This session provided a very mixed bag of results on the climate front. The most important, and heaviest legislative lift, was the carbon tax. You probably already know it didn’t pass. With leadership from Sen. Reuven Carlyle and the support of millions of Washingtonians, the bill was voted out of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee. That is greater progress than any carbon pricing legislation has ever made it in our legislature. For the health and safety of our planet and its inhabitants, we cannot give up on this.
A big success this year was the passage into law of a long overdue update to our oil spill and contingency plans. SB 6269 strengthens oil transportation safety by addressing situations where oils may sink in water. This is especially difficult to clean up, and our state has never had a plan for it before now. We also direct the Department of Ecology to partner with Canadian agencies to address our shared waterways regarding gaps and conflicts in policy and seek participation with state, provincial, and federal agencies; environmental organizations; tribes; and first nations. Ecology must also report to the legislature with recommendations for further strengthening our oil spill and contingency plans. Lastly, the bill closes a tax loophole that allowed oil arriving by pipeline to avoid their fair share of taxes. Now all modes of transporting oil pay the same tax. The House also passed a necessary update to the state greenhouse gas emission limits for consistency with the most recent assessment of climate change science.
Revenue and Tax Reform
Working families, low income residents, and those on fixed incomes are paying too much in taxes. This disproportionately affects people of color, the LGBTQ community, women, and our immigrant communities. Last year, I supported a budget with good policy, but bad funding mechanisms that asked for too much from people in our area. This year, we took steps to correct the massive property tax increase by passing a $391 million property tax cut for 2019. We’ll need to continue this work next year because to permanently lower taxes for working families, the state needs fundamental tax reform that asks everyone to pay their fair share. This year I was a sponsor of a proposal to enact a capital gains tax and provide further property tax relief. In addition to those reforms, we must continue working to implement a state income tax. I’m always hearing support for those proposals from so many of you, and I appreciate the relentless urging to push the legislature into action. Your advocacy helps me when I’m urging my colleagues to act boldly on tax reform.
This year we responded to the Atlantic Salmon spill by phasing out and effectively prohibiting nonnative finfish aquaculture. I was insistent that we needed action, not just another study. The spill itself was all the studying we needed to see that something must be done. The bill we passed prohibits the Department of Natural Resources from issuing or renewing leases for nonnative finfish aquaculture. Farming of nonnative fish isn’t the only problem. We also direct the departments of Ecology, Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Fish and Wildlife, in consultation with a variety of other entities, to update existing guidance and resources on planning for and permitting commercial marine net pen aquaculture. We know this ban will affect the workers in aquaculture, so we specified that separation from employment that results from these actions is a qualifying event for the purpose of dislocated worker eligibility.
SR-520 bridge construction—let your voice be heard!
Thanks to the many of you who have reached out to me to voice your concerns. I worked closely with Sen. Jamie Pedersen to make sure the supplemental transportation budget we passed includes language directing WSDOT to do everything it can to preserve the Montlake Market, and we ask the City to be a partner in that effort. We also require WSDOT to meet and confer regularly with residents in the vicinity on the status of the project and effects on the Market.
I wanted to alert you to an opportunity to share your questions and concerns directly to WSDOT, SDOT, and other agencies at an upcoming open house regarding the Montlake Phase of the SR-520 bridge construction project. If you’re not able to attend, you can check out the meeting materials through the above link following the open house.
When: Tuesday, April 17, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Montlake Community Center, 1618 E. Calhoun St., Seattle, WA 98112
- Bus routes 43, 48, 255, 257, 311, and 545 serve the Montlake/SR-520 area.
- The U Link light rail station at Husky Stadium is about one mile from the community center.
Parking: Limited free parking is available at the community center
I’ll continue this series of updates in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading this update, I’m honored to work for you in Olympia.