Monthly Archive: December 2019

2020 Brings Tax Increases For Many Local Businesses and Families

On April 28th, the Washington Legislature adjourned after passing a $52.4 billion two-year state operating budget. To help fund the budget, the Governor signed a tax package worth at least $830 million over the next two years, despite unprecedented revenue from existing sources.

Some articles have estimated the tax increases to be up to $2.5 billion over the next two years and $7.5 billion within the next four years.

I, like many small business owners with families, was disappointed with the massive increase in spending by Governor Inslee and the Legislature. The investments in the budget, like for counselors and mental health treatment, could have been realized through efficiencies and from existing revenue sources- without increasing taxes on business and working families.

Peter Abbarno, Centralia City Councilmember

According to a new report from the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC), Washington state can expect another two years of increased revenue. The council anticipates $51.7 billion in revenue for the 2019-21 biennium – a increase of almost $300 million and 12.3 percent from the 2017-19 biennium. That two-year figure is only expected to grow by 2021-23 to $55.154 billion

Here are some of the 2019 Tax Increase you can expect to see (and feel) beginning in 2020:

Business & Occupation Tax Increases

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Minimum Wage Increases on January 1st: JOBS v. WAGES

The state minimum wage increases on Wednesday, January 1, from $12 an hour to $13.50. In cities, like Seattle, the minimum wage is already higher than the state’s and in SeaTac, minimum wage is $15.64.

Family Wage Jobs aren’t created by focusing on the word ‘WAGE’. Family Wage Jobs are created by focusing on the word ‘JOBS’. Government needs to incentivize economic growth, encourage business development, eliminate overburdensome regulations, and invest in an education system that gives students greater career and college ready options. The emphasis should be on Job Creation.

Peter Abbarno, Centralia City Councilmember

In 2016, Voters passed Initiative 1433 to increase the state’s minimum wage every year from 2017 to 2020. Washington’s minimum wage was $9.47 an hour; the eighth highest minimum wage in the country. Some municipalities, like the City of Seattle, increased minimum wage to $15 an hour.

A report released by the University of Washington in 2017, which was commissioned by the Seattle City Council, found that although the economy absorbed the first wage increase from $9.47 an hour to $11 an hour, things were different when wages increased again. When the wage increased to $13 an hour for some small employers and $15 an hour for some large employers, it caused a reduction in hours for low-wage workers. The UW report, says they found an approximate 9 percent decline in the number of hours for those earning less than $19 an hour. That offsets the 3 percent increase in pay workers got, having a negative impact overall.

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Governor Uses Emergency Reserves For Homelessness

Homelessness has become a catastrophe; especially on the West Coast, and in particular, Seattle. Homelessness is not cause, but the result of substance abuse, mental illness, traumatic experiences, and the list can go on.

I wouldn’t criticize the Governor for where his heart is on this issue. However, we can’t merely house people and expect homelessness to disappear. The fastest growing population of homeless is children and the population of homeless seniors is expected to double in the next 5 years. I don’t want money just spent without focus! We need money invested on long-term viable solutions that end the cycle of intergenerational poverty and address homelessness among the innocent and most vulnerable in our community.

Peter Abbarno, Centralia City Councilor

The Governor proposes using $146 million in the current operating budget Emergency Reserve, and over $300 million over the course of the next three years. Many of the programs provide only temporary relief.

The Governor’s plan includes $66 million to “reduce the point-in-time count of unsheltered individuals by 1,890,” $1 million for a transitional housing pilot program for homeless youth, $26 million for housing and essential needs serving 2,200 people, $30 million for new enhanced shelters, and $15.4 million to provide permanent supportive housing for 1,080 people.

The Legislature will convene in January 2020 for a short session that is expected to last 60 days. Undoubtedly, the Legislature, which is controlled by democrats, will address these issues and the Governor’s proposal. At this point, the Governor is not proposing new taxes for his programs.

Successful plans to address homelessness must be flexible and allow local governments, local agencies, local faith based organizations, and local health and social service organizations to direct the funds where they are needed most. As I discussed with the Governor on his recent trip to Chehalis and the HUB City Severe Weather Shelter, Cookie cutter one-size-fits-all programs we see in King County-Seattle-Olympia don’t work everywhere and clearly aren’t even working there.

Peter Abbarno, Centralia City Councilor

The Governor’s full budget also leave us with many questions and doubts, which includes measures to address firearm violence, education, orca and salmon recovery, transportation, and more. The full budget proposal here.

It’s good that the governor didn’t propose new taxes, for a change, but he also wants nearly a billion dollars in additional spending at a time when there are already concerns about the sustainability of the current budget. His emphasis on housing seems to ignore government’s track record on addressing homelessness, and he missed opportunities to address issues that matter to all Washingtonians, like car tabs and repeat DUI offenders and property-tax relief for all low-income seniors. There’s a real contrast between what the governor views as important and what Senate Republicans have been hearing from the public.

Sen. John Braun, (R-Centralia) Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee

Washington State has the fifth-highest per-capita rate of homelessness of all U.S. states. Seattle has the third-highest among large cities in America with over 11,000 estimated homeless and unsheltered.

Centralia Councilmember Peter Abbarno was one of the guest speakers at the United Way of Lewis County Community Partnership Luncheon. He talked about the new direction the United Way of Lewis County has focused on in the fight against generational poverty. He said the various new ventures by United Way as highlighted in the luncheon, through cooperation and partnership, will make a real difference.

If we are truly to reduce poverty long-term and lasting, we need to strengthen homes and families, provide opportunity for financial independence, and deliver a pre-kindergarten system that puts every child on the pathway to a healthy and successful life,” Peter Abbarno said.

