If you would like me to respond to an issue not listed here, please drop me a note:
- Economic Development
- Private Property Rights
- Water Resources
- “Exempt” Wells
- Growth Management Act: Local Control
- Growth Management Act: Critical Areas
- Reducing Publicly Owned Lands
Issue: Washington State is facing an estimated $8.0 billion budget deficit because of out of control spending and decreased revenue. Instead of focusing on reduced spending, the Legislative Majority is looking for ways to increase revenue.
Discussion: Unemployment rates are increasing in the 15th District and throughout Washington State. Routinely, companies are downsizing, closing or moving out of the state. Unfortunately, thus far the Legislative Majority has failed to take meaningful action to improve the business climate in reaction to the growing problem.
Over the past several years, laws have been passed which restrict the hiring of student aged employees, increase the tax burden on businesses and expand the regulatory burden on employers. Unless the Legislature takes action to improve business opportunities, the State will see a continued decline in revenue.
Solutions: If appointed as the 15th District Representative, I will work to increase the opportunities for existing and new businesses to prosper in the 15th District. I would work on several specific action items to address the issue. First, I would work to eliminate the Business and Operations Tax and allow businesses to keep the money they earned. This would increase the amount of capital a business has with which to operate.
Second, I would work to reduce Unemployment Insurance tax, which is currently the second highest in the nation, and reduce the costs associated with unemployment benefit levels, which are the fifth most generous nationally.
Third, I would work to provide local governments with the authority to pass additional incentive based measures to recruit new businesses to their jurisdiction.
These action items would improve the overall business climate in Washington State, encourage the expansion of existing businesses and assist in the recruitment of new businesses. In the long run, I believe these actions would read to record revenue levels.
Issue: The United States and Washington State Constitutions protect against the taking of private property without just compensation, yet unconstitutional takings still occur in Washington State.
Discussion: In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London highlighted the impacts associated with the misuse of eminent domain and led to a national public outcry against the taking of private property.
There are two forms of takings private property owners must be aware of. The first are physical takings. Physical takings can include the taking of land without compensation, the confiscation of property, and barring access to property.
The second are regulatory takings. Regulatory takings include laws that illegally limit the use of property or through the application of laws limit the economically viable uses of property. There are also two (2) sub-categories of takings, permanent and temporary. Both physical and regulatory takings can be either permanent or temporary in nature, but remain takings nonetheless.
In Washington State, regulatory takings routinely occur without much fan fare and little argument. The critical areas requirements of the Growth Management Act have allowed government entities to take private property for the benefit of the public without compensation in the form of buffers, setbacks and open space mandates.
Solutions: If appointed as the 15th District Representative, I will work to increase private property rights protection by establishing provisions within the GMA which requires governmental agencies to either compensate landowners for the public benefit they are required to provide or issue a waiver from the requirements. In addition, I would carefully review proposed legislation to identify instances in which private property takings could occur.
Issue: The availability of dependable, predictable water supply is crucial to the continued economic wellbeing of the 15th Legislative District.
Discussion: In much of the 15th Legislative District, agriculture relies heavily on the availability of irrigation water to prosper. We must look to the future and promote water storage, water conservation and the ability to transfer water to areas which need it. Relinquishment or “use it or lose it” must be amended to encourage water conservation practices to the benefit of our area agriculturalists.
In order to encourage commercial and industrial growth in the 15th Legislative District, water must be available for use. Once again, water storage and water right transfers are key to future economic development in our region. Proper, incentive based water conservation can provide water to future commercial and industrial businesses in our area.
Finally, State Government has mandated jurisdictions to focus growth into existing cities and towns, yet nothing has been done to assist municipalities in enlarging their water rights to serve the increased population. Water storage, conservation and transfers are all potential answers to our region’s population growth.
Solutions: If appointed as the 15th District Representative, I will work to amend the “use it or lose it” (relinquishment) provisions of Washington Water Law which ignores whether the water was actually abandoned by the owner. Amending the law to place the burden of proving that a water right owner intended to abandon their water right on the State and/or opponent will promote water conservation and water right transfers for new uses.
In addition, I will work to promote additional water storage in order to provide dependable, predictable water supply. Areas within the 15th District have experienced several droughts over the past decade. Additional water storage will remove the unpredictability facing our agricultural industry in any given year.
Lastly, I will work to provide an incentive based water conservation program that supports the agricultural community, promotes economic development and allows municipalities to grow. Water right owners that conserve water must be able to transfer that water for new uses.
Issue: The continual attack to limit or prohibit exempt wells greatly impacts residents of the 15th Legislative District.
Discussion: Washington State Water Law allows landowners to utilize ground water without a permit for a limited number of uses. These uses include:
- For (live)stock water purposes;
- For water of lawns or noncommercial gardens not exceeding one-half acre;
- For single or group domestic uses in an amount not exceeding five thousand (5,000) gallons per day; and
- For commercial or industrial purposes not exceeding five thousand (5,000) gallons per day.
