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Washington Democrats say some of the taxpayer initiatives will not get hearings

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(The Center Square) – Democratic leaders in Olympia say they will not hold hearings on at least two of the six initiatives to the Legislature that Republicans argue the majority is obligated to consider based on the Washington State Constitution.

The two measures they will not consider based on comments from leadership this week are Initiative 2109 that would repeal the state’s capital gains tax and Initiative 2117 that would repeal the state’s carbon market under the Climate Commitment Act.

Unless Democratic leadership changes course, the initiatives will head to the November ballot. The Legislature can approve the initiatives or send them to voters. If the initiatives are rejected by the Legislature or the Legislature takes no action by the end of session on March 7, they will go on the November ballot. The Legislature may also pass an alternative proposal to accompany each initiative on the ballot.

Under the state constitution, initiatives to the Legislature “shall take precedence over all other measures in the Legislature except appropriation bills and shall be either enacted or rejected before the end of … regular session.”

Initiative opponents tell The Center Square they will focus on campaigns they say will truly educate voters on what is at stake.

During a Wednesday press conference, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, was asked about the initiatives seeing the light of day.

“The capital gains tax and the Climate Commitment Act, I think we can definitively say we’re not going to hold hearings on,” he said.

Billig said the two tax measures being rolled back would really harm the state.

“Capital gains being rolled back would devastate our funding for childcare when we have a childcare crisis,” he stated.

Billig said it would be a $5 billion dollar cut over 5 years, if the measure was repealed.

When it comes to the Climate Commitment Act, which opponents say is behind a gas price increase of up to 50 cents per gallon, Billig noted, “The Legislature is not going to take us back in time.”

As to the other four initiatives, Democrats say they are in discussions as to figure out what they are going to do.

“What we have always thought is the responsible approach is you must get a fiscal note to understand the impact,” House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said.

Jinkins said they know the devastating impact of two of those, referencing the capital gains tax repeal measure and the Climate Commitment Act repeal.

“We are waiting on the one [Initiative 2124] that addresses long term care but that could be a very devastating fiscal note also,” she said. “That would continue to force our seniors to spend themselves into poverty.”

Jinkins said they are waiting on fiscal notes and legal analysis to really understand what the other initiatives do.

“Some of them are written in very clunky language that make it very difficult to understand,” she said, although she did not specify which initiatives might get hearings.

During a Wednesday briefing with reporters, Billig made clear Democrats will hold hearings on some of the four remaining initiatives, although he, too, gave no specifics.

“There will be some hearings,” he said. “We just don’t have the final decisions on which ones or when.”

The three other measures are Initiative 2081 that would expand parental rights relating to their children’s public school education; Initiative 2111 that would prohibit the state, counties, cities, and other local jurisdictions from imposing or collecting income taxes; and Initiative 2113 that would lessen restrictions on police pursuits.

“People have heard a lot of reports from the Department of Revenue that if these initiatives pass, it will blow a hole in the budget and the sky is falling and we’re not going to be able to fund K-12, but from my perspective it’s a little bit of fearmongering,” Sen. Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup, told members of the press on Wednesday.

Gildon said lawmakers funded K-12 education long before capital gains.

“You always fund your priorities first,” he noted. “We don’t fund priority projects with volatile income sources.”

He added, “You don’t budget for dining out before you make your house payment.”

Gildon pointed to California Gov. Gavin Newson recently vetoing a capital gains tax because of its volatility.

Initiative supporters plan to hold a Feb. 23 rally at the state Capitol.