Dear friends and neighbors,
With many new laws going into effect earlier this month, we have lots of updates to share with you after one of the most progressive legislative sessions in state history.
Our top priorities included responding to COVID-19 and supporting a healthy economic recovery, on top of record investments in public health, child care, and transportation.
In this newsletter, we’re excited to share information on the three budgets, as well as some of the steps we took to reform our tax system. We will send you another newsletter next month focused on policy measures in education, health care, law enforcement accountability, worker protections and climate change.
As we work toward ending this long pandemic, we’re eager to continue meeting the challenges ahead of us with the strength, passion, and sense of justice we draw from our community here in the 49th District.
As always, please reach out with your thoughts and ideas. It is our honor to serve you.
A statement of values
In this historic year, we passed a $59.2 billion Operating Budget (SB 5092) to help families and businesses continue recovering and build a more resilient Washington with investments that include:
• $172 million for expanded Paid Leave Coverage.
• $300 million in small business grants and $2.2 billion in unemployment insurance rate cuts over the next four years.
• $1.3 billion for vaccine distribution, contact tracing, and testing.
• $48 million for student learning devices and broadband connectivity, plus $237 million for programs to mitigate the challenges of remote learning.
• $207 million for improved Medicaid funding for seniors and people with disabilities.
• Landlord and rental assistance with $983 million for overdue rent and $200 million in landlord and mortgage foreclosure assistance.
• 15% increase in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Washington’s tax structure has long been the most regressive in the nation. This means that low-income folks pay 17 percent of their income in taxes, middle class people pay 11 percent, and the wealthiest pay just three percent.
This year we took steps to help repair this broken system. By passing a Capital Gains Tax and funding the Working Families Tax Credit, we are asking the wealthiest Washingtonians, literally just 7,000 individuals out of 7.6 million people living in the state, to pay their fair share and help those struggling to make ends meet put some money in their pockets.
The Capital Gains Tax will only be paid when the profits from the sale of stocks and bonds exceeds $250,000 annually. Revenue collected from this tax will fund the Fair Start for Kids Act (SB 5237) to stabilize and expand the childcare industry and make childcare more affordable.
The Working Families Tax Credit (HB 1297) will send money to approximately 420,000 Washingtonians struggling to get by. This money will go directly back into the local economy, spent on things like rent, food, car repairs and other necessities.
HELPING BUSINESSES STAY AFLOAT
The effects of the pandemic were felt in every corner of the state. Workers were struggling to put food on the table and businesses were at grave risk of going under. To address these needs, the very first bill signed into law, in February, was SB 5061, which included $1.7 billion in 2021 Unemployment Insurance tax relief to help business-owners who were facing unprecedented UI tax rate hikes (up to 500 percent in some cases).
Then, in April, we passed SB 5478, which provided the hardest-hit businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms, bowling alleys, retail outlets, and others, with $500 million from a state funded unemployment relief account to reduce UI premium taxes in 2022.
Creating jobs today to build the future we want
The 2021-23 Capital Budget (HB 1080) makes historic investments across our state and puts tens of thousands of people to work rebuilding the economy.
Highlights from capital investments in the 49th District:
- $49.69 million for the Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth, including new building construction and repair projects
- $7.64 million for the Independent Living Skills Center at the School for the Blind, and $475,000 for campus preservation
- $1.98 million for community and technical college repairs and preservation
- $1.36 million for toxic clean up at the Time Oil Handy Andy 8 site
- $1.24 million for the Fourth Plain Community Commons
- $1 million for the Port of Vancouver Waterfront T1 Building deconstruction
- $140,000 to re-roof the U.S. Grant House
Investing in equity and sustainability
To learn what Washingtonians want from their transportation system, last year Transportation Committee members held nearly 90 remote listening sessions across the state and heard from hundreds of people, including many who said they’d never been asked for their thoughts and ideas before.
Our $11.8 billion Transportation Budget (SB 5165) will continue to fund major work that was put on hold due to COVID-19. And, taking into account the input we received, this budget also includes new initiatives to create a more diverse transportation workforce along with funding for a more sustainable transportation system.
Major projects in the 49th District (Dollars in Thousands):
- Clark County PTBA – C-TRAN: Southbound I-5 Bus on Shoulder: $4,900 – Roadway improvements to reduce travel times and increase service reliability.
- Columbia River Renaissance Trail Connection: $500 – This multi-modal project will support both bicycling and pedestrian access and will create a nearly 7-mile bike/ped pathway along the Columbia River.
- C-TRAN – Mill Plain Bus Rapid Transit Project: $9,000 – Capital improvements to implement bus rapid transit service connecting downtown Vancouver with a future transit center near Clark College Tech Center.
- I-205/Mill Plain Interchange to NE 18th St Build Interchange – Stage 2: $38,275 – New northbound off ramp and southbound on ramp at NE 18th Street will reduce congestion to improve traffic flow.
- I-5 Interstate Bridge Replacement: $44,000 – Funding to begin planning efforts for the future replacement of a bridge over the Columbia River.
- I-5/Mill Plain Boulevard: $97,700 – Reconstruction of existing interchange to address capacity needs and facilitate the movement of larger commercial vehicle traffic.
- I-5/NE 134th St Interchange (I-5/I-205) Rebuild Interchange: $85,548 – This improvement will maintain safety on I-5 and I-205 and keep traffic moving at acceptable levels through the interchange area.
- SR 14/I-205 to SE 164th Ave. Auxiliary Lanes: $25,400 – Constructing auxiliary lanes both directions between the interchanges and modifying the I-205 ramps to SR 14 will reduce delays and improve safety.
- SR 501/I-5 to Port of Vancouver roadside improvements: $7,000 – Reconstruct roadway to accommodate freight vehicles with limited ground clearance, and reconstruct traffic signals to increase clearance, add pedestrian crosswalks, address ADA requirements, and provide bicycle safety enhancements.
We’re also happy to report that the governor signed HB 1457, sponsored by Rep. Wylie, aimed at facilitating the installation of broadband along limited access state highways. Increasing the placement of broadband on a dig-once basis is realistically achievable and clears a path for providers to reach under-served and rural communities.