April 28, 2013
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the last day of the 2013 regular legislative session. We’ll be adjourning “sine die” today (a Latin phrase meaning to end without a date certain to reconvene), but as in recent years, additional time will be necessary to complete our work on a budget and associated policy bills. The special session will begin on May 13, and you can find more information on the dynamic in the Legislature and the current state of budget negotiations below.
I continue to welcome your thoughts and feedback about any issue facing our state. Please feel free to contact me anytime via email or by calling me in Olympia at (360) 786-7630 if you have questions or concerns about an issue, or if I can be of assistance to you and your family in any way.
Thank you, as always, for the continued opportunity to serve you in the state Senate.
Sen. Mike Hewitt
Special session ahead – budget without new taxes still possible
Today marks the end of the 105-day 2013 legislative session. By all rights, we should be putting the finishing touches on the budget, wrapping up negotiations on associated policy bills and getting ready to head home. Instead, in what has become an all-too-common occurrence, a “special session” will be required to finish our work and will begin on Monday, May 13.
To me, the fact we’re entering another special session is disappointing and unacceptable. It’s become an unfortunate habit of the Legislature in recent years; there have been two special sessions in each of the last three years. These sessions are expensive – up to $18,000 per day – and they shouldn’t be allowed to become commonplace.
The primary sticking point is taxes. Despite the fact that the state is receiving more revenue than any time in history, some in Olympia are intent on raising general taxes. The governor and the majority party in the House of Representatives have proposed that taxes be raised on everything from prescription drugs to gas and most businesses in the state. In all, it amounts to around $1 billion over the next two years alone.
I do not support the tax package being proposed but there is one component that’s particularly concerning to me. In 2010 the majority party in the House and Senate enacted a 20 percent hike in the state’s business and occupation tax for the service industry. The increase was temporary – to expire at the end of this June – and at the time we were told in no uncertain terms that it was only to bridge the gap until the economy recovered.
Now the governor and the House are proposing to extend the tax on businesses. I feel very strongly that’s the wrong direction for our state. After all, how is the Legislature going to begin the process of rebuilding the trust of the people if we don’t keep our promises?
I wish that more folks in Olympia would remember the primary purpose of why we’re here – to pass a budget that represents the interests of the people who elected us. Through recent votes to reject an income tax proposal and sales tax increases on candy, soda and bottled water, the citizens of our state could not have been clearer about their feelings on new taxes.
While I am disappointed that a special session is necessary, the good news is that there's still an opportunity to reach agreement on a budget that doesn't raise general taxes. In the end, it's more important that the Legislature gets it right than gets it done quickly. You can count on me to continue to oppose general tax increases and to push for a sustainable, responsible budget.
Around the district
Earlier this week it was announced that Salvador Mendoza, Jr. was appointed to serve as Superior Court judge for Benton and Franklin counties. Mendoza, who was raised in a family of migrant farm workers, is currently a Judge Pro-Tempore in Benton County Superior Court and Franklin County Juvenile District Court. He is also a partner in a Kennewick law firm with an emphasis on adult and juvenile criminal law.
Notably, Mendoza helped start the Juvenile Drug Court program, has been a proponent of equal access to justice through his work with Benton-Franklin Legal Aid Society and served as a Columbia Basin College trustee. Mendoza will replace retiring Superior Court Judge Craig J. Matheson, who is stepping down after 26 years of dedicated service. Mendoza’s term begins effective May 6, 2013.
I’d like to thank Judge Matheson for his years of dedicated service and wish Judge Mendoza the best as he begins his tenure.