2021 Washington Legislature, Day 66 of 105
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OLYMPIA, March 17, 2021 — Good morning. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Feeling lucky?
State budget writers should. A new revenue forecast is due at 8 a.m. Tax collections are pouring in and as of Tuesday were ahead of expectations from the last forecast in November.
And the U.S. Treasury is sending out $1,400 stimulus checks to adults and their dependents. You know that money will get spent.
Senate Minority Leader John Braun told reporters Tuesday he “wouldn’t be at all surprised” if the forecast “is north of $3 billion” in additional revenue over the next four years. Not long ago, it looked like the state might be billions in the red.
Surging receipts, coupled with another $4.2 billion in federal COVID aid, are not dissuading Democrats from passing a capital gains tax this session. Taxes on sugary drinks and health insurance plans are likely to be abandoned, however.
Meanwhile, talks continue on raising money for transportation with an assortment of fee increases and a gas tax hike. Carbon fees and cap-and-trade and bonds are in the mix, too.
Senate and House budgets should arrive next week. Democratic budget writers are taking a little extra time to try to dial in the latest batch of federal funds into the spending blueprint.
Back to school
Gov. Jay Inslee got a rare thumbs-up from Republican legislative leaders Tuesday. His emergency proclamation on reopening schools earned him the plaudits. “I was pleased with the governor pushing on this,” Braun said.
A different story with Democrats. Inside the 57-member House caucus, people are “in all kinds of different spots on it,” House Speaker Laurie Jinkins said Tuesday. Rather than talk about what the order demands, Democrats want to keep their eyes trained on ensuring districts have resources needed to comply.
A drug deal in the offing?
Sounds like Democratic lawmakers are interested in responding to the state Supreme Court decision invalidating the state’s drug possession law — even if it is just to pass a law pre-empting cities and counties from taking action on their own.
A dozen or so House and Senate Democrats are talking about what to do. It’s complicated. As a result of the decision, thousands of people could be without treatment, millions of dollars in legal financial obligations may need refunding and a few folks could be walking out of jail.
Meanwhile, Marysville passed a law to make it a gross misdemeanor to possess a controlled substance without a prescription. Snohomish County and Lewis County could be next. One participant, Sen. Manka Dhingra, told reporters “we will have to do something this session” to prevent a hodge-podge of local ordinances across the state.
This is a conversation Republicans want to join but haven’t yet been invited to.
On the move
It happened again. A low carbon-fuel-standard bill advanced out of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee Tuesday. Next stop should be the Senate Transportation Committee, where it’s died the past couple of years. This year could be different because it is a piece of a bigger legislative puzzle to reduce emissions, build roads and fix culverts.
Non-profit TVW covers state government in Olympia and selected events statewide. Programs are available for replay on the internet, and the channel is widely available on Washington cable systems.
Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Herald) | Rachel La Corte (AP) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Times) | Jim Brunner (Times) | Austin Jenkins (NW News Network) | Melissa Santos (Crosscut) | Sara Gentzler (McClatchy) | Laurel Demkovich (Spokesman-Review) | Jim Camden (Spokesman-Review)