Author Archives: ericcampbell

Don’t count on Democrats for relief from high prices

By ericcampbell | Published on October 20, 2022

At the risk of dating myself, I was a young mother right around the last time the inflation rate in our state was like it is now… very high and skyrocketing!

I know what it’s like to do the dollar-stretching and prioritizing that has suddenly become a necessity for today’s younger generation, especially parents. I remember paying what were then record gas prices (when stations had gas to sell – sometimes they ran out due to short supplies) and how the high cost of borrowing put a first-home purchase out of reach for many. Those experiences have much to do with why I’m a fiscal conservative today.

More to the point, I get how many young moms are now struggling to afford necessities, and how that affects their children. As gas prices go up, it doesn’t just cost more to drive to the grocery store; you get less food for your dollar than a year ago because truckers, farmers and ranchers are also paying more for gas. Then there’s the higher cost of transporting your kids to the sports and extra-curricular activities they’re eager to do after being restricted by the pandemic for so long.

I get how the affordability crisis is even harder on Washington parents who are single-income, live in rural areas, or both. Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight to the rising gas and food and housing and energy bills, and no sign that legislators on the Democratic side of the aisle also “get” the pain being felt by people they’re supposed to be representing.

In June a new state revenue forecast showed Olympia is still rolling in taxpayer dollars. As a member of the forecast council, I spoke up again about how legislators should help the people of Washington contend with high prices for everything. Nope, said the Democrats on the council, they would only look at “targeted investments.” Gosh, even California is giving out tax refunds!

What? In January, after gas prices had already climbed 42% in one year due to Biden administration policies, I had co-sponsored legislation to temporarily suspend the state gas tax. We’re talking an immediate reduction of 49.4 cents per gallon – and this was before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. That would have been a targeted investment, and the state treasury had more than enough money to cover it. Democrats refused.

A 3-day break from charging sales tax in early September, to help parents with school-related purchases, would have been a targeted investment. Same for the Senate Republican proposal to end the sales tax on diapers. Democrats said no. As a prominent Democrat seems to enjoy saying… C’mon, man!

Wait, it gets worse. Over the past two years our Democratic colleagues and Governor Inslee have found new ways to make fuel prices go up in the future. Under those laws, none of that extra cost will go toward maintaining the roads we all use.

If Democrats cared how high prices for gas, food, housing and energy are causing so many in our state to struggle, we gave them enough chances this year to show it. Apparently, letting single moms and other parents keep more of their own money, so they can try to afford those high costs, doesn’t qualify as a targeted investment. So… what and who exactly is their target?

When I was a young mom, there was no internet or social media to help me see how government’s actions, or lack of action, affected my ability to provide for my daughters. It’s much easier for today’s parents to figure out when government is being greedy and heartless. Last month, the leader of the Senate Democrats claimed tax relief will be on the table in 2023. After all the times they flat out said no this year, who believes that?

— Sen. Lynda Wilson

Inslee’s state of emergency at 900 days and counting… but why?

By ericcampbell | Published on August 17, 2022

August 17, 2022

Once upon a time, Governor Inslee spoke of “data” and “science” when defending pandemic-related decisions he made with the self-granted authority that came with proclaiming a state of emergency.

Around 16 months into the state of emergency a reporter asked the governor, in so many words, if state law gave him too much emergency power. Inslee replied with the absurd, I’m-like-Tom-Brady comparison. That was followed this past fall by his self-congratulatory singlehandedly-saving-lives comment.

A month ago, as Inslee’s state of emergency passed day 850, he told an Axios reporter it would end only “when it’s no longer useful for the health of Washingtonians.” In an editorial published yesterday by The Seattle Times, an Inslee spokesman acknowledges a similarly subjective measurement, admitting it’s “not so much a standard metric as it is a judgment based on the opinions of the governor’s advisers, agencies and other partners.”

Hold on – when did the governor decide opinions trump science? So much for data and metrics and transparency.

Today is day 900. To quote a report this week in The Atlantic magazine, the latest COVID guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control are “the closest the nation’s leaders have come to saying the coronavirus crisis is done.”

The governor’s office, meanwhile, has decided the state of emergency will continue at least another 70-plus days – or more than 970 days in all. That’s the practical effect of his recent decision to let a batch of emergency proclamations expire October 27.