These limited uses (found in RCW 90.44.050) greatly limit rural landowners from using their property to the highest and best use. In addition, the State’s interpretation of the law reduces a landowner’s ability to use unproductive lands for residential development. At a minimum, these uses should be expanded to encourage new economic development in rural areas of the 15th Legislative District.
In 2006 the Attorney General’s Office published an Opinion which reaffirmed the livestock water exemption. The opinion should be affirmed by the Legislature in order to provide livestock producers in the 15th District with a predictable and reliable water supply for stock water.
Solutions: If appointed as the Representative, I will work to expand the “exempt” ground water uses to allow economic development to occur in the rural areas of the 15th District. Rural economic development can provide an area with much needed services, jobs and tax revenue. For example, a parts dealer who has the ability to locate their business in an agricultural area can save time and reduce expense serving an area’s farmers.
In addition, I will work to amend the law to specifically identify group domestic wells (as defined by the State Department of Health) as an exempt use. This will allow rural residential development to occur at densities dictated by local conditions and not by Special Interest or Environmental Groups.
Lastly, I will work to have the Attorney General’s livestock water Opinion affirmed by the Legislature. It is vitally important that our region’s livestock producers be afforded the right the utilize ground water.
Issue: The Growth Management Act has reduced local control over land use and zoning decisions. State mandates and Special Interest and Environmental Groups are currently dictating unfair and onerous land use regulations. We must regain local control in order to have a say in the future of our communities.
Discussion: The Growth Management Act (GMA) was originally billed as a locally controlled planning program. However, in the past nineteen (19) years communities have witnessed the reduction or removal of local control over land use and zoning decisions. The Legislative findings contained in the GMA state, in part:
“It is in the public interest that citizens, communities, local governments, and the private sector cooperate and coordinate with one another in comprehensive land use planning.” RCW 36.70A.010
Yet, it is the special interest groups, environmental groups and State Agencies which often dictate local land use law.
Part of the GMA created the Growth Management Hearings Boards. These Boards are appointed by the Governor and hear appeals to local land use plans and development regulations. Decisions made by this appointed Board have cost local governments millions of dollars. The Growth Management Hearings Boards must have their power and authority reduced or eliminated in order to regain local control.
Solutions: If appointed to serve as the 15th District Representative, I will work to dramatically change the Growth Management Act to mold it into the tool it was originally meant to be and not the weapon it has become. Amending the GMA to strengthen local government’s ability to be flexible in the balancing of the thirteen (13) goals to best fit their jurisdiction is but one example of changes I would seek.
In addition, I will seek changes in the functions and powers of the Growth Management Act Hearings Boards to include only mediation and not allow them to be judge and jury of locally approved land use and zoning laws. Limiting the GMA Hearings Boards jurisdiction to procedural issues or their function to mediation will greatly enhance local control. Whether or not a local jurisdiction has met the minimum requirements of the Act should be decided by an elected judge, not an unelected, Governor appointed board that has no accountability to the public.
Issue: The Growth Management Act requires all jurisdictions in Washington State to adopt development regulations which protect critical areas. These regulations are generally expensive to implement, overly burdensome on property owners and usually result in an unconstitutional taking of private property without compensation.
Discussion: When the Legislature passed the Growth Management Act (Title 36.70A RCW) it mandated that every county and city in the state adopt development regulations to protect critical areas as defined under the Act. Designated critical areas include:
- Frequently Flooded Areas;
- Critical Aquifer Recharge Area;
- Geologically Hazardous Areas; and
- Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas.
Although many of the designated critical areas can be and are provided protection under other existing laws, State Agencies, Environmental Groups and Special Interest Groups have sued many jurisdictions in order to get measures adopted which are not supported by sound science.
State and local agencies have designated inadvertent, artificially created “wetlands” as regulatory wetlands. Much of the 15th District is characterized as having a desert climate and in many cases, “wetlands” located in upland areas would not exist but for irrigation practices.
As an example, Mr. Don Young, who lives in the 15th District, received a violation notice from Yakima County for “filling” and “destroying” a wetland. Mr. Young attempted to work with County Officials to demonstrate the “wetland” was actually irrigation runoff, but County Officials continued to dispute that fact. Their solution, fence off the “wetland” area, reseed it and install an irrigation system to ensure re-growth occurred. In the end, I was able to assist Mr. Young in resolving the issue and the County compensated him for his time.
Solutions: If appointed as the 15th District Representative, I will work to strengthen private property rights and seek compensation for landowners who’ve had their property rights taken from them. I will work to seek passage of legislation which requires all governmental agencies to perform a Private Property Rights Takings Analysis before passage of any new laws, regulations, rules, