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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

A lot has been happening over the last several weeks. I wanted to take a few minutes to provide an update and to let you know I continue to fight hard for you. I also encourage you to continue reaching out to my office with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have regarding state government, mandates, and legislation.

Inslee ignores citizens, legislative leaders as he continues mandates

In just a few days, thousands of people across the state who have made the personal choice not to be vaccinated could lose their jobs because of Gov. Inslee's mandate. We already have worker shortages in both the public and private sectors. Soon, we could be facing additional shortages of health care workers, public school teachers, police, firefighters, and first responders. These people have dedicated their lives to their careers in many cases and are essential to the well-being of our communities. They have constitutional rights and should never be forced out of their jobs by the governor or anyone else.

Monday, Oct. 4 was the last day for state workers to get a shot to meet Inslee's Oct. 18 deadline. The governor recently extended some union provisions that will allow non-represented and exempt Washington state workers who sought exemptions or accommodations from the vaccinate mandate more time to get their shots before being fired. Although this may help some, many workers have strong concerns with the COVID-19 vaccines and will not take the shot, which ultimately may cost them their jobs. No employee should ever be put in this position.

The governor refuses to acknowledge other alternative medications and remedies discussed between patients and doctors that are working for them to address COVID-19. He also refuses to recognize those who have had COVID-19 are already naturally immune. Vaccination is not the only answer. It should be YOUR choice after discussing it with your doctor and deciding what is best – not Gov. Inslee deciding what should go into your body.

While the governor has mostly played hardball on his vaccine mandates, which are considered the strictest in the nation, he has exempted about 45,000 unionized home-care workers who care for older adults and people with disabilities. While this is a sliver of good news, the vaccine mandates, the subsequent firings of those who fail to bow to this governor, the displacement of essential workers, and the expected shortages in health care, public safety, and education, are nothing short of a catastrophe in our state. This has been caused by Gov. Inslee, and the Democrat majority not taking steps to end the governor's abuse of emergency powers.

In the meantime, the governor continues to ignore statewide rallies against the mandates to address the vaccination issues.

He also recently issued a second extension of the eviction moratorium, allowing tenants another 30 days until Oct. 31 in which they can default on their rent with no consequences. According to the Census Pulse Survey for the weeks of Sept. 1-13, approximately 57,000 households statewide are currently not paying rent, and more than 147,000 have “no confidence” they could pay next month's rent. This extension will surely guarantee that rental property owners owed millions of dollars — especially “Mom and Pop” owners — will leave the business, creating a further housing shortage.

We are now approaching 19 months under Gov. Inslee's emergency ruling — and it is disastrous! I was among the first to call for the end of this emergency order more than a year ago. We should not be operating under one-person control, especially for so long. I 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 with 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.

I was also among the first to stand up for your right to decide whether to be vaccinated. I introduced House Bill 1305, which would allow individuals the right to refuse any vaccination or related health measure, so you maintain control of what goes into your own body. Unfortunately, again majority Democrats would not allow these bills to advance.

In addition, I have suggested legislative Republicans sue the governor as a formal body, such as the legislatures successfully did in Wisconsin and Michigan to rein in their governors' abuse of emergency powers. During this past session, I also suggested we leverage our capital budget bond vote, which requires a 60% majority vote, to force Democrats to come to the table to negotiate and address these issues. Unfortunately, neither of these actions have been taken. And I have asked our leadership again recently for a meeting for our caucus to continue discussing these issues and finding solutions.

I share the frustration many of you have expressed to me. However, I am continuing to fight on your behalf and am not giving up. The stakes are too high to allow the government to trample our constitutional and individual rights. Please stay in touch with my office on this issue.

Tax Structure Work Group holding virtual statewide tax town halls

In the past three years, Democrats have increased taxes by more than $11.5 billion. This is despite the fact our state was bringing in record tax collections — including more positive revenue news a few weeks ago — and an influx of federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Check out this website for details of those tax increases.

A 2017 budget proviso created the Tax Structure Work Group “to identify options to make the Washington state tax code more equitable, adequate, stable and transparent.” The work group is holding seven virtual town halls around the state in which they will be hearing what citizens have to say about state taxes, including an income tax.

I highly recommend your participation in these meetings. The time is now to speak up for tax relief and against a new state income tax! 

For the Southwest Washington Region, including the 17th Legislative District, the group will hold two sessions on Wednesday, Oct. 20. The first one is from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can sign up for the afternoon session here. The second one is being held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sign up for the evening session here. You can also see the entire schedule of tax town halls here.

Here's some good information to remember as you mark your calendar for these meetings:

Now is the time to opt out of the long-term care payroll tax — if you can

In my last email update, I told you about the new long-term care payroll tax that kicks in on Jan. 1, 2022. Beginning on that date, all employees in Washington state will be forced to pay 58 cents per $100 from their paychecks to provide for the new state long-term care program, known as the WA Cares Fund

You can opt out of the payroll tax and the program if you have a qualified long-term care insurance plan in place before Nov. 1, 2021.

Unfortunately, if you have not yet purchased a long-term care plan or made plans for one before Nov. 1, it will be nearly impossible to get long-term care insurance. That's because insurance companies, overloaded from the applications ahead of the Nov. 1 opt-out deadline, have stopped selling these policies in our state.

There are several flaws in this program that are very concerning:

  • If you live outside of Washington (such as Idaho or Oregon), but work in Washington state, you will pay into this program but receive no benefit.
  • If you plan to retire outside of Washington state, you will lose your entire contribution 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. Therefore, if you retire in nine-and-a-half years, you will lose your entire contribution into the system.
  • Most agree the tax will have to be increased at some point in the near future to ensure the program's funding sustainability.

This is unfair and it's wrong — in fact, it is taxation without representation!

Republicans are working on reforms for the 2022 legislative session. Unfortunately, the session begins AFTER the tax has taken effect.

For more information on this issue, check out this webpage, which includes frequently asked questions. It will be updated when more information becomes available, including legislation we are proposing related to the program.

Redistricting efforts under way

Every 10 years, after the federal government publishes updated census information, Washington redraws the boundaries of its congressional and state legislative electoral districts to ensure that each district represents an equal number of residents. Those efforts are taking place now.

The four members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission recently submitted their first draft of legislative and congressional district maps. You can find these maps and commissioner statements at this web page

At least three of the commission members are supposed to agree on a final plan by Nov. 15. If they can't agree, the final decision will be left to the state Supreme Court. The public is invited to be involved. For more information, click here.  

Stay in touch, be involved!

As we live through the current challenges of this pandemic and government seeking to take advantage of the citizens it is supposed to serve, I am reminded of our nation's founding fathers. Thomas Paine, wrote: “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

Let us remember also what President Reagan said, “Man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”

This is the fight I am fighting on your behalf to limit government and ensure our freedom. I encourage your feedback, questions and concerns. My contact information is below.

Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you.

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