January 10, the Washington State legislature commenced, and on Tuesday, Governor Inslee gave his 10th State of the State address. Like last year, the speech was given before a sparsely attended audience in the House Chambers, with many legislators logging in remotely.
Framing his speech in a statement released the day before, Inslee made it clear that this session would be “anything but a quiet few months” due to the “long list of unprecedented crises facing our state.” He urged the Legislature to act quickly on a shortlist of pressing “crises” requiring “swift and decisive action.”
Inslee borrowed Winston Churchill’s words from his first order at the start of World War II, that the legislature “must take action this day.” Using repetition, Inslee reinforced the following legislative agenda priorities to:
- Address economic disparities by spending an unprecedented $815 million to Increase affordable housing and the provision of additional support for those without shelter
- Support K-12 students by spending $900 million for school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers in schools
- Address climate change and clean energy by spending another $626 million to fight greenhouse gases
- Ensure salmon protections and green corridors, spending $187 million toward salmon recovery
- Spend “nearly $1 billion” to fund clean transportation, including $324 million to electrify our state’s ferries
- Place $2.5 billion into rainy-day reserves
- Make is a gross misdemeanor for candidates and elected officials who knowingly lie about elections
Following Inslee’s speech, Senator Chris Gould gave a rebuttal on behalf of the Republican minority party. His remarks began by pointing to the fact that Governor Inslee has been operating under emergency orders for the past two years. “After 700 days of emergency rule, it’s apparent that many people across our state feel that our system of government has betrayed them, that their voices no longer matter. He called for a return to the rule of law where each of the three branches of government fulfills their duty to provide checks and balances on the other.
Addressing Inslee’s statement about funding housing for the homeless, Gould responded, saying, “Drug overdoses have increased by 50% over the past five years… the most compassionate thing we can do is to stop allowing those in need to continue suffering in our streets. We have to offer them treatment and the rehabilitation they so desperately need.”
Over the past three legislative sessions, the legislature has implemented 22 new taxes increasing the cost of living in Washington State. Now at a time when the Washington State revenues are particularly robust, minority leaders believe the State should not collect more in taxes than necessary to perform government functions properly.
Gould suggested that Washington State citizens should be given their money back in the form of tax relief, suggesting four areas of relief:
- Exempt the first $250,000 in value of primary residence from property taxes
- Eliminate the business and occupation tax on manufacturing
- Eliminate the capital gains income tax
- Eliminate the long term care payroll tax
Gould wrapped up his remarks calling for Washingtonians to come together around the policies that unite us. “It’s time to embrace the fact that we can join together for a common purpose.”