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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This newsletter includes very important updates on tax issues and important items for you and your 17th District neighbors. Please read all the way to the end.

Remember that I work for you throughout the year, not just when the Legislature is in session. Should you have any questions, concerns, comments, or ideas, about state government, please contact my office. I enjoy hearing from you!

Governor reopens Washington but quietly extends emergency

On June 30, Gov. Inslee finally lifted most of the pandemic restrictions and reopened Washington state. Under his new “Washington Ready” plan, all industry sectors (with limited exceptions for large indoor events) were given the green light to return to usual capacity and operations. Large indoor events with more than 10,000 participants in an enclosed space are still restricted to 75% capacity. The governor plans to reevaluate the restrictions on large indoor events on July 31.

Many of our businesses waited for months as the governor continued to move the goalpost on restrictions that would allow them to operate. Our free market economy was never designed to function under the rule of an authoritarian state government. Several thousands of owners and their employees have felt the weight of the governor's crushing mandates and struggled to survive. It's good to finally see help wanted signs in many of our businesses that are now hiring so they can move to full capacity. We have waited far too long for this to happen.

Now we need to help people get back to work and off the government's benefit program, which is incentivizing some people to stay unemployed because they're making more on unemployment than working. The small business community has been through a lot this past year. It's time for our government to stop working against them and let Washington fully thrive again!

Unfortunately, just before the full reopening, the governor announced a new emergency order, Proclamation 20-05, that extends the renter eviction moratorium from June 30 to Sept. 30. However, what he didn't mention is that the order also extends his emergency powers declaration through Sept. 30. Why didn't the governor talk about this? Where is the transparency and accountability to the people?

This makes it so that Washington state now has the longest continual emergency order of any state in the nation. This emergency should have ended many months ago! I've already said that if the Democrats call us back for a special session, Republicans MUST insist we also debate and vote on reigning in the governor's emergency powers and ending the ongoing state of emergency. If the Democrats won't do this, then it's very telling that they are in full support of what the governor is doing.

I was among the first to call for its end over a year ago. We should not be operating under one-person control, especially for 16 months. That's why I hosted a Reopen Washington rally at the Capitol steps the month before session started. I also fought hard during the 2021 legislative session to reform the governor's emergency powers, which are among the most liberal in the nation, by introducing House Bill 1381. The bill would have limited the governor's emergency powers to 14 days after a state of emergency proclamation unless extended by the Legislature from a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, majority Democrats would not allow any bills to advance that would have reformed the emergency powers. There is simply no reason to be operating under this emergency order any longer.

Long-term care payroll tax – Act NOW if you want to opt out

If you are an employee in Washington and do not opt-out before Nov. 1, 2021 from the new long-term care payroll tax, you will have to pay 58 cents per $100 of your W2 earnings every year you work in Washington to fund the Washington Long-Term Care Trust Act passed by the Democrat majority.

With the new tax beginning Jan. 1, 2022, all Washington workers who have not opted out will be forced to pay this payroll tax, While the tax will be new, it actually comes from legislation passed by majority Democrats in the 2019 legislative session. I voted against the bill and so did all House Republicans.

If you do not opt out, you will receive up to $100 per day for a maximum lifetime benefit of $36,500 (adjusted annually). This benefit is available only for care provided in the state of Washington for Washington residents and is not transferable. Self-employed people can choose to opt into the program between January 2022 and January 2025, or within three years of first becoming self-employed for the first time. Please note: Self-employed opt-ins are irrevocable.

Please also note that if you move to another state, you will lose whatever you've paid into the system. If you plan to retire within the next 10 years, you will not receive a benefit for your contribution because you must work 500 hours per year for 10 years to be vested. Even if you work the next nine-and-a-half years, then decide to retire, you will lose your entire contribution into the system.

This program is riddled with flaws and promotes yet more socialism.

If you want no part of the program and do not wish to pay the payroll tax: you must opt-out and purchase a qualified long-term care insurance plan before Nov. 1, 2021. A qualifying long-term care insurance plan must meet the definition of long-term care insurance in RCW 48.83.020.

Once a plan is purchased, an individual must apply for an exemption from the program to the Employment Security Department (ESD) between Oct. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022. If ESD accepts the application, the individual is permanently exempt from the payroll tax and ineligible for future coverage from the Trust Program.

Once approved, individuals must provide all current and future employers with notice of the exemption to maintain exemption from the payroll tax.

It's important NOT to wait until the opt-out period to secure private insurance. That's because insurance companies must go through an underwriting approval process that, in some cases, could be as long as three months. That means if you wait, you may not be able to secure approval for private insurance before the opt-out window closes.

Here's a list of companies approved to sell long-term care insurance in Washington state.

If you want to be on the state's long-term care insurance plan, you don't have to do anything. You will begin to see automatic payroll taxes taken from your paycheck beginning Jan. 1.

You can find more on this issue here.

Critical race theory does NOT belong in our public schools — Parents deserve a choice!

I share the concerns of parents who are contacting me about the possibility of critical race theory indoctrination in our public schools. This year, majority Democrats passed Senate Bill 5044 into law. While the measure does not use the words “critical race theory,” it opens the door wide to training for school board directors, district staff, and school staff that teaches divisive, reverse-discrimination concepts. Although today this training is only formally for staff, it's very likely these dangerous concepts will be weaved into student lessons and instruction. I voted against this and similar higher-education bills, but it passed the Legislature and takes effect on July 25.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW) recently called CRT “a Marxist, racist ideology that claims that whites are universally oppressors, leaving 'favored' minorities forever a step (at least) behind.” FPIW also noted that Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, along with others, “is trying to quietly implement CRT into school teachings,” while saying it is merely “comprehensive history” being taught. In other words, the concepts of CRT – like an emphasis on systemic racism – will be taught, just not under the official banner of critical race theory, but rather, “history.”

Some school boards, such as the Chehalis School District, are addressing the provisions of SB 5044, but making it clear they will not adopt CRT as a curriculum in their schools. “We will not teach Chehalis students that people, due to their race or background, are inherently good or bad, guilty or innocent, (or) more or less capable than others,” read part of the school district's new equity statement. I applaud them for standing up for the truth and encourage other school districts to do the same.

As Washington Policy Center Education Director Liv Finne recently wrote in a newspaper commentary, “In communities where educating children is no longer the top mission, parents should be allowed access to alternatives, like those proposed in Rep. Vicki Kraft's bill (House Bill 1215) to give a fully-funded $7,000 Education Savings Account to every family that wants one. Then every child could get a great public education, without the negative impacts caused by harmful race-based indoctrination.”

Thank you, Liv. I agree!

The governor mandates COVID-19 vaccination papers. We are NOT Communist China!

Most of you know where I stand on the vaccination issue. I have been very vocal that it should be a personal choice, NOT a government mandate. This is why I introduced House Bill 1305 during the 2021 session. The measure would have allowed individuals the right to refuse any vaccination or related health measure, so they maintain control of what goes into their own bodies. Unfortunately, the bill was not given a hearing.

There are all sorts of reasons why people choose not to get a COVID vaccine. It's none of my business, none of your business, and certainly none of the government's business to know why a person has chosen not to get vaccinated. Furthermore, it should not be a requirement to “show your papers” and prove that you've been vaccinated to be able to access government services, including higher education. This is in effect a “vaccination passport” and it's wrong.

A June 30 order (Proclamation 20-12.3) by Gov. Inslee decrees that, except for special circumstances, “IHEs (Institutions of Higher Education) that do not have fully vaccinated campuses are prohibited from providing in-person classroom instruction, lectures, and similar educational gatherings.”

I emailed Drew Shirk, the governor's legislative liaison, asking him: “How are the requirements for staff, faculty, students to have to provide proof of a medical vaccination (COVID-19 vaccine) to attend an Institution of Higher Education not a HIPPA law violation?”

His response: “We are confident our proclamations are legally sound, which have been borne out in numerous legal challenges and judicial precedent.”

Apparently, I wasn't the only one questioning this order. So did the state's community and technical colleges. Fortunately, the governor backed down. Last Monday, he issued an update to the emergency order, removing the requirement that IHEs obtain an attestation of vaccination status from non-vaccinated students.

I will continue to fight to ensure your rights and privacy are protected, that you alone (not the government) can make the decision of whether or not to get vaccinated and that you'll never have to “show your papers.”

Eviction moratorium extension destructive to long-term rental housing opportunities

I am very disappointed the governor extended the eviction moratorium through Sept. 30, effectively disregarding the new eviction process and moratorium end date of June 30 put into place by Senate Bill 5160. This comes after Gov. Inslee vetoed additional support for landlords from that bill. It effectively forces landlords to continue providing free or reduced rent with little to no relief for themselves. This is extremely un-American and effectively violates landlords' private property rights. It needs to stop now!

Don't be surprised if because of these actions many rental property owners decide to sell or quit renting their properties after this order is finished. The governor is destroying a vital industry and critical investment opportunities for families and small businesses in our state. His actions will result in fewer rental housing opportunities for tenants and new families, and will no doubt contribute to our already serious homelessness problem. It also positions government and corporations as the only ones who be able to afford these extensive regulations and mandates. They will be the ones to own rental properties, not everyday people. If this path is allowed to continue, government and corporations will control the housing-rental market – not at all a free market approach, rather another step toward China communism.

The Columbian recently editorialized against the eviction moratorium extension. I don't agree with The Columbian on many issues. However, on this issue, I fully agree with their assessment that the eviction moratorium extension is “the wrong approach.”

Stay in touch!

While the legislative session is over, I am available to meet with you, listen to your ideas, answer questions and help you navigate problems with state government. Please do not hesitate to contact me.

You can follow state government news throughout the interim with the following websites/news services.

  • The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process. It is updated frequently.
  • Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.

Thank you for allowing me the honor to serve and represent you and the citizens of the 17th Legislative District!

Sincerely,


Vicki Kraft

State Representative Vicki Kraft, 17th Legislative District
RepresentativeVickiKraft.com
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
vicki.kraft@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7994 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000