2023 legislative session •

The cherry blossoms are out on the Capitol Campus. State lawmakers hit policy committee cutoff – opposite house on Wednesday. Our next deadline is fiscal committee cutoff – opposite house on April 4. This means a lot of work in the House Appropriations and Transportation committees.

House Democrats released their 2023-25 state budget proposals earlier this week. Public hearings were held, and the bills advanced from their respective fiscal committees. You can find more information on these proposals below.

Operating budget

This 2023-25 operating budget proposal would increase state spending to $70 billion, a $6 billion increase over current spending levels. This would continue a trend of historic budget growth. For context, state spending has more than doubled over the last 10 years. Another concern is the small ending fund balance.

At our media availability on Tuesday, Rep. Drew Stokesbary shared his concerns with the House Democrats’ approach. You can watch his comments here. He also answered a question on K-12 education and explained why their plan falls short of adequately funding special education and supporting students suffering from learning loss. House Republicans will be ready for this debate on the floor.

New tax increases

While some media headlines on this proposal said it did not include any new tax increases, tax-increase policies are still being considered — including an increase in real estate excise taxes (REET). House Republicans strongly oppose this concept because it would increase the cost of multifamily housing and single-family homes. It would also lead to higher rents. With so many positive developments in addressing our housing crisis this year, it makes no sense to pass legislation that would make housing more expensive.

The majority party has implemented several new tax increases over the last four years, including a new payroll tax to fund a state-run, long-term care insurance program. This tax goes into effect on July 1. House Republicans opposed this legislation in 2019 and have introduced bills to repeal the program and tax. You can learn more here.

Transportation budget

This proposal would spend $13.2 billion, providing $9.8 billion for WSDOT, including $1.2 billion for Washingtonian State Ferries, $646 million for Washington State Patrol, and $418 million for the Department of Licensing. You can learn more in this story, which includes a quote from the House Transportation Committee chair saying, “House Democrats and House Republicans worked side-by-side on this budget.”

Our transportation lead, Rep. Andrew Barkis, has been directly involved with developing this plan. While it is not exactly what House Republicans would do if we were in the majority, it reflects a lot of concepts we support. And it attempts to address many of the mistakes and delays caused by the Inslee administration.

Capital budget

The capital budget is often referred to as the state’s construction budget. This proposal would appropriate $8.38 billion, including $4.18 billion in newly authorized bonds. It would leave $158 million for the 2024 supplemental capital budget. You will see strong support from House Republicans when this budget comes up for a vote.

In a news release, our capital budget lead Rep. Mike Steele said: “Unique in the Legislature, this budget is one of the most bipartisan efforts in Olympia. I worked closely with the chair of the Capital Budget Committee on a solid spending plan that bolsters communities, encourages economic growth, and makes wise investments for the future of our state.”

Public safety

Two public safety bills that will define the legislative session passed out of the House Community Safety, Justice & Reentry Committee on Tuesday. Senate Bill 5352 (vehicular pursuits) and Senate Bill 5536 (drug possession and treatment) have been in the headlines over the last few months.

Unfortunately, the versions that advanced out of committee this week are not strong enough to address our state’s serious crime problems and drug crisis. As I highlight in this video, we cannot accept token efforts on these critical bills. It is time to return to a common-sense approach for vehicular pursuits and drug possession laws.

You can learn more in the stories below, including the recent changes made to the Senate bills. House Republicans are quoted in these stories.

When state lawmakers return to Olympia on Monday, we will have just 21 days left. A lot of important decisions will be made in these three weeks. I will share more with you next Friday.


Rep. J.T. Wilcox
House Republican Leader
(360) 786-7912