State Legislature Passes Several Contentious Bills As Session Comes to End
The 2020-21 Washington State legislative session ended with a flurry of bills Saturday and Sunday.
First, and perhaps the most closely watched, the legislature narrowly voted to approve a 7% capital gains tax Sunday, sending the bill to Governor Inslee's desk.
The extra revenue, estimated to be roughly $500 million a year, will go to fund K-12 education, early learning, and child care.
It is expected that the bill will face a though legal battle ahead, with many Republicans challenging its constitutionality on that grounds it's an income tax. The legislation also passed with a provision that makes the tax exempt from a potential voter referendum.
According to the legislation, failing to pay the tax could result in a class C felony.
Both major climate bills were approved by the legislature over the weekend and are also headed to Governor Inslee's desk for a final signature.
Inslee tweeted Sunday that Washington now joins our West Coast neighbors, California, Oregon and British Columbia in decreasing climate pollution from cars and trucks by boosting electric vehicles and lower-carbon biofuels.
The Clean Fuel Standard requires fuel producers to gradually reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels. The Climate Commitment Act caps carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and make investments in the environment and green infrastructure.
Legislators passed a roughly $59 billion operating budget for 2021 through 2023 Sunday. WA State Democrats tweeted that the budget "makes big investments in our communities to help those hurt most by COVID-19." The bill includes:
- $4 billion for child care, early learning and student support
- $3.2 billion towards boosting public health through things like COVID-19 vaccine and more support for health districts
- $1.8 billion for rent and housing assistance and support for people experiencing homelessness
- $700 million in small business relief
- $658 million to help people pay back rent during the pandemic
- $520 million for behavioral health and substance abuse
- $124 million for food assistance programs