Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 105-day session came to a close on Sunday, April 28. In some people's view, it was not soon enough! With large Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, there was, in my opinion, a great deal of damage done to our state through liberal policies that serve the interests of Seattle, but not the rest of the state — and certainly not southwest Washington. This email update reflects on this past session.
A disappointing lack of transparency in the operating budget process
While bipartisan negotiations resulted in a good capital budget, it was very disappointing that Republicans in both the House and Senate were shut completely out of the process of creating a two-year state operating budget. Instead, that process was behind closed doors between House and Senate Democrats.
Even more disappointing is the lack of transparency. We got our first glimpse of the 808-page budget bill on Saturday, April 27 — day 104 of the 105 day session — just one day before we were to vote on it. The public also didn't get to see it until Saturday. The process was kept so secret that bills necessary to implement the budget were introduced with only a title, without any of the language needed to enact the bill (known as title-only bills). Language was later added without public input or review.
While you slept, a taxing weekend
Before the operating budget was released Saturday, House Democrats late last Friday night began bringing their tax bills to the House floor for a vote. The gallery where the public can watch was closed and locked, and at 10:49 p.m. Friday night, they brought out House Bill 2158 for a vote. This is a bill that imposes a substantial business and occupation (B&O) tax surcharge on services — a $945 million tax increase over four years that will impact 90,000 employers and raise costs for consumers.
With a $2.8 billion surplus, we could have easily funded higher education without tax increases. My House Republican colleagues and I fought for taxpayers early into Saturday morning, but the measure passed at 1:47 a.m., while most of the public who will be impacted was sleeping. The vote was 52-45, with all Republicans voting no.
At 2:45 a.m. Saturday, Democrats brought out their second big tax bill, House Bill 2167. It imposes a B&O tax increase on certain banks that will result in costs being passed on to consumers. Again, we fought against it. The vote was taken just before 4 a.m. It was 53-43, with all Republicans voting no.
After being on the House floor for 21 hours, they adjourned for the morning and had us back on the floor at 2 p.m. However, they again waited until just before 10 p.m. to pull out the rest of their tax bills. These included:
- A new, graduated real estate excise tax that will restrict housing supply, increase rents and harm the economy;
- A higher tax on oil that will increase the price of gas;
- Ending the sales tax exemption for Oregonians, which will drive away business from Clark County and other border communities; and
- Removing the levy lid, which will increase property taxes for families across the state by modifying the amount local levies can collect for K-12 enrichment programs.
Despite historical revenue growth and a $2.8 billion surplus, last weekend Democrats passed bills to increase taxes by an astounding $5.5 billion over the next four years.
Massive spending in the new state operating budget
The enacted 2019-21 operating budget spends about $52.5 billion. That's an increase of $7.8 billion (17.5 percent) over the 2017-19 budget. Even more concerning, the proposal commits every last dollar, ensuring that any economic downturn will require painful cuts. Under this budget, state spending will have increased by $22 billion (70 percent) since 2013. I'm very concerned this level of explosive growth is not sustainable, and it is certainly not responsible.
We stopped the really bad comprehensive sex ed bill. . . for now
Senate Bill 5395 requested by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal that would mandate comprehensive sex education in Washington's public schools, is dead for this session.
The measure would have allowed graphic details to be shared with young children about sex, completely ignoring the wishes of parents. I fought hard against this measure, even meeting with Reykdal to share parents' concerns. I testified against the measure both in the Senate and the House. In the end, we helped to kill the bill in the House Education Committee. It was a victory for every parent who contacted my office about this horrible bill.
It's dead for now. However, the bill could still return next session. We must continue to be vigilant so that the state does not usurp parents' rights to decide how, what and when their children should be taught.
When it became evident the bill had died, I was pleasantly surprised in the Capitol Rotunda one morning as Sarah Davenport-Smith from Human Life of Washington presented me with the organization's Pro-Life Heroism Award. She explained in an email what the award represents and why I was chosen:
“Human Life of Washington seeks to honor those individuals and organizations who protect all human life from conception until natural death. We honored Rep. Vicki Kraft for not only an exceptional pro-life voting record, but for going above and beyond the call of duty. This year, we saw one bill in particular, Senate Bill 5395 – comprehensive sexual education, which promotes abortion to our children as a vital option for their reproductive health. This is in direct opposition to science and true women's health care. Rep. Kraft took a very public stance against Senate Bill 5395 and was instrumental in stopping it this session. Human Life of Washington salutes Rep. Vicki Kraft.”
I am humbled and honored to receive this award and will continue to stand to defend the unborn and their right to life.
Senate allowed sex trafficking bills to die, despite my best efforts
On Feb. 28 in Seattle, 11 illegitimate massage parlors were busted and 26 women were freed from a horrendous life of being trapped in sex trafficking. Many of these women are brought overseas with the promise of a better life, only to be enslaved in the sex trade in these parlors.
To fight against this growing crime along the I-5 corridor and beyond, I introduced two bills this year that passed the House. Unfortunately, they both died in the Senate:
- House Bill 1082 would have reduced sex trafficking by requiring a massage or reflexology therapist to carry their driver's license or enhanced ID on or near their person while at work. That way, law enforcement could verify the therapist's certification matches the photo ID and that they're a legitimate practitioner. This measure was on the Senate's second-reading calendar awaiting a floor vote when time ran out and the session ended.
- House Bill 1836 would have added a mandatory $3,500 fee (I originally proposed $5,000) to the end user who is convicted of committing sex trafficking offenses with a minor. It also would have given judges the discretion now to increase that fee up to $7,500. This measure died in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
- Watch my video on the sex trafficking scourge attacking our communities.
Vancouver teen serves as legislative page
I wish to thank Astoria Moore for helping us in the House recently while she served as a legislative page. She delivered messages and documents to legislators and staff during her week at the Capitol and also attended the Legislative Page School.
Astoria is the 16-year-old daughter of Jason and Krista Moore of Vancouver.
To become a page, you must be between the ages of 14 and 16 years old, have a legislative sponsor, and obtain written permission from your parents and your school. For more information, go to our House Page program website.
I work for you throughout the year
Even though the legislative session has ended, I continue to work for you as your representative throughout the year. Please don't hesitate to call my office if you have questions, comments, suggestions or ideas about legislation and state government. My contact information is below. It is an honor to serve you!