On April 10th, the Legislature completed its 60-day, supplemental budget session. Similar to 2021, public participation in hearings was entirely virtual, and no members of the public were allowed to meet on the capital campus or interact in person during floor sessions.
More than 2,100 bills were alive at the outset of the session, and, like all 60-day sessions, the number fell dramatically after the first four weeks. Lawmakers entered the session with an unprecedented budget surplus driven by extraordinary tax collections following the lifting of the “stay at home” orders. Additionally, the State had billions of dollars of federal relief funds to work with.
In the end, the outcomes were more consistent with a long, budget writing session. Lawmakers increased general fund spending by 24% over the previous biennium, added $1.5 billion in new capital investments and adopted a $16.9 Billion, 16-year transportation funding package that emphasizes investments in transit, alternative fuels, culvert replacement and green energy.
The new 2022 $16.9 Billion Transportation Package references $85 Million for an "Infra Grant Match" to be available for allocation in the next biennium. If the $85 Million Infra Grant Match is allocated to the 12th Legislative District and paired with the $49Million US DOT Infrastructure Grant funds awarded to the City of Wenatchee in 2021, the two sources of funds would fully fund the $134 Million Confluence Parkway project.
In addition, the Legislature approved new legislative district maps that split Chelan and Douglas Counties; moving Okanogan County and much of Douglas County into the 7th Legislative District and the 12th Legislative District now comprises East Wenatchee, Chelan County, Snohomish County (from Index to Monroe) and King County (from North Bend to Duvall).
During the 2022 Legislative session the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce focused on several important issues, including
WVCC signed in support for HB 1732 and HB 1733 - delaying implementation of Washington’s Long Term Care Premiums and Program for 18 months to allow for legislative and actuarial review. Both Bills were signed by the Governor January 27, 2021.
WVCC signed in support for SB 5649 – Implements reforms, independent audits and oversight of Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Program after it was disclosed the program was $200-$400 million in arrears. The Bill was signed by the Governor March 30, 2022.
WVCC signed in against HB 1868 – Prescribing hospital staffing ratios – No action was taken by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
WVCC signed in against HB 1837 – Legislation to repeal the prohibition on regulating ergonomics – The Bill was introduced, but no action was taken in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
SB 5891 – Regulating Health and Safety in Warehouses and Food Processing Facilities, SB 5891 did not progress out of the Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs.
SB 5761 – Requires employers to disclose wage ranges and a description of benefits with any job posting. The Bill was signed by the Governor March 30, 2022
In 2021, the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund was projected to go insolvent due to unprecedented pressure for UI benefits driven by pandemic driven unemployment. Employers were facing “triple to four digit” UI premium increases and additional surcharges to pay back a forecasted short-term federal loan. In 2021, the Legislature allocated more than $580 million of federal relief funds to reduce and “smooth” projected increases (but did not eliminate all COVID related increases).
Due to the remarkable rebound in employment over the last 9 months, the legislature took further action to reduce the UI tax burden on employers.
WVCC supported and signed in support of SB 5873 – Reduces the UI Social Tax by 33% in 2022 and 33% in 2023. The Bill was signed by the Governor March 11, 2022.
In 2021, the Legislature provided $12 million for development of a statewide tourism marketing program.
As a condition of the appropriation, the Washington Tourism Alliance’s proposed branding and plan had to be reviewed and approved by the Joint Committee on Economic Development, Chaired by Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck. The branding, and plan were approved (see stateofwatourism.com) and funding maintained.
The Wenatchee Valley of Chamber has been in a leadership position both locally and statewide with the Washington Tourism Alliance during development of the statewide plan.
SB 5513 – Expanding flexibility of existing Lodging Taxes for affordable workforce housing.
WVCC signed in against SB 5513. The Bill received tremendous opposition and did not receive sufficient support to move forward out of the Housing and Local Government Committee.
SB 5868 - Expanding the use of the rural counties public facilities sales and use tax to include affordable workforce housing.
At the outset of the session, Senator Brad Hawkins introduced SB 5513 to allow diversion of lodging tax revenues from tourism promotion to investments in affordable housing. In response, the WVCC worked with Chelan County to develop an option, SB 5868, to authorize use of “$0.09” funds for infrastructure to support affordable housing projects. Despite a late introduction, SB 5868 passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Inslee March 24, 2022.
