an international, major corporation. Breaking the law has virtually no consequence to their bottom line. It’s ridiculous that the law hasn’t been updated in nearly a century. That’s why I voted for HB 2362, which increases the criminal fines for corporate entities up to $1,000,000.
It’s time we start holding corporations accountable when they do something that causes harm to the public.
Safe drug disposal bill in the Senate
Opioid use disorder is an epidemic across the nation. Washington state isn’t immune—family members and friends are getting hooked on pills after surgeries, accidents, or other injuries. Thousands of lives are damaged, destroyed, or even lost because opioids are easily abused, sometimes before you even realize it’s happening. In Washington state, 718 people died from opioid overdose in 2015.
Drug companies need to be a part of the solution; the Secure Drug Take Back Act requires them to offer programs and services to take-back unused prescription drugs, which often end up sitting in medicine cabinets that are accessible to family members. Getting those drugs away from our communities when they are no longer needed goes a long way in putting people first and ending the opioid crisis.
As you can tell, many of the bills in process deal with solving problems and helping consumers. I am trying to make our tax system match our need for a system that encourages the type of economic future we need: fair, sustainable and sufficient. We have a lot to do but I feel we are moving in the right direction.
Thanks for reading my newsletter. As always, contact my office with your concerns, or to give me your feedback. And remember our telephone town hall tomorrow night!