Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
Although legislators ended their third special session July 20, there is still work to be done. The Legislature completed several major tasks – including fully funding basic education – but needs to approve the state’s construction budget, officially called the capital budget, for 2017-19. Before that happens, we need to agree on a permanent answer for the situation caused by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hirst case.
The Senate approved a capital budget in March of this year, but we have been waiting for the Democrat-controlled House to approve a solution to the Hirst decision, handed down in 2016. It severely limits rural economic development by requiring duplicative and costly studies for rural property owners to obtain a household water well.
The Senate approved a bipartisan bill that would address the Hirst situation (Senate Bill 5239, sponsored by Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake) four times! The House however, has failed to bring the bill up for a vote or even vote on any of their own proposals to bring relief for families who need a well to have water.
Senator Warnick has taken the lead negotiating with the House and other stakeholders, but there is no agreement, yet. She recently sent a letter, signed by 21 members of the Senate Majority, including myself, asking the Governor to demonstrate some leadership by getting his party to the negotiating table. To date, the Governor has failed to respond.
You can read that letter by clicking here.
Until then, the Senate Majority has been clear that the state should not be borrowing money (with interest) to build government – which is what the capital budget represents – while rural residents can’t build on their own property.
Our neighbors in the Skagit Valley have been dealing with a similar problem for years. Hundreds of families have been told that their properties are worthless because they do not have legal water. They cannot sell, refinance, or develop their properties. Failing to fix Hirst would have the same effect all across our state.
Without a permanent fix for Hirst, our state’s economy is in serious trouble. A recent study commissioned by the state’s building industry shows a loss of nearly $7 billion in economic activity, thousands of jobs lost, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property tax shifts.
Some of the details of the report include:
- $6.9 billion lost in economic activity each year in Washington, predominantly in rural communities;
- $452.3 million in lost employee wages due to the impacts of Hirst, annually;
- Nearly 9,300 lost jobs (FTEs) in rural Washington, annually;
- $392.7 million in lost taxes to state and local governments, annually;
- $4.59 billion in losses to the construction industry, annually;
- $37 billion in lost property values in areas impacted by Hirst; and
- $346 million in property taxes shifted to other properties in Washington.
You can read the full report here.