Thanks to a hot economy, the state’s revenue surplus continues to grow: the February revenue forecast combined with previous quarterly forecasts indicate $1.5 billion additional tax revenues. If ever there was a time to give taxpayers relief, this is the year.
But, remarkably, the Legislature, on a straight party-line vote, raised taxes this year. Senate Bill 6492 , which was signed into law in January, raises taxes on all services, including nursing homes.
Skilled nursing centers vs felon voting rights
Tax hike hits nursing homes at a time when skilled nursing centers are experiencing an unprecedented crisis. Twenty skilled nursing facilities recently closed because the state has failed to adequately fund them through its Medicaid reimbursements program. Thousands of our parents and grandparents have had to be relocated. I sponsored Senate Bill 6396 to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates and make sure rates keep up with inflation.
At the 11th hour before cutoff this week, I motioned for the Senate to stop consideration of another bill so that it could instead debate and pass meaningful Medicaid reimbursement. The motion did not succeed . And what was the bill that was more important than providing skilled nursing for our parents and grandparents?
Felon voting rights.
Felons who are released from prison and fulfill the terms of their sentences already immediately qualify for restoration of their full voting rights. As unbelievable as it sounds, the majority party rejected my motion to consider increasing skilled nursing rates to consider a bill to grant voting rights PRIOR to completing their sentences and fully paying their debt to victims and society.
I will keep fighting to get better nursing home rates. We can certainly afford them in light of the $1.5 billion surplus.
Enact $30 car tabs now
The $1.5 billion surplus also means we can easily afford to enact the $30 car tabs and respect the will of voters who passed I-976.
Tellingly, the majority party supports a different car tabs bill that would REPEAL most of I-976 . Whose needs are they looking out for?
Our retired teachers have worked hard to educate us and our children. And another way to put the extra revenue to good use is to support those teachers. When a bipartisan bill that would give teachers a $62.50 bump in their retirement benefit came to the floor last week, I supported an amendment to raise that bump to $100 . It might not seem like much, but every little bit helps when you’re retired and your health care costs are increasing. The amendment failed .
Needless to say, the priorities of my constituents are not fairing well so far, but I will keep fighting.
I could use your help by contacting the Senate and House budget committees to share your thoughts.
This week’s Senate page: Clara Blakeslee
This week, I sponsored Clara Blakeslee, 16, to page for the Washington State Senate.
Clara is a 10th grader at Curtis High School and is involved in wrestling, water polo, musical theater and orchestra. That’s quite well-rounded!
I was impressed with Clara’s enthusiasm for the program and am pleased that she seemed to really enjoy her experience.
“The page program gave me the opportunity to get involved and be proactive,” Clara said. “Maybe this could be a future career for me.”
Students interested in the Senate Page Program are encouraged to visit: http://leg.wa.gov/Senate/Administration/PageProgram/