Author Archives: kimberlywirtz

Inslee vetoes show troubling lack of accountability

By kimberlywirtz | Published on May 18, 2023

Senate Republican leader disappointed with snub of special education


OLYMPIA…Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed 20 provisos in the 2023-25 operating budget this week, including some that would have improved government accountability. Senate Republican Leader John Braun released comments in response to the governor vetoing the following items:

  • Requirement for the Department of Social and Human Services to notify residents when placing sexually violent predators released from McNeil Island into their communities
  • Special Education Performance Audit, which was designed to look, at least in part, at how districts were accounting for and spending special education funding
  • Performance measurement requirements for the Washington State Health Care Authority and its provision of Medicaid
  • Housing Supply and Affordability Task Force, which had been a Senate Republican priority
  • Savings to be realized through reform in state leasing costs and office space usage

“It’s very disappointing that the governor vetoed provisions that would have addressed accountability and transparency in state government. Unfortunately, it’s consistent with the long history of mismanagement that is the hallmark of his term as governor. Job one should be providing responsible expectations and guidance to his agencies.

“Eliminating a requirement for DSHS to notify people when dangerous sex predators are released into their communities is irresponsible. People should not be kept in the dark about convicted violent rapists and child molesters moving into their neighborhood. They deserve to know if some of the worst criminals in our society are moving in next door.

“The governor has talked a lot about trusting data these last few years. So how is it that he eliminated a performance audit that would have gathered data about the current state of special education funding? The findings would have helped the state spend millions in new funding where it’s needed most. Special education services have been chronically underfunded and the best way to ensure the needs of these children are met is to find out how we are failing them now. The governor should want the transparency this audit would have provided. He should also want the state to be held accountable for how it has shortchanged children who need extra support. Similarly, his veto of the proviso to define performance expectations for the Health Care Authority’s provision of Medicaid is irresponsible.

“Inslee’s veto of a Republican priority – a task force that would have worked on increasing the supply of housing people can afford – is further evidence that the governor puts politics over people. He eliminated another entity that would have had oversight of the state’s actions and could have advised on the best way to spend money for affordable housing. It’s a huge missed opportunity.”

Legislature passes ‘workable’ drug-possession compromise

By kimberlywirtz | Published on May 16, 2023

OLYMPIA…The Washington State Legislature passed a compromise bill on the possession of hard drugs such as fentanyl today during a one-day special session. Senate Republican Leader John Braun and House Republican Leader Drew Stokesbary provided the following comments in response:

“This bill isn’t perfect, but it is a strong step in the right direction and addresses major shortcomings in the law that has proven to be such a failure these past two years. This policy will provide opportunities to those who seek treatment for drug addiction and hold accountable those who refuse it. It will help our loved ones and neighbors get the treatment they need to survive. It was disappointing that the Legislature couldn’t get to this point in the 105-day legislative session, especially because of how many people are overdosing and dying in the street. But we applaud everyone involved in the negotiations for their dedication to finding a workable solution. Public safety has been the top priority for Republicans this session. Allowing the legalization of hard drugs was never an option for us. Those with substance-use disorder and the people who love them and pray for their recovery needed this bill. We simply had to do better.”

Joint statement: Braun and Stokesbary comment on end to Inslee’s vaccine mandate

By kimberlywirtz | Published on May 10, 2023

Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that he will rescind requirements related to COVID-19 vaccination for state employees. House Republican Leader Drew Stokesbary and Senate Republican Leader John Braun released the following statement in response to the governor’s directive:

“Just as Governor Inslee was slow to end his COVID state of emergency, he’s been equally behind the times in ending this discriminatory vaccination mandate. Republican legislative leaders called on the governor to take this step more than 14 months ago. It’s as though he finally made the connection between his vaccine requirement and the great difficulty our state agencies are having with filling vacancies.

“This mandate went too far from the start. It cost many state employees their careers and livelihoods. Republicans warned there could be problems and recommended a more pragmatic approach. The governor went ahead anyway with one of the most extreme policies in the nation. Everyone has seen the staffing shortages and disruptions in state services caused by his unilateral decision – especially at Washington State Ferries and the Washington State Patrol.

“Around 1,900 state employees were either terminated or left their jobs due to the governor’s shortsighted approach. There are more than 1,550 state positions vacant today. If any of these experienced former public servants are still willing to return to state government, after Governor Inslee showed them the door, they should receive priority when applying and should receive pension service credit for the months when they were barred from their prior employment. House Bill 1814 was introduced this year with these goals in mind.

“This also calls into question the governor’s choice to agree to $1,000 vaccine-booster incentive payments for state employees. Those could cost taxpayers $50 million – money that would be better put toward something like helping K-12 students recover from the pandemic-related learning loss so many have suffered. It’s fiscally irresponsible and shows how misguided his priorities are.”

