Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This continues to be a difficult and trying time as we deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have heard from many of you – worried about our local economy, the impacts on our agricultural industry and some of you need to get back to see your health care provider.
The governor did have a press conference last Friday, May 1. He unveiled a four-phased, data-driven approach. Reopening businesses and activities and when we proceed will depend on four areas which include:
- Health care system readiness
- Testing capacity
- Ability to do contact investigations
- Ability to protect high-risk populations
I think it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered while the certainty and answers many of you were hoping for are still missing. We all care about those who have lost loved ones because of COVID-19 as well as those who have had it. However, people's livelihoods are on the on line. They are stressed and are tired of being in isolation. They want to work. The governor needs to have more faith and trust in the citizens of Washington state. We can make our public health and social distancing a priority to continue protecting our most vulnerable while opening up certain parts of our economy. Washington citizens are the economy, let's trust them to do the right thing.
Safe Economic Restart Plan
On April 17 Republicans in the Legislature introduced their Safe Economic Restart Plan. It would create a comprehensive plan to safely get people back to work and restart our economy. It does not dictate when we can open up the economy, but it provides ideas on how to get things rolling again. This is a work in progress given the constant change in COVID-19 numbers. However, we want to put forth solutions that will help businesses and employees and should be bipartisan in nature.
Regionalized restart plan
The Safe Economic Restart Plan is not the only plan being put out there. Last week, On May 1 I signed on to a letter delivered to the governor by Rep. Chris Gildon, requesting the governor look at a regional restart to Washington. It was signed by a number of state legislators and elected officials from around Washington state.
It is a “Decentralization and Recovery” plan – that would advocate for a decentralized, county-by-county plan to restart our economy, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Counties would be able to reopen their economies based on the situation and needs of their communities. They understand their resources and are capable of determining which restrictions need to be imposed or modified to get their communities open again. We should give local governments the authority on the best ways to open their communities. We delivered this letter to the governor on May 1.
I signed on to Rep. Gildon's letter and you can read that here.
Rural economy restart
Rep. Gildon's letter was not the first letter sent to the governor requesting a look at restarting the economy in different parts of the state. I put together a letter signed by several legislators from rural counties and delivered it to Gov. Inslee on April 17! We expressed our concerns weeks ago about the ramifications of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order and it was impacting our rural areas. You can read that letter here.
Ag industry struggles
Part of the reason for my April 17, “let's get the economy restarted in rural Washington letter”, is my concern for our ag industry. Please know, I am worried about all of our businesses and employees. However, I have read from many in the ag industry. I have heard from potato farmers who are struggling because contracts are being cancelled after the crop has been planted. About 90% of Eastern Washington frozen potato products are used in restaurants and other food service establishments. With those places closed, there are more than three billion pounds of potatoes in storage and at least one billion without a home. Lawmakers and volunteers have been giving potatoes away to local charities, food banks, churches and individuals in Washington state.
Our cattle, chicken and hog industries are in trouble because slaughter houses have had to close, which trickles down to the feedlots and then our ranchers and farmers. Those in our fruit industry are now running the risk of not having enough workers due to the pandemic.
I have also heard from many retail stores, martial arts and gymnastics schools as well as almost every other type of business asking for relief, and just wanting to go back to work. This is an extremely emotional issue on both sides, some have lost loved ones and many are watching their entire life's work evaporating before their eyes. It is important, now more than ever, we work together to try and understand each other's plight, find a common solution in order to be safe and restart our economy.
No new taxes needed
You will recall in the budget chart I have shared with you in previous communications, it has shown the state has spent your tax dollars at unsustainable levels. Now, at a time with businesses and families struggling through these difficult economic times, we are hearing rumblings of a possible income tax or other tax proposals in the future to make up for lost revenues. I can assure you I will be fighting against any new tax proposals. To review the almost $10 billion in tax increases passed by the majority party the last two sessions click here.
I have sent out my 13th District 2020 Legislative Report. I have posted it online and you can read it here if you did not receive it. You can get a brief overview of the session and some of my accomplishments.
The Legislature's election-year restrictions become effective May 11. That means from May 11 until after the November election is certified I am not allowed to send any more email updates, unless we are in special session. I am allowed to respond to your emails, phone calls and letters. So, please stay in touch if you have questions, comments or ideas about legislation or need assistance with a state-related matter.
Until we are back in the district office you can reach my Legislative Assistant Patricia at 509-607-0156 or email me at: email@example.com.
It is an honor to serve the great folks of the 13th Legislative District!