2022 Washington Legislature, Day 40 of 60
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OLYMPIA, Feb. 18 — Happy Friday. Quite a week, right? Only three to go.
Gov Jay Inslee said he intends to lift his mask mandate March 21. Not surprisingly, a lot of folks are peeved it will be another month.
At that point, we’ll enter a new period in the pandemic, one in which those in government will do a lot less asking, cajoling and telling you what to do to protect yourself.
Masks and vaccines will still be available. And some folks will still need to wear one and get one to keep their jobs.
The new mantra: What you do is your choice. For those in the private sector who might want customers to keep donning a face covering or proving they’re vaccinated, may the force be with you. Government won’t. Unless police are called.
Inslee made that clear when Melissa Santos of Crosscut asked what he would recommend businesses do if they encounter a patron disgruntled by such policies.
“This will be up to them,” he said. “We are stepping back and allowing them to make their own decisions.”
About that ‘magic point’
Inslee chose March 21 because it is the “magic point” where he and his advisors think daily COVID hospital admissions will be low enough to prevent stressing the health care system.
What if, in the coming days, data and science show Washington will hit the “magic point” later than March 21?
He didn’t say. I didn’t ask. It’s his choice.
Holiday budget binge
Senate Democrats will release their proposed supplemental budget at 8 a.m. Monday. House Democrats will post theirs online at noon.
Public hearings on each are planned in the afternoon.
(Yes, Monday is a holiday. We aren’t planning a newsletter that day unless something astonishing happens.)
Authors of the budget plans have lots of money to work with — $5 billion in tax collections, $1.3 billion in unspent federal COVID aid and a couple billion in reserves. Expect many similarities and few major differences in their respective handiwork.
Labor Day savings
Prospects of a sales tax holiday next Labor Day weekend are still alive.
House Bill 2018 exempts a large swath of products Sept. 3-5. Authored by Democrats, it’s intended to spur spending at local businesses. They figure the state can absorb the loss of those tax receipts — projected to be $119 million — because it is awash in cash.
Buy clothes, computers, school supplies and qualified energy-saving appliances, and you won’t pay the tax as long as each item is $1,000 or less. You will still pay it on cars, boats, cigarettes, cannabis, liquor and restaurant meals.
It cleared the House Finance Committee Thursday with bipartisan support — and bipartisan opposition.
While its chances are good in the House, interest in the Senate is less clear. And Inslee, early in the session, expressed little enthusiasm.
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) | Shauna Sowersby (McClatchy newspapers) | Laurel Demkovich (Spokesman-Review)