SB 5818– Exempts Housing Action Plans from SEPA appeal and challenge.
Exempts a fully planning city's adopted housing action plan strategies, and permanently exempts optional residential building capacity actions, from review and legal challenge under the Growth Management Act (GMA) and from review and appeal under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
Exempts adoption of certain development regulations or amendments by a fully planning city that increase housing capacity and affordability and mitigate displacement, and that apply outside of critical areas, from review under the GMA and from appeal under SEPA.
Exempts certain project actions from appeal under SEPA on the basis of or impacts to the aesthetics and light and glare elements of the environment if the project is subject to design review at the local government level.
The Bill was signed by the Governor March 30, 2022.
SB 5275– Allows more intense development within limited areas of more intense development
Allows development and redevelopment in terms of building size, scale, use, or intensity within a limited area of more intensive rural development if all existing providers of public facilities and services confirm that there is sufficient capacity to serve the new or increased demand from the development.
Requires commercial development or redevelopment within a mixed-use area of a limited area of more intensive rural development to be primarily designed to serve the needs of the rural population and sets limits on the size of retail or food service spaces within such development.
The Bill was signed by the Governor March 30, 2022.
HB 1643– Exempts a sale or transfer of real property to a nonprofit entity, housing authority, public corporation, county, or municipal corporation from the Real Estate Excise Tax
Exempts from real estate excise tax the sale or transfer of real property to a nonprofit, cooperative association, housing authority, public corporation, county, or municipal corporation if the grantee intends to use the property for housing for low-income persons.
The Bill was signed by the Governor March 30, 2022.
In 2019 and 2020, the Legislature enacted increases in B&O tax rates to fund more than $566 million for Career Connect Washington, scholarship, workforce education and higher education programs. Major programs funded by the program include:
Workforce Education Investment Accountability and Oversight Board.
The Washington College Grant Program, the Washington Student Loan Refinancing Program, and a Career Connected learning cross-agency work group and grant program
This year, the Legislature continued the work it had already set in motion. One new important program was authorized to support workforce development in the retail sector.
HB 2019– Increasing educational and training opportunities for careers in retail.
WVCC signed in support of HB 2019 requiring the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (Workforce Board) to consult and engage with stakeholders to identify and make recommendations on strategies to increase education and training for retail workers.
The Governor signed the Bill March 31, 2022.
The Workforce Board must:
Identify core skills needed for employment in the retail industry; identify existing courses, educational pathways, and apprenticeships for students and entry-level job seekers to gain the core skills identified.
Map educational pathways and apprenticeships that retail workers may use to pursue promotions and job advancement opportunities;
Identify where there are gaps in educational courses, trainings, and apprenticeships for retail workers; and
Identify in-demand, higher wage, non-industry specific professions within the retail industry that experience and education in retail may lead to.
The Workforce Board must then make recommendations to the Legislature on the following:
Strategies to develop additional courses, pathways, and apprenticeships to make retail certifications and credentials available for job seekers and current retail employees;
Strategies to build a network for students and job seekers who complete retail certification courses to connect with potential employers;
Options for engaging and partnering with retail employers to provide courses to incumbent front-line workers for the purpose of up-skilling and promotions, including in-demand, higher paid, non-industry specific positions within the retail industry; and
Options for increasing training and job opportunities in the retail industry for underserved communities and previously incarcerated individuals.
Four tax incentives were passed in the 2022 Legislative session that may be of interest.
Allows for a deferral of up to $400,000 in sales/use taxes for investments in manufacturing & research.
SB 5714 – Solar Canopies in Retail, Industrial or Commercial Property
Allows for deferral of state and local sales and uses taxes on solar canopy installation of at least 50,000 sq. ft, including labor and services rendered in the planning, installation, and construction of the project, that is in a qualifying commercial center.
Reduces the amount of state sales and use tax to be repaid if the recipient complies with specified labor standards.
Expands and extends the sales and use tax exemption for data centers in rural counties.
Requires a qualifying business operating a new data center to attain a specified sustainable design or green building standard within three years after being placed in service. Additional requirements include use of project labor or community workforce agreements on qualified projects.
Analysis and update provided by Bruce Beckett, with the Beckett Group.
Bruce has been contracted by the WVCC to represent Wenatchee Valley issues. He works closely with the WVCC Advocacy Committee to help identify and set priorities.