Washington law allows a state of emergency to be proclaimed when a “public disorder, disaster, energy emergency, or riot” is found to exist. I don’t see an energy emergency or a riot or public disorder. True, Inslee’s decisions were a disaster to residents of long-term care facilities, especially early in the pandemic. The same is true for Washington’s K-12 students – although findings published yesterday by the non-partisan Washington Policy Center suggest the word “disaster” isn’t strong enough. But those are not the kind of disaster referenced in the law.

Does Inslee see something the rest of us can’t see, that justifies his foot-dragging? I doubt it, but the 900-day mark is a good time for him to shoot straight with the people of our state.

To be fair, the legislative branch shares responsibility for this situation. It could have given itself the authority to oversee all of the governor’s emergency proclamations. Instead, it has abdicated its role as serve as a check on the executive branch by failing to approve sensible proposals like our SB 5943.

I don’t hear as many complaints these days about Inslee’s emergency authority. Still, he can unilaterally control the lives of millions of people with the stroke of a pen. Although the governor told Axios it’s doubtful he will reimpose mask mandates or close businesses or schools, he also acknowledged “anything is possible.” That is cause for concern.

By now people know how to live with the COVID-19 virus. They deserve to know why Inslee thinks the COVID situation still warrants a state of emergency.

The governor can proclaim another emergency should it truly be necessary; it’s past time for this one to be over.

— Senator Lynda Wilson, 17th District

Where is the ‘equity’ for victims of crime?

By ericcampbell | Published on August 08, 2022

— August 8, 2022

It was apparent then, and is even more apparent today: The 2021 legislative session really pushed our state in the wrong direction.

Governor Inslee and others who longed for a state income tax finally got their way.

Hard drugs were essentially legalized. Even worse, it was done in a way that puts treatment farther out of the reach of those who would likely benefit.

Lawmakers who decided they knew better than trained law-enforcement officers imposed limits on policing that have done nothing to slow a rise in violent crimes while enabling a record spike in vehicle thefts.

Inslee’s crusade to force people into EVs became a fuel-standard law that will make gas and diesel more expensive without generating a dime to make Washington roads safer and more efficient.

Now another mistake from 2021 is in the spotlight: the passage of SB 5164, titled “Resentencing of individuals sentenced as a persistent offender due to a robbery in the second degree conviction.”

As reported in The Columbian recently, this policy change undermined the state’s popular, voter-approved “three strikes” law in a way that is likely to let a Clark County child-killer escape from his life-without-parole sentence and instead gain an eventual shot at freedom.

The now-retired lead detective from that 2005 child-murder case told the newspaper something that really stood out to me.

“The question should be: Do the legislators think of the consequences of their actions on the victims? They’re looking at fairness and equity, but we are forgetting our victims.”

He’s right. State government’s recent emphasis on “equity” has been ethnicity- and identity-based to the exclusion of other communities.

I maintain that the severe racial and economic disparities created by remote schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic are the number-one equity issue of our time. Despite all the talk about equity in education – the subject of another bill passed in 2021 – it’s hard to get anyone to look into that. Certainly not Inslee, based on this veto.

If not for the children who are victims of government-driven, pandemic-related disparities, the number-one question about equity could rightfully be: Where is the fairness and equity for victims of crime in our state?

Why all the Democrat disinformation about suspending gas tax?

By ericcampbell | Published on June 23, 2022

For a guy who recently wanted to criminalize certain false statements, Gov. Jay Inslee certainly seems to have no qualms about spreading disinformation himself.

It happened again Wednesday, after the new state revenue forecast had me and our Senate Republican budget leader repeating our call for a temporary suspension of the state gas tax. Here was Inslee’s response, as provided by a spokesperson and published in multiple news outlets:

“As for the idea of temporarily suspending the state gas tax, the oil companies would be the ones to benefit from yet another opportunity to pocket more profit at the expense of our ability to put people to work fixing our roads and bridges…”

Is the governor confusing the Republican proposal (Senate Bill 5897) with the three-month gas-tax holiday the Biden administration finally suggested, also on Wednesday? After all, the Biden plan apparently doesn’t protect against oil-company profiteering and could cut into federal transportation spending.

No, we’ve heard this… malarkey, as President Biden would call it… from the governor before. From Inslee’s May 18 press conference:

We don’t think giving oil companies more profits with less money to fix our roads is the right answer to this problem.”

Anyone who reads SB 5897 can see it contains anti-profiteering safeguards to ensure pump prices are lowered, while preserving funding for state transportation investments. Also, the state gas tax is 49.4 cents per gallon, nearly triple the 18.4 cents of federal gas tax. Our idea, which could be quickly enacted in a one-day virtual special session, would save much more money for a longer period than the Biden idea.

On March 8, just before the 2022 legislative session ended, Republicans made a motion to bring this legislation before the Senate for consideration. A gallon of regular gas in our state had just hit an average price of $4.45. The senator making that motion said this about the bill:

“It is not a paycheck to gas companies, the bill ensures that doesn’t occur. And it does not take away from other transportation priorities, as it transfers funds from the general fund. Rather, this is actually a reminder that the gas tax is an extremely regressive tax, one that affects those in the middle- and lower-income categories… and so this is a way… to give those families the relief they deserve, especially as gas prices are continuing to rise.”

Democratic senators were warned, by their own leadership, that voting to consider the bill would force them to stay longer at the Capitol. They fell into line and rejected the opportunity to extend immediate relief. The average cost of a gallon has climbed more than a dollar since then.

I’m guessing the governor is just fine with high fuel prices. After all, he has a taxpayer-provided car and driver and doesn’t feel the pain at the pump like the rest of us. But more to the point, anyone who disdains fossil fuel as much as Inslee likely views $5 gas with joy, thinking it will push people toward mass transit and electrified transportation.

Don’t expect Inslee to admit that, however – a pesky news reporter might start asking rank-and-file Democratic state lawmakers whether they side with the no-relief governor or with their constituents, who are looking for relief. I doubt those legislators would appreciate being put on the spot.

So instead, the governor has resorted to spreading disinformation. Maybe it’s willful, maybe he simply doesn’t understand our proposal. Maybe it’s both. Whatever the reason, I caution the people of Washington and the watchdogs in the news media to look out for it.

– Senate Republican Leader John Braun

STATEMENT — Republican leaders: Call special session to fix or repeal long-term care tax before tax collections begin

By ericcampbell | Published on December 22, 2021

Governor’s delay of ‘Washington Cares’ tax won’t prevent January deductions from paychecks

OLYMPIA…In response to new information about how the governor’s delay of the long-term care tax won’t stop tax collections in January, Senate Republican Leader John Braun of Centralia and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm issued this statement:

“The governor’s announcement last week that the ‘Washington Cares’ long-term care tax would be delayed led everyone to believe that the tax would not be collected from their paychecks come January. State employees received notice that only those who have already been granted an exemption to the program will not have the tax deducted. Otherwise, the tax will be collected as originally planned. How is this a delay? How has the governor helped matters? He hasn’t. The governor’s announcement changed nothing. The only thing it did was publicly acknowledge that the program is a mess.

“We need to go into a special session before the state begins collecting the tax and repeal this bill – even if it’s over the holidays, using virtual technology to meet on short notice. The program is so unpopular that more than 400,000 Washingtonians applied for an exemption and thousands of others want out but couldn’t get a private policy before the deadline. Why? Because the way the law is written drove insurance carriers to pull out of Washington.

“Under the current law, it is legally questionable if anyone who has the money deducted from their paycheck won’t receive it back – not even if they are granted an exemption. People are angry. The governor stands to make them even angrier if he fails to have the legislative branch address this before January 1.”

Governor, you’re no Tom Brady

By ericcampbell | Published on July 12, 2021

July 12, 2021

The governor’s use of football metaphors when speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic got old a long time ago, but he really fumbled recently by equating his administration’s pandemic response with winning the Super Bowl. Good grief.

Has Governor Inslee forgotten about Suzi LeVine? Countless Washington families suffered because he drafted her for the wrong reason and failed to bench her when her agency lost a billion dollars to fraudsters. That fiasco alone debunks his “won the Super Bowl” remark.

Wait, there’s more. Try 175,000 fewer people employed today in our state than before the pandemic, according to the agency LeVine formerly headed. More businesses closed in Washington (many permanently) than 45 other states. Our state being worse than 46 others for in-person instruction during the past school year. Tremendous harm to students’ mental health, with 1 in 5 contemplating suicide in the past 12 months. A substantial jump in drug-overdose deaths, far exceeding COVID deaths for the under-60 age group during the same period.

Won the Super Bowl? Not hardly. With stats like that, Inslee should also ease up on the “we’ve saved thousands of lives” comments he tosses out regularly.

