Working families win; state is No. 1; dinosaur bill dies

Here’s what’s happening on Day 59 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2021 Washington Legislature, Day 59 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, March 10, 2021 — Good morning. Lawmakers are shifting back into committee mode after a protracted stretch of voting concluded with Tuesday’s “house of origin” cutoff.

A nearly unanimous House passed an expansion of the Working Families Tax Exemption, House Bill 1297. This program has been on the books since 2008 but never funded.

As written, roughly 420,000 taxpayers could be in line for rebates starting in 2023 at a cost of around $250 million to the state. That is if the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee agree to make the money available.

“We’ll fund the Working Families Tax Exemption in our budget,” House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, told reporters late Tuesday. “Our passing a bill off the House floor is tantamount to us funding it.”

Tuesday also brought passage of a blueprint for expanding forest health and wildfire prevention efforts across the state. House Bill 1168, which passed without a dissenting vote, is a top priority of Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

This bill carries a potential $125 million cost. As the two policies await consideration in the Senate, their supporters must start working the trap lines to make sure budget writers in that chamber agree to fund them.

Meanwhile, a bill banning use of credit scores in the setting of insurance rates died when it didn’t get to the Senate floor.

And there was disappointment for many children lobbying for the Suciasaurus rex. They wanted it to be named the official state dinosaur, but House Bill 1067 failed to get voted on.

“The dinosaur bill wasn’t in our priority category areas,” Jinkins said.

We’re No. 1 again

Washington, for the second consecutive year, is No. 1 in the U.S. News Best States rankings.

“I am so happy for the people of Washington to take home this honor again. It takes all 7.6 million of us to make this state the dynamic place it truly is,” crowed Gov. Jay Inslee in a news release.

The magazine culls and meshes data from an assortment of sources. In all, there are 71 metrics across eight broad categories. Of those, Washington is in the top 10 in health care, education, economy and infrastructure.

There’s room for improvement. Drill down and you find that the state is 24th in transportation due to deteriorating roads and some long commutes. And Washington is 44th in affordability because of a high cost of living and housing prices.

Battle cry

With a capital gains tax set to motor through the House to the governor’s desk, foes are busy figuring out how best to prevent it from ever taking effect. Two main options loom.

A referendum is one, since Senate Democrats stripped off the bill’s emergency clause. Gathering signatures, then conducting a campaign, would be neither cheap nor easy. And even if voters did repeal the law, nothing would stop its re-emergence in the future.

A legal challenge is the other option. It won’t be cheap or fast. A lawsuit would certainly reach the state’s Supreme Court, where the legislation’s legality could be settled one way or another, for a longer period.

Emotions are high, with one critic declaring Tuesday, “It’s Defcon 1.”

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