Learn more:

  1. State Rep. Corry, KC Councilmember Dunn team up to help those fired over vaccine mandates | House Bill 1814 | February 14, 2023
  2. Follow Oregon’s example – end state-employee vaccine mandate, say Republican leaders | March 4, 2022
  3. Republican leaders oppose vaccine mandate for the private sector | November 6, 2021
  4. Republican leaders: Today’s vaccine deadline threatens critical services, public safety | October 18, 2021
  5. Letter to Gov. Jay Inslee on opposition to vaccine mandates, concerns with labor shortages | August 20, 2021


Hard-fought battles further top Republican priorities

By kimberlywirtz | Published on April 23, 2023

OLYMPIASenate Republican Leader John Braun released the following statement after the 2023 Washington State Legislature adjourned after a 105-day legislative session.

“Republicans have a lot to be proud of this year. We were able to address each of our top priorities: public safety, affordability and education. We had some big disappointments as well, but we fought hard. We were able to pass some important legislation and prevent some bad legislation from moving forward.”

Public Safety

“Public safety wasn’t a top priority just for Republicans. It was the top priority for Washingtonians, by a wide margin. Our communities are plagued with homelessness, violent crime, drug abuse, auto theft, and retail theft. Some have said that they feel as if they are under siege. Yet Democrats pushed legislation that would lower the penalties for criminals and ignored the pleas of victims’ families. While we did pass a bill that expands the list of crimes where the standard for police pursuit is ‘reasonable suspicion’ instead of ‘probable cause,’ the standard does not apply to auto theft or reckless driving. It’s only a half-step in the right direction. And it was opposed by law enforcement and the mother of a young girl who died after being hit by a stolen truck. She testified that the legislation would not have saved her daughter.

“Sadly, the House Democrats aggressively fought against a bipartisan compromise on the bill to address the use and possession of hard drugs. Instead, they pushed a version of the bill that law enforcement has said is worse than passing no bill at all. Fortunately, it failed because it prevents cities and counties from taking a more assertive anti-drug approach.”


“The people’s next top concern was the dramatic increases in the cost of living and our shortage of affordable housing. Fortunately, we were able to stop some outrageous tax increases, including one that would have hit taxpayers with a $12 billion increase in property taxes over the next 10 years and another that would tax drivers by the mile. These would have disproportionately harmed middle and lower-income families, just as the shortage of affordable housing has. We made great strides in zoning and permitting reform that will increase buildable land and make it easier to builders to increase the supply of housing so more people can become homeowners.”


“I have said many times that the high level of learning loss suffered by Washington’s school children is the equity issue of our time because it has increased the learning gap, leaving children of color and those in lower-income families further behind. I’m very disappointed that the $70 million allocated in the Senate budget proposal to close that gap was absent from the final budget. That’s a huge disservice to our kids.

“I am glad, however, that the budget includes $800 million over four years to enhance special education programs. Republicans have fought for five years for more special education funding because the kids receiving those services deserve better than they’ve been getting.”


Braun praises work of outgoing House Republican Leader Wilcox

By kimberlywirtz | Published on 

OLYMPIA… Senate Republican Leader John Braun offered this comment following Rep. J.T. Wilcox’s announcement today that he is stepping down as House Republican leader, a position he has held since March 2018:

“Representative Wilcox and I have similar experiences as legislators, from when we were elected and our budget-committee backgrounds to when we became leaders of our respective caucuses. In the course of working together during our annual sessions and at other times of the year, I’ve seen the unique challenges he has faced and appreciate how he has handled them with grace, conviction and his trademark good-natured humor.

“I could not have asked for a better legislative ally than Representative Wilcox. He and I also have become great friends outside of the Legislature, and as his friend I’m glad he is making this decision on his own timeline. I’ll miss working with him in a leadership capacity but I recognize the demands that go with being a caucus leader. He leaves that position having made the House Republican Caucus a stronger group of leaders than it was five years ago, and has set the bar high for his successor.”

Wilcox, R-Yelm, is in his seventh term serving Washington’s 2nd Legislative District and will continue in that position.

Bill to expand standard for vehicular pursuit “simply not enough,” says Senate Republican Leader

By kimberlywirtz | Published on April 17, 2023

 OLYMPIA… Senate Republican Leader John Braun today provided the following comments after the Senate’s narrow passage of legislation that is a half-step toward letting law-enforcement officers engage in vehicular pursuits in more situations than Washington law has allowed since 2021.

Senate Bill 5352 was passed with a 26-22 vote, representing the mixed feelings about the bill on both sides of the aisle. Some law enforcement organizations and victims’ families have said the final version of the bill does not do enough to protect the public. Sen. Braun agrees.

