Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The new coronavirus has changed all our lives in ways we never imagined. Me, my friends and family, my neighbors – we're all ready for this to be over. But we need to be careful in how we proceed. I agreed with the governor's first steps of isolation and quarantine. They were necessary at the time and with the information we had to go on.
Speaking of the governor's actions…
Some people across the state have expressed frustration over the governor's stay at home orders. I understand, believe me. We're all going through something none of us have ever gone through before and never thought we would. If you want to learn more about the emergency powers the governor has and the legality of his actions, click here to read the specific RCW. You can also check out this Q and A section that may clarify questions you have.
Where are we headed?
But now it's time to think about the next steps. What does it look like to trust the people with social distancing, wearing masks and being mindful of others? What does a regional approach to opening our economy look like? While I'm glad the governor is finally allowing some outdoor activities like fishing, hunting and golf, along with some construction activities, we need to be thinking about a gradual, regional opening of our economy.
Safe restart plan…
I've been working behind the scenes with business leaders, the governor's staff, and other elected officials to get Washington working again. We introduced our Legislative Republicans' Safe Economic Restart Plan two weeks ago before the governor even mentioned his plan for opening Washington's economy. Here are a few highlights:
- Convene a Restart Task Force comprising legislative leaders, relevant executive-branch directors and representatives of the business and organized-labor communities.
- This group will chart a course toward allowing all Washington businesses to reopen, on a phased or limited basis as necessary, with COVID-19 protections for workers and customers in place.
- Fully disclose the “metrics” that must be met before the business-closure order can be lifted or amended. Knowing the standards will allow the people of Washington to act accordingly.
- Deliver on the massive testing capabilities promised by state health officials ahead of the business-closure order. Direct the appropriate state agencies to acquire antibody tests and work with employers to screen workers. Workers found to have the antibodies resulting from the COVID-19 infection will be immediately eligible for employment.
- Interface with the governor's Business Recovery Legislative Task Force and be prepared to support recommendations that are achievable, measurable and complementary.
- Exempt small businesses from paying sales and B&O taxes for one year.
- Offer state-government assistance to the many small businesses in Washington that do not qualify for federal emergency-assistance programs.
- A moratorium on all state-agency rulemaking not related to the current crisis. Rules are important, but at a time when many businesses are simply trying to survive, the making of new rules seems less than essential. Relief from rulemaking goes hand-in-hand with relief from taxes.
- Allow operations to resume in economic sectors that fit one or more of these criteria: low-risk, personal health, environmental protection, aid to elderly/physically challenged, alternate quarantine locations, assisting businesses with tax-related requirements, or property protection.
- Examples are auto dealers, solo landscape services, car washes, remodeling companies/contractors, residential construction, hairdressers/barbers, flower shops, RV parks, dentists, installers of home/commercial security systems, and accountants/tax preparers.
Click here for more information about our restart plan, which is certainly a work in progress. It will change as new information is revealed and will be based on regional and statewide data.
We continue working with the governor and his staff to emphasize that many rural areas in central and eastern Washington have not been hit as hard as western Washington. We need to be mindful of those in veterans' homes and senior care facilities, and those with underlying health issues, but we also need to be mindful of the families and individuals who are going on two months without a paycheck. I believe government closest to the people usually makes the best decisions. I've spoken to many of our county commissioners and firmly believe they are fully capable of implementing a plan that gets people back to work while protecting the most vulnerable. It's possible to have a decentralized plan the allows counties to make certain decisions rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Budget problems on the horizon…
The latest unofficial report from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is in, and the news is not good. Our state's $1.7 billion surplus at the beginning of the year is now looking like a nearly $7 billion shortfall over the next four years, and it could get worse. The unemployment numbers in our state are staggering. But the last thing we should do is raise taxes. We're already hearing some in Olympia may want to implement a state income tax. This is the WRONG time for that and I will fight against this effort.
2020 session review…
My seatmates and I mailed out a 2020 session review. You can view that here. While the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the news and much of our lives these past two months, there were some things that happened during session that you need to be aware of, including the sex education bill, car tab relief, my truth-in-labeling beef bill, and more.
Election year restrictions and more COVID-19 information…
Because this is an election year, this will be the last email update from me through November, unless we go into a special session. But please know I am working on your behalf and my office is here to help. My colleagues and I, and our staff, have compiled what I think may be one of the best COVID-19 websites in the state.
It has information for employees, small businesses, counties and much, much more. Check it out here. It is continually updated to get you the information you need.
Be safe, be healthy, and be smart. We are going to get through this and my office is here to help.