The Chronicle, September 27, 2019, United Way Partnership Luncheon

Unpopular Road Usage Charge Seeing Light At End Of Overpriced Tunnel

To the disappointment of many Washingtonians; especially, in rural Washington, the State is one step closer to replacing the state gas tax with a new system where drivers are tracked and charged on a per-mile basis.

What Would A Road Usage Charge Do To Your Family Budget?

This week, the Washington State Transportation Commission voted to forward 16 recommendations for a road usage charge to the Washington Legislature, Gov. Jay Inslee and the Federal Highway Administration.

Elected Officials from Seattle are already trying to find ways to use the money for mass transit projects in Seattle and King County.

Rural Washingtonians that drive longer distances for services and employment are going to be disproportionately impacted by a Road Usage Charge. The tax is intrusive by monitoring residents and punishing them for seeking opportunities in rural communities. Privacy and Commonsense went out the car window on this policy.

Washington and other states face a funding problem with more electric cars, hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles generating less gas tax revenue. The gas tax does not automatically keep pace with inflation or rise and fall with changes in gas prices.

For many years, Government has encouraged energy efficiency! Now, Government is doing a 180 Degree turn. The policy punishes both individuals for seeking energy efficient vehicles and businesses for seeking transportation cost savings.

Gas taxes are the state’s biggest transportation funding source, accounting for 39 percent of revenue. According to the transportation commission, Washington residents pay an average of $225 in gas taxes for every 12,000 miles they drive.

Peter Abbarno joins AWB Government Affairs Director Clay Hill to testify in opposition to Senate Bill 5129, which would increase taxes on employers. (Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB)

Over the past seven years, about 2,000 drivers have participated in a pilot project driving more than 15 million miles to test a mock road usage charge of 2.4 cents per mile. According to Transportation officials, road usage charges could be tracked in several ways, including odometer readings and GPS devices.

The Road Usage Charge will cost Washingtonians more money and more freedom. The pilot project evidenced that drivers would pay more per year with a tax on each mile driven and will be tracked inside and outside of the State of Washington. I urge our lawmakers- if the RUC passes- protect the money as a user fee and do not allow it to be syphoned off to mass transit and unrelated programs.

10th Annual Centralia Lighted Tractor Parade Dazzles Downtown

The Centralia Downtown Association’s 10th Annual Lighted Tractor Parade dazzled downtown Centralia on Saturday, December 14th. See and relive the parade!

The Family at the Althauser Rayan Abbarno Christmas Party and Parade Viewing Party

I was honored to announce the parade for my 6th year. The parade has grown tremendously since it first started 10 years ago and I don’t see the size or quality going down.

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Motion Passes to Give Property Tax Increase Back to the Community through Local Organizations

On December 10th, Councilmember Peter Abbarno made a motion to give back the 1% property tax levy increase to local community organizations. The motion passed unanimously. The full Council Meeting can be seen at City of Centralia Council Page.

I was opposed to increasing the property tax levy in the first place and was very disappointed to see taxes increase in the City of Centralia. The City Council approved a $139 million biennial balanced budget that preserves and increases reserves. Any increase in taxes or fees was unnecessary, but I could not procedurally rescind it outright.

The Motion added to funds in the “Community Projects” line item and allows local community organizations to apply for the funding. Last year, Reliable Enterprises received the funds for a Rent Well Program.

The line item is used to support the Lewis County Seniors, Severe Weather Shelter, and other organizations that give back.

At the same meeting on December 10th, the City Council approved a budget amendment that increased the budget by almost $5 million. The Centralia City Staff Recommended no increase in the property tax levy.

We, as a City Council, have the choice of higher taxes and bigger government or lower taxes and efficient government. I agreed with the city staff recommendation that no tax increase was necessary. I wanted to give the money back to the taxpayers through non-profit organizations that can stretch dollars much farther and spend dollars much better than government.

Legislative and Governmental Forum Highlights Need for Continued Cooperation.

Cascade Mental Health Care’s sixth mental health forum this week was highlighted the efforts of many local and regional orgnaizations addressing homelessness, substance abuse, mental health, and the lack of housing.

I want to thank the amazing staff at Cascade Community Health and all the presenters this year. I was honored to join the panel for my fifth year, said Peter Abbarno, Centralia City Councilmember and local attorney. Our community, like many, is facing many homelessness issues. It is reassuring to see the cooperation and hope in the room of presenters- from faith based organizations to government agencies.

Peter Abbarno

The panel included: Centralia City Councillor Peter Abbarno, 20th legislative district Representatives Richard DeBolt and Ed Orcutt, 20th legislative district Senator John Braun, 19th legislative district representative Brian Blake, Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, and, County Commissioner Edna Fund.

Centralia City Councilmember Peter Abbarno with 20th Legislative District Representative Richard DeBolt.

A message needs to be sent to Olympia and Seattle that cookie cutter one sized fits all programs do not work in Lewis County. Rural communities in Southwest Washington, outside of the Puget Sound, have different problems that require local control and local solutions, added Abbarno. Our local volunteers and treatment providers know the clients and community and should have greater flexibility to address the needs of the most vulnerable in the community.

Peter Abbarno

According to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress and the State of Washington Homeless Housing Crisis Response System Strategic Plan, the fastest growing population of homeless is children, And, by 2024, the number of homeless seniors will double.

There were 11 speakers from various organizations including the Hub City Mission- Bethel Church, Cascade Community Health Care, Twin City Transit, United Way, and Providence Centralia Hospital.

Homelessness will not be solved by housing alone. Homelessness has many causes that need to be addressed in their totality. I look forward to working on these issues and programs that measure success NOT by how much money is spent, but how many families are lifted out of poverty and end the intergenerational cycle.

Peter Abbarno

If you missed the forum, the video from Cascade Community Health is below: