Legislators poised to adopt major policy and fiscal measures

Apr 22, 2021
Written by Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

As the 2021 “virtual” Legislative Session heads to a conclusion by Sunday, many major policy bills and fiscal initiatives are likely to be approved.

A new capital gains tax of 7% appears to be heading to the Governor who is expected to approve it. Speculation is that a court challenge will ensue and the measure’s constitutionality will be decided by the state Supreme Court.

Two major environmental tax proposals are likely to pass and be signed by the Governor. The cap and trade and a low carbon fuel standard – both bills will significantly increase the cost of fuel substantially and hurt lower income Washingtonians.

A major, 16-year, $15 billion transportation tax and spending package was awaiting House approval at the writing of this article. It includes everything from a 10 cents per gallon gas tax increase (yes on top of the other two gas tax increase bills) to a tax on auto parts and accessories. Again, this package is extremely regressive, hurting lower wage earners the most; people who often drive older, less fuel-efficient vehicles for further distances.

A bill to decriminalize all drug possessions of any substance – stemming from a court decision – is likely to be enacted. What could this do to employer/employee relationships?

Unemployment insurance relief of $500 million hopefully will be approved soon and provide some targeted relief to businesses struggling to overcome the coronavirus pandemic and its effects.

A two-year operating budget that spends all our reserves and sets us up for budget shortfalls in the future is all but certain – even considering higher-than-expected revenue increases and lower state expenses.

No matter how you look at it – this will be a session for the record books. It is anticipated the Legislature will adjourn on time – Sunday, April 25 – the 105th day of the session.