South Sound lawmakers are going out to meet voters this weekend, and for freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Reykdal of Tumwater, it is his first time to report in person about the Legislature's actions.
Reykdal, elected to his first term in November, said he has no major message to send but wants to hear what constituents want in a legislative session destined to produce deep spending cuts.
“They are out there living this situation. As the district most dependent on state government as their employer, I want to know what they are worried about and what the impacts are starting to feel like in their businesses, in their homes,” Reykdal said this week. “Everyone here is related in some way to state employees.”
The forum Reykdal is set to take part in is set for noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Garfield Elementary School, at 325 Plymouth St. N.W. on Olympia’s west side.
Lawmakers reach the 62nd day of their 105-day regular session Saturday, and they face a budget shortfall of up to $5 billion in the next cycle that could worsen with the March 17 revenue forecast. Reykdal said he’s hearing rumors the shortfall might blow up by another $1 billion, and that would lead to even tougher budget cuts to explain to voters.
Also appearing will be 22nd district Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, and Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia. All three Olympia-area lawmakers typically look out for state employees whose local jobs number more than 20,000 and make up the backbone of the county economy.
So far, Reykdal said he’s heard 22nd District voters in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater say they want to protect public school funding and the Basic Health Plan’s subsidized insurance for low-income workers.
Reykdal has the House seat formerly held by Brendan Williams, a stridently liberal Democrat who called himself a progressive. Like Williams, Reykdal favors finding new revenue to bridge the budget gap and has been having conversations one-on-one with other lawmakers about ideas they might pursue later in the session.
He also planned to introduce a bill this week, which he said has 20 other members’ signatures, that would end the sales-tax break for elective or optional cosmetic surgeries. Reykdal wants to use the new revenues to restore a state subsidy for seniors’ Part D prescription-drug co-pay under Medicare.
Democratic Rep. Eileen Cody of West Seattle has introduced another measure, HB 1847, that would end tax breaks for cosmetic surgery, for coal imported to the Centralia power plant and other tax preferences given to owners of airplanes.
Reykdal said state economic reports show personal incomes are back at their highest level in Washington, and jobless rates have started to fall. But state revenue is growing much more slowly than previously predicted, and cuts are coming to government.
“We know there is income in the economy that could be used to deploy stimulus. But you’ve got to get at it. So marginally higher tax increases or removing tax loopholes would give us the opportunity to at least shore up services – and those are jobs, remember,” Reykdal said. “Increasing revenue would give us a little bit of a bump in the capital budget to let us go out and do some construction.”
With just “$20 a month per person in this state in higher taxes – four or five lattes – we could generate $1.5 billion a year for schools and other services,” Reykdal said. “And that would generate over $1 billion in capital construction activity that we could use.”
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have not started talking about revenue.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/politicsblog
Updates:Spelling of Chris Reykdal's name has been corrected and the day of the event [Saturday] is restored.