As someone who represents a largely rural district and leads a caucus of members who represent most of rural Washington, I have grown increasingly concerned about the Legislature’s inability to serve Washingtonians who live outside of the Puget Sound area.
If you support fiscal responsibility, our men and women in law enforcement, the preservation of Second Amendment rights, and the small-town way of life, you’ll find the Legislature is not working for you.
While there were some bipartisan successes during this year’s 60-day legislative session, majority Democrats spent a lot of time shutting down Republican policy proposals and shutting us out of key negotiations. We introduced bills to cut taxes, make our communities safer, grow the rural economy, make housing more affordable and hold state government accountable.
Unfortunately, the majority decided the status quo was largely acceptable.
One of the most important roles the political minority can fulfill is convincing the majority of their mistakes and giving them reasons to rethink and adjust. That has happened in the past. In the last two sessions, however, the majority has made ideology a top priority and remote sessions have made it easy for them to shut out dissent. As a result, Democratic leadership has ignored good counsel from my caucus and from the public, which has led to several missed opportunities and unfortunate outcomes.
For example, with families facing skyrocketing inflation and pain at the pump, we had an opportunity to use our record $15 billion budget surplus to provide meaningful tax relief. Republicans proposed both property and sales tax cuts. In the end, however, majority budget writers chose to spend nearly every dime growing the size and scope of government.
On the public safety front, nearly nothing was done to solve the challenges of rising crime and our ongoing police officer recruitment and retention crisis. In fact, the majority refused to roll back some of the harmful provisions they passed in last year’s “police reform” bills that created confusion, hindered our law enforcement professionals, and allowed some criminals to escape justice.
With six days to go before the end of session, the majority opted against passing a bill to curb any of the governor’s emergency powers, choosing instead to pass a bill that will soon take power away from law-abiding gun owners. When it goes into effect, Senate Bill 5078 will prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
While House Republicans worked tirelessly to pass good bills off the floor and stop harmful bills from becoming law, we were simply outnumbered. Even so, we did everything we could to stand up for you and your family and have your back. We introduced meaningful legislation, presented compelling arguments, and won floor debates on substance.
In the end, the 2022 legislative session could have been remembered as one full of bipartisan successes, in which the majority chose to work with us to make life better for all Washingtonians. Instead, it will be remembered as so many others have: for its partisan division and lack of meaningful progress on the issues you truly care about.
Looking ahead to next year, it is my hope we will have a wiser Legislature that is intently focused on solving the growing number of problems facing our state. Our mission as Republicans is to make Washington the best state in the country to live, work, start a business, raise a family and retire. We’re on the wrong path now, but I am hopeful we can make a much-needed course correction in the future.
Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, has served the 2nd Legislative District in the state House since 2011. He currently serves as House Republican Leader.