How our lawmakers voted

The House and Senate passed two separate state operating budget proposals last week. HB 1109, as passed by the House, calls for $52.8 billion in spending with about $2 billion in new taxes to pay for it, primarily by an income tax on capital gains earnings. The Senate replaced HB 1109 with its own version that would spend about $52.2 billion but does not call for a capital gains income tax.

A separate bill, SB 5961, to impose an 8.9 percent tax on capital gains income was scheduled for a hearing on April 8. It would use revenues gained from the tax to reduce property taxes for some seniors and provide relief for small businesses.

Also last week, the House unanimously passed HB 1102, the 2019-2021 Capital Construction Budget, along with HB 1101 to authorize construction bonds.

The Senate also passed HB 1160, a nearly $10 billion transportation spending plan for 2019-2021 by 47-0 vote. The bill passed the House by a 90-5 vote on March 29.

House Bill 1109, Making 2019-2021 biennium operating appropriations

Passed the House on March 29 by a vote of 56-38 (four members excused)

This is the House version of the operating budget for the 2019-2021 biennium. It calls for $52.8 billion in spending, which is some $2 billion over the $50.6 billion in revenues projected by the latest state economic forecast. House Democrats propose to pay for this plan by imposing a new capital gains income tax and raising other taxes, including the business and occupation tax rate on service businesses, and higher taxes on residential real estate transactions.

HB 2156, to impose a capital gains income tax on “extraordinary profits” from high value assets was scheduled for approval by the House Finance Committee on April 5, but no action was taken. HB 1109, as passed by the House, was sent to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The Committee replaced the bill with a striking amendment and passed the bill on to the floor for action by the full Senate.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes

House Bill 1109, Making 2019-2021 biennium operating appropriations

Passed the Senate on April 4 by a vote of 31-17 (one member excused)

The Senate replaced the bill as passed by the House with its own version of the 2019-2021 operating budget. As now passed by the Senate, the bill calls for $52.2 billion in spending for the next two-year budget cycle. Like the House version, the Senate plan calls for additional taxes to pay for it, but it does not call for a capital gains income tax. Senate Democrats, however, are proposing a separate capital gains income tax bill, SB 5961, which was scheduled for a hearing April 8.

Overall, the Senate budget proposal is the smallest of the plans considered by the Legislature. It would spend about $750 million less than the House plan and $2.5 billion less than the plan proposed by Governor Inslee last December. The bill now goes back to the House for approval or rejection of the Senate amendments to the measure. Ultimately, legislative leaders will likely negotiate a final plan that could be passed by both chambers and approved by the governor. If they don’t reach agreement in the remaining three weeks of this session, the governor would likely call for a special session.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) Yes

House Bill 1257, Concerning energy efficiency

Passed the House on March 29 by a vote of 55-37 (six members excused)

This bill would impose a number of stricter energy performance standards for commercial buildings by Nov. 1, 2020. Among the requirements are establishment of a State Energy Performance Standard that maximizes greenhouse gas reductions and rules for electric vehicle infrastructure that require electric vehicle charging capability at all new buildings that provide on-site parking. Building owners would be subject to an administrative penalty for failing to submit documentation demonstrating compliance with the requirements of the standard. The penalty would not exceed $5,000 plus an amount based on the duration of any continuing violation. The bill also would mandate a new Natural Gas Conservation Standard that establishes a societal cost of greenhouse gas emissions for purposes of this standard. The bill was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

Senate Bill 5889, Concerning insurance communications confidentiality

Passed the House on April 4 by a vote of 55-39 (four members excused)

This bill, which was passed by the Senate last month on a 27-19 vote, deals with the confidentiality of insurance communications sent to patients. It would direct the Insurance Commissioner to develop a form for persons who are covered as dependents on an enrollee’s health benefit plan to indicate where communications, such as bills and records of procedures, should be sent. It would require health carriers to direct all communications containing information about a person, including personal health information and the receipt of sensitive health care services, directly to the person receiving the care.

Under the bill, health carriers would be prohibited from requiring that dependents obtain the authorization of the primary subscriber before receiving health care services. The bill would further prohibit health carriers from requiring a policyholder to pay for charges if the services were not authorized by the policyholder and the person receiving the services instructed the health carrier to send information about the services to an address other than that of the policyholder.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes