Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The legislative session is over! The Legislature wrapped up this year’s 60-day session Thursday night. The final days of session were long and went deep into the evening as we debated and voted on bills on the Senate floor, including the final supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets after negotiators reached agreements on them. We also took final votes on bills that had been amended by one chamber after being passed in the other chamber.
In some ways, this was one of the most disappointing sessions I’ve experienced as a legislator. With Democrats controlling both the House and Senate this year, there were far more bills passed by the Legislature than in a typical “short” session, and sometimes key bills were brought to a floor vote without a public hearing or a chance for members to have time to review them before voting. This is not a good or responsible way to govern!
I want to thank all of the constituents who wrote, called or e-mailed my office this session to share their opinions on bills or ask questions. I appreciate your interest in what we did in Olympia, as well as your feedback!
Senate Democrats vote to raid voter-approved rainy-day fund
One of the most disappointing moments of this session happened last Wednesday when the Senate Democrats passed a measure that would effectively raid the state’s savings account by diverting $935 million that should have gone into the account. This thwarts the will of Washington voters and weakens the state operating budget’s ability to withstand a revenue drop. It also draws down reserves needed in case of an economic recession or to deal with the results of an earthquake, major flood, wildfires or other natural disasters.
Withdrawing money from the rainy-day fund requires a 60-percent majority vote, thanks to an amendment to our state constitution that was passed by Washington voters a decade ago. Through an amendment to Senate Bill 6614 that I opposed, the Senate’s Democrat majority kept the required deposit from being made to the rainy-day fund. The net loss to the account is $700 million.
The Democrats’ vote to deprive this account could hurt Washington’s debt ratings. Our state has earned strong debt ratings by being fiscally responsible and maintaining strong reserves. But the raid on the rainy-day fund will send a negative message to the bond industry that Washington is willing to spend recklessly. I’m afraid this will come back to haunt our state by weakening our bond rating, which would hurt us not only at the state government level but would trickle down to affect our local cities, counties and school districts.
State Treasurer Duane Davidson said it was shortsighted to see $700 million taken in a diversionary raid on the rainy-day fund. He called the fund grab a self-inflicted wound and the opposite of good fiscal management. He urged the Legislature to not do this. Unfortunately, the majority Democrats did not heed his advice.
2018 supplemental operating budget lacks fiscal responsibility
I voted against the 2018 supplemental operating budget that was passed by the Legislature on Thursday. (The Senate passed it along caucus lines, 25-24.) It’s fiscally irresponsible and misses an opportunity to provide meaningful property-tax relief for Washington property owners who face higher property taxes this year due to an overlap in state and local school taxes that was demanded lats year by Democrats who control the House.
One of the things about this year’s budget process that really upset me was how our ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Sen. John Braun, could not brief us on the final budget — because he was not allowed to be part of the budget-negotiation process. That’s wrong. This supplemental budget is scary because it raids and diverts money from specific accounts. I’m worried about the precedents set this week and the ramifications they could have on our state’s bond ratings and the trickle-down effects to our local governments.
Sen. Braun offered an alternative budget that showed the Legislature could provide nearly $1 billion in property-tax relief this year without taking money from the rainy-day fund, thanks to the additional $2.3 billion in tax revenue that the state is expected to collect.
Legislature passes two of my bills
I’m pleased that two of my bills were approved by the Legislature during the homestretch of our session.
Senate Bill 6059 enhances protection for insurance consumers. It provides the Office of the Insurance Commissioner with better insight into the corporate-governance framework of an insurer or insurance group, allowing for more frequent reviews and assessments. With better understanding of the insurance companies’ corporate governance systems, the Office of Insurance Commissioner will be more able to assess whether existing governance structures are in place to protect consumers in our state. SB 6059 was approved 47-2 by the Senate and 98-0 by the House.
Senate Bill 6462 raises awareness of an insurance program for residential heating-oil tanks. It helps make residential homebuyers aware of the Washington Pollution Liability Insurance Agency’s Residential Heating Oil Insurance Program, which provides insurance coverage at no cost to owners of active heating oil tanks. The program provides up to $60,000 of insurance coverage for cleaning up contamination caused by a leak from a heating-oil tank. This bill will help people who are looking to buy a home that uses heating oil. SB 6462 was passed 47-0 by the Senate and 97-0 by the House.
Phone: (360) 786-7650 Email: Jan.Angel@leg.wa.gov