Dear friends and neighbors,
As more of our neighbors continue to get vaccinated and as our state continues to rebuild, I have loved the increasing opportunities to see community members at masked, outdoor events these past couple of months. Whether we’re breaking ground on state-funded projects, celebrating a new business in our area, or attending a community forum together, it has been a delight to reconnect face-to-face to get your comments, answer your questions, and hear your ideas.
Keep scrolling for three common questions I’ve been hearing from our neighbors! If you want me to elaborate or have other questions of your own, reply to this email or scroll to the end for all of my contact info. Looking forward to hearing from you!
QUESTION #1: What did the legislature do this year to help us rebuild our strong economy?
This is a great question, and as vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee, I’m honored to share some insights from the perspective of the budget-writing team. This year, we made sure we’d emerge from the pandemic on the strongest footing possible by investing in the key resources that lead to healthy families and thriving businesses. We started by hitting the ground running early in session, acting on the recommendations of the bipartisan Special Committee on Economic Recovery and quickly distributing federal funds to those most impacted. This included:
- Focusing on people at risk of an immediate housing, food, childcare or job crisis;
- Providing relief for small businesses and support for the hospitality and leisure industries;
- Boosting aerospace and manufacturing for long-term growth;
- Improving access to health care;
- Expanding broadband internet access.
In the early weeks of session, we passed a comprehensive $2.2 billion measure to direct emergency funding where it was most needed, and we ended session with $6.7 billion for capital construction projects and $59.2 billion in operating budget dollars allocated across the state. You can read more about this in one of my past e-newsletter updates here.
QUESTION #2: Why did the legislature pass the capital gains tax this year?
This important step to rebuild our unfair tax code was taken after years of work, years of dialogue, and thousands of voices calling for this policy. We’ve heard that people from every part of our state are ready to move toward a healthier, stronger future together, and it’s time for the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.
Did you know that Washington state has the most regressive tax code in the nation? That means that our lowest-income neighbors pay six times more in taxes, as a proportion of their income, than the wealthiest Washingtonians (some of whom are the wealthiest people in the world). The capital gains tax asks the wealthiest among us to share in the responsibility of funding the needs of our communities, and it puts money back in the pockets of working families through a sales tax rebate – critical first steps on the path to balancing our tax code.
QUESTION #3: Since you also sit on the Health and Long Term Care committee and have a background in Public Health, can you give us an update about any exciting news on the healthcare front?
Especially during a year that put so much strain on our public health and healthcare systems, my colleagues and I were fiercely committed to making quality care more accessible and affordable. For the fourth straight year, we passed legislation to reduce the cost of coverage and out-of-pocket fees, identify and address long-term healthcare needs, and reduce the cost of commonly-used prescription drugs. We also made major investments in our foundational public health services, so that we will be better prepared for any future public health emergencies.
Just a few examples of this year’s work include:
- SB 5377 – improves upon Cascade Care, the nation’s first public option. It ensures that the public option is available statewide by requiring major hospitals to participate under certain conditions. It also creates a premium subsidy program to provide direct funding to health plan enrollees.
- SB 5399 – creates a Universal Health Care Commission to examine immediate improvements to Washington’s healthcare system and to prepare for a universal healthcare system.
- SB 5203 – allows the state to enter into partnerships with other states or entities to produce, distribute, or purchase generic prescription drugs.
- SB 5313 – prohibits health insurers and the Health Care Authority from denying coverage of medically necessary gender affirming treatment. It also requires health insurers and the HCA to ensure access to medically necessary gender affirming care.
I hope these answers to some common questions are helpful! If you have further questions, suggestions, or other ideas for the work we should do together in this upcoming year, send me an email at June.Robinson@leg.wa.gov, or give me a call at (360) 786-7674. Let’s set up a Zoom meeting or connect in writing. I’d love to hear from you, and I’m looking forward to learning more about your priorities. You can also follow me on Facebook for regular updates.
My work in Olympia is always informed by the voices of my neighbors, and I’m eager to hear yours.