The housing affordability crisis touches not just our city and county, but every corner of the state. People are struggling to stay in their homes or afford rent in communities large and small from Okanogan to Bellingham and from the Tri-Cities to rural Grays Harbor County.
This is an issue that compelled me to run for office, and I’m working hard to make sure the legislature does all it can to support people struggling to keep a roof over their heads. At long last, we finally passed the capital budget, through which many of our affordable housing efforts are funded. I’m also sponsoring several pieces of legislation that aim to keep people in their homes.
· HB 1570—I’m the prime sponsor of this bill which makes permanent a real estate transaction fee to fund crucial housing services like emergency, DV, youth and young adult shelters; eviction prevention, move-in assistance and allows rental vouchers to be used in both for-profit and nonprofit homes.
· HB 2578—This bill goes hand in hand with HB 1570 by prohibiting discrimination against renters or prospective renters based on the source of income they use for rent, such as Section 8 vouchers and other public assistance programs.
· HB 2437—Expands affordable housing and rental assistance programs by allowing counties to bond against existing state sales tax revenues. Such bonds would come at no new cost to homeowners, renters, landlords, or developers—an all-around win.
· HB 2583—Lifts the state preemption against municipal and county rent certainty programs. We’ll never solve our homelessness and affordability crisis without having every tool available at our disposal.
· HB 2667—The Housing and Essential Needs and Aged, Blind, and Disabled programs (HEN & ABD) are two of our most important state programs for seniors and disabled people struggling to get by. I’m prime sponsoring this bill to prevent people from becoming homeless when their disability becomes permanent by allowing people who are receiving ABD support to also receive or retain a housing subsidy. Under current law, people cannot use both programs despite the clear connection between the different needs each program serves.
Childcare and early learning
Affordable, high-quality childcare is an essential in modern life, especially for young parents in school, or in the early stages of a career, or who are, like so many today, working two or more jobs just to pay the rent. But the fact that it’s needed doesn’t mean it’s always available.
Dozens of childcare bills have been introduced this session, and I’ve supported those that have real promise and reflect progressive, child-positive values. It’s a short session and many good bills have fallen by the wayside already, but as of this writing, all these bills are still alive.
· HB 2396—Encourages and assists with employer-supported childcare. Childcare at or near the workplace is a boon for children and parents, and it’s good for businesses as well. This bill also establishes a scholarship and loan-repayment program for students aiming for careers in early learning.
· HB 2293—I’m a co-sponsor of this straightforward bill that establishes childcare centers as Gun-Free Zones.
· HB 2764—There’s general agreement that education is one key to success in life, and this bill will eliminate a hurdle that can actually discourage parents of young children from pursuing an academic or career-training path. The Working Connections Childcare Program is highly regarded, but its requirement that recipients work a certain number of hours each week can make staying in school impossible. With this bill, we would eliminate the work requirements for recipients who are in an educational or training program that leads to a certificate or degree.
· HB 2367—I’m also working to pass this wide-ranging bill that, like HB 2396 mentioned earlier, hopes to incentivize employer-supported childcare. This calls on the Department of Commerce to create a Childcare Collaborative Task Force to create options for those incentives; suggest ways to streamline permitting and licensing requirements for employers considering on-site childcare facilities; and draw up plans for a “Bring Your Infant to Work” program for public- and private-sector employers.
I’m not giving up on progressive tax code reform
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you our state has the most regressive tax system in the county; it’s a lived experience for millions of Washingtonians. I support a progressive income tax, and have signed onto legislation (HB 2967) that will provide much needed property tax relief by enacting a progressive capital gains tax.
I had to make a difficult decision in the last legislative session to keep our government open and allow a state budget that stuck it to Seattle homeowners. While we had two terrible options to choose from last year under a Republican Senate Majority that was unwilling to do the serious work of governing, things are different this year. We must capitalize on this moment with the new Senate Democratic Majority to take meaningful steps to make our tax code more progressive.
This is just a very brief look into some of my priority bills. I am anticipating action on additional important issues like climate, K12 and higher education, mental health and substance use treatment, immigrant protections, and many others.