The 2022 legislative session in Olympia came to a close a few weeks ago. I’ve seen some of the accomplishments of the legislature misrepresented in mailings and online, and I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight. Republican legislators in the 31st District claim that the Democratic majority did not provide “any sort of relief…for working families.” In point of fact, Democrats passed legislation to reform the Business and Occupation tax so that more than 125,000 small businesses across Washington will no longer pay the state business tax along with $71 million in programs to help local small businesses recover from the pandemic. This will keep local family businesses afloat, and savings will be passed along to consumers in lower prices for good and services.
Republicans have also mis-characterized essential investments in transportation, infrastructure, and environmental protections as “outlandish”. On the contrary, solar energy projects and electric vehicle charging stations in rural areas are common sense ideas that directly benefit low-income communities and prepare us for a more efficient clean energy future.
What is “outlandish” is the fact that too many people in our district still face barriers accessing care or support when they need it most. Democrats passed laws that will increase access to care for those with disabilities or those in need of behavioral health services. Similarly, Democratic-sponsored bills to strengthen the family leave program and provide timely support for recent immigrants and our unhoused neighbors keep our communities healthier and safer.
It strikes me as hypocritical of our Republican legislators to claim they are concerned for “our state’s most vulnerable” while voting against programs to help those most at risk. Why did all three of the 31st District Republicans vote against HB 1901 that would help victims of domestic violence obtain civil protection orders against their abusers? Why did they oppose bills to reduce poverty and food insecurity? If they want our streets to be safer, why did they all oppose banning ghost guns, unregulated firearms that anyone — including minors and prohibited purchasers — can buy and build without a background check?
Overall the supplemental state operating budget is investing more than a billion dollars into K-12 and higher education so students and teachers have what they need to succeed and to keep our schools open, safely, under COVID. In addition, we now have the greenest transportation plan ever, to maintain and improve our roads, invest in transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure, and more.
At the national level, I would ask everyone to remember where we were at the end of 2020 during the final days of the last Republican administration. Our schools were closed as a pandemic gripped our nation and the world. Businesses were forced to close and millions lost jobs. Now after just over a year of the Biden administration, there has been an incredible turnaround. Vaccines are widely available, so our kids can safely return to school and our businesses can re-open. The American Rescue Plan has provided direct relief to families in the form of tax rebates while supporting local cities, counties and tribes that were struggling to cope with lost revenues. We now have the lowest unemployment numbers in decades thanks in large part to the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill that creates jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, providing clean drinking water and access to high-speed internet to communities that have been left behind for far too long.
In the next election, voters in the 31st District should remember that we have Democrats to thank for these programs that will improve our quality of life here and across all of Washington State.
– Brian L. Gunn is Chair of the 31st Legislative District Democrats. He can be reached at chair@31stDistrictDemocrats.org