“As I’ve said before, SB 5352 is only a half-step in the right direction. And, while I appreciate that the majority allowed a pursuit-reform bill to pass the Legislature, I am disappointed that certain legislators, through their own hubris, posed such an enormous barrier to improving public safety.

“Democrats continue to frame this argument with a false choice between protecting life vs protecting property. It’s all about protecting life. They are the ones quoting bad data and ignoring the experiences of the police and victims who have shared their stories. And that’s a dereliction of duty.

“I believe our law-enforcement officers are trained and capable of making good choices regarding pursuits and should be trusted to do so. The majority’s maneuvering on this issue demonstrates a clear lack of trust in the police, which has been part of a larger assault against law enforcement. And we are all suffering because of it. Crime is out of control. The police need more tools, not fewer.

“Despite SB 5352 being inadequate, I know my Democratic colleagues will say they acted on pursuit-reform. I voted no because SB 5352 is simply not enough. This is not over. Republicans will continue to fight for additional pursuit reform. We must do better.”


Senate Bill 5770 – the property tax increase on EVERYONE

By kimberlywirtz | Published on April 14, 2023

20 Senate Democrats think your property taxes are too low, so they have sponsored Senate Bill 5770.

It would triple the growth rate of state and local property taxes by increasing the cap from 1% to 3%. In just six  years, it would cost taxpayers $4.1 billion.


Read the Department of Revenue’s fiscal note for SB 5770


Bottom line: The amount of revenue this generates is enormous compared to the recent ‘Move Ahead Washington’ transportation package.   


  1. 6-year estimate: Increase property taxes by $4.1 billion
    1. FY 24:    $108 million ($48 million state & $60 million local)
    2. FY 25:    $322 million ($143 million & $179 million)
    3. FY 26:   $548 million ($245 million & $303 million)
    4. FY 27:   $786 million ($353 million & $433 million)
    5. FY 28:   $1.045 billion ($469 million & $571 million)
    6. FY 29:   $1.312 billion ($593 million & $719 million)


  1. Every year about an additional $250 million more is collected than the prior year (note: this delta will grow over time)


  1. 10-year estimate:  $12 billion increase in property taxes over current law
    1. By law, OFM will have to produce a 10-year fiscal impact estimate on this bill
    2. With the growth rates shown above, the I-960 10-year  estimate should show a roughly $12 billion impact over 10 years (through fiscal year 33)


  1. 16-year estimate (which is time frame transportation budget writers used in describing their 2022 package):  $31 billion increase in property taxes over current law
    1. By comparison, transportation’s ‘Move Ahead Washington’ was a $17 billion package
    2. The $31 billion estimate is likely a conservative projection, estimating only a $250 million per year increase to revenues in out years



Washingtonians already have a comparatively high tax burden


Per DOR’s annual comparative tax report, Washingtonians have the 13th highest state and local tax burden per capita in the country at $6,220 a year in taxes paid per person.  Our immediate neighbors?  Oregon ($5,234) and Idaho ($4,164).

Indeed, the median state, New Hampshire, clocks in at $5,154, meaning Washingtonians pay over $1,000 more a year than the median state in taxes.



The 1% Limit was approved by Voters in 2001


See map below for the county-by-county vote. The Supreme Court overturned the initiative in 2007 on a 5-4 vote on grounds that it was ambiguous and misleading, but the Legislature re-enacted the law in a special session later that month.

Government Revenue Growth Over Last Decade


Over last 10 years (2012-21):

  1. State revenue:  6.5% avg annual growth
  2. Five largest cities:  6.5% avg annual growth
  3. 30 largest cities:  6.1% avg annual growth
  4. Counties:  5.7% avg annual growth


Inflation average (2012-21):

  • Implicit Price Deflator (IPD) = 1.6% avg annual growth
  • Consumer Price Index (CPI)  = 2.4% avg annual growth

Braun to Inslee: “Do your job or go home”

By kimberlywirtz | Published on 

Gov. Inslee proposed a $4 billion housing plan and he’s critical of the Senate operating budget proposal because it spends $400 million. The governor likes to use a clever tag line for his approach, saying, “We need to go big so people can go home.”

What the governor doesn’t say is that the $4 billion would be paid for by exceeding the state’s debt limit, and would result in taxpayers having to pay $2.4 billion in interest.

In this week’s Republican media availability, Sen. Braun was asked to address the governor’s criticism. Simply put, Sen. Braun told Gov. Jay Inslee, “Do your job or go home!”

The governor’s plan relies on an unreasonable request and a slogan. But what else can we expect from a leader under whose watch we have seen one gubernatorial and executive agency failure after another. The lowlights:

During his time in the governor’s office, Republicans held the majority in the Senate for five years. We have not held the majority in the Legislature. These failures fall squarely at his feet.