As the pandemic grew, and Inslee issued emergency orders that ruined livelihoods and restricted freedoms, legislators’ offices were deluged with concerns from people who couldn’t believe the executive branch of government had so much control. Republicans did everything possible to involve the legislative branch, but the majority Democrats refused to join us, and no one legislator’s “bully pulpit” is as large as the governor’s. To this day we hear from folks who don’t realize Republican legislators had no part in acquiescing to Inslee, and don’t know how heavily the emergency-powers laws are stacked against our branch of government.

Another governor might have promised, as a sign of goodwill, to end the state of emergency as soon as possible. Another governor might have acknowledged the law gives his office more emergency power than it needs, and pledged to support reforms.

Not Inslee. He’s ended not one but two news conferences after a reporter dared ask when the state of emergency would end. He basically scoffed at the idea of reforming the emergency-powers law in making that ineloquent “won the Super Bowl” comment.

Translation: I’m just fine with having all this power indefinitely, thank you very much. Now move along.

I’m reminded of a verbal shot Inslee took at former President Trump, early in the pandemic, after being told the federal government would be the “backup” for states as they responded.

“We don’t need a backup. We need a Tom Brady,” Inslee told Trump.

With those self-congratulatory comments about saving lives and winning the big game, is Inslee styling himself as the Tom Brady of our state?

The pandemic never was a game. It isn’t over. But it is time for the governor to tell the people when the emergency will be over. Inslee is no Tom Brady, but he should be able to do that much.

— Senator Ann Rivers, Republican Caucus Chair

Want a truly representative Legislature? Get involved in redistricting

By ericcampbell | Published on June 18, 2021

“It’s Seattle’s state now in politics, and everybody else is living in it,” read the headline of a newspaper column published soon after this year’s legislative session ended. “There’s no question that what just went down at the statehouse marked a political breakthrough of sorts — for the progressive left,” the columnist wrote.

The column overlooks the fact that plenty of people living in Seattle don’t view themselves as being on the political left, much less the “progressive left.” You wonder: Do they feel their views were well-represented at the Capitol?

This year, people concerned about their representation in Olympia and the “other Washington” have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to speak up. The state’s redistricting commission is holding a series of public meetings to decide what our legislative and congressional districts should look like for the next 10 years.

As people move into, out of, or within Washington, the populations within our 49 legislative and 10 congressional districts fluctuate. Since 1991, a redistricting commission has met each year ending in “1” to shrink, expand or shift district boundaries based on the latest federal census results. The goal, to quote the state constitution, is to make each district’s population “as nearly equal as practicable to the population of any other district.”

In more than 2/3rds of the states, redistricting is handled directly by legislators, leaving the door open to partisanship and “gerrymandering.” Washington left that behind in 1983, when our voters put the primary responsibility for redistricting in the hands of an independent commission.

The commission has four voting members – two appointed by Republican legislative leaders, and two by Democratic legislative leaders. At least three of the four must support the new boundaries, and when their work is submitted to the Legislature for a vote, no further changes may be made without agreement from at least 2/3rds of the Senate and House.

The commission’s plans, which the constitution declares “shall not be drawn purposely to favor or discriminate against any political party or group,” must be completed by Nov. 15. People have the option of submitting comments by email, mail, phone, video or through a webform, in addition to the public meetings.

A newspaper report about the June 14 public meeting, which focused on the Third Congressional District and the associated legislative districts, detailed how concerns about representation were a central theme. “If your politics don’t align with your district’s, then your voice isn’t heard,” a Clark County resident told the commissioners.

The two commission members appointed by Republicans are former legislators, who served in bipartisan delegations from their respective districts. I trust them to listen to the people – but that can happen only if the people speak. Be part of this important democratic process. Visit the redistricting commission website and get involved!

— Senate Republican Leader John Braun

The state Redistricting Commission’s next public outreach meetings will be Tuesday, June 22, regarding the boundaries of the 2nd Congressional District, the 10th Congressional District and the legislative districts contained within them. Click on this web page for details.

 

Republican leaders again call on Gov. Jay Inslee to fully reopen the state

By ericcampbell | Published on June 01, 2021

House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox and Senate Republican Leader John Braun released the following statement today:

“We are calling on Governor Inslee to fully reopen the state immediately. He had left the door open to a reopening before June 30, and we viewed June 15 as a more appropriate target. Now, with vaccination rates continuing to increase, new CDC guidance and other states showing the way, we no longer see a need to wait two more weeks, and certainly not another month. The time to move our state forward is now. Washingtonians want to return to a sense of normalcy and businesses need more certainty as they attempt to recover.

“It is also time for the governor to end the state of emergency he declared nearly 460 days ago – and with it, the executive-branch overreach and controversial mandates, like the recent proof-of-vaccination decision from Labor and Industries. Our families, employers and workers deserve better. Unfortunately, the failure of legislative Democrats to even consider emergency-powers reform has led us to where we are at today. The only solution left now is for the emergency to be over.”

Surprise! Majority looks to abdicate a basic role of the legislative branch

By ericcampbell | Published on January 13, 2021
John Braun

I can’t tell you how many people contacted my Senate office during the past nine-plus months about the unprecedented actions Governor Inslee has taken since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them, using words that made their frustration or desperation obvious, asked what legislators could do regarding the dozens of proclamations he’s made since declaring a state of emergency.

We asked our constituents to stand by patiently while we tried month after month to convince the governor to call a special legislative session. Republicans made a strong case that the legislative branch could do much to help with pandemic relief, but as everyone knows by now, Inslee resisted.

No one expected our Democrat colleagues to join in pushing for a special session – not during the many months that Inslee was campaigning for re-election. It eventually became clear Republicans would have to wait for our regular legislative session, when the governor could no longer get in the way.

With 26 of Inslee’s temporary proclamations set to expire in January, Republicans were prepared for the full legislative branch to perform its duty as a check on the executive branch, for the first time during this pandemic.

The majority Democrats had a surprise for us. They’ve proposed Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402, which would bundle those 26 emergency orders and extend them “until the termination of the state of emergency…or until rescinded by gubernatorial or legislative action.” In other words, no more legislative oversight. The majority says it’ll bring the legislation to a vote sometime today.

Considering how the governor’s proclamations affect the entire state, it’s reasonable to conclude Democrat legislators have heard the same frustration and desperation from their constituents as Republican legislators have. I’d have expected they also had some misgivings about being relegated to the sidelines by Governor Inslee.

Assuming SCR 8402 passes as filed, however, it would seem Democrat lawmakers are as willing to relegate themselves to the sidelines as the governor was – even if that means betraying constituents who have waited months for their concerns to be taken to the Capitol.

Or, to continue the “sidelines” theme, the legislative branch finally has possession of the football for the first time in months, yet the majority Democrats have decided to punt on first down and give the ball back to the executive branch.

It makes you wonder what the next 102 days will bring.

— Senate Republican Leader John Braun

Positive revenue forecast doesn’t reduce need for special legislative session, says Braun

By ericcampbell | Published on November 18, 2020

OLYMPIA… While this year’s final forecast of state-government revenues for 2020 shows an increase of $634 million for the current two-year budget cycle, Sen. John Braun says the news masks serious concerns about the state economy that require attention from the Legislature ahead of its 2021 session.

Braun, R-Centralia, who is Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and a member of the state Economic Revenue and Forecast Council, offered this statement after the council adopted today’s forecast:

“Sometimes a positive revenue forecast is a cause for celebration, or at least a sigh of relief, but not this time – not when so many employers and families have been set back by the governor’s throwback response to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

“Today’s forecast indicates we will no longer have to look at tapping the rainy-day fund to offset a projected budget deficit. That’s certainly helpful but it should not overshadow the concern we ought to have about the long-term health of our economy – specifically the thousands of employers across our state who have just been forced to close or severely reduce their business activity for the second time this year. Small businesses are the cornerstone of a state economy that has supported an unprecedented 40 percent in government spending over the past four years. It’s time for government to give back. The Legislature should be in a special session right now, because there are many actions we could take to help employers survive and lay the groundwork for an economic recovery next year. We can start by directing the 300 million dollars of remaining CARES funds toward the employers hit hardest by the governor’s restrictions. The regular session in January will simply be too late, and we also can’t count on additional federal help.

“In May, Republicans began making a strong case for a special legislative session. We understand what employers need if they are to have a chance of surviving the pandemic and the governor’s response to it. Instead, the governor has continued to cling to governing by proclamation and ‘guidance’ developed behind closed doors. Recently his office went so far as to deny, falsely, that we have put many ideas on the table worthy of legislative consideration. This is not how the people expect their government to function. The pandemic is clearly too large for one branch of government, and this new shutdown is causing many families to feel a bad sense of déjà vu this week. Those of us who are elected to serve the people can and should do better.”

Click here to view the TVW video of today’s council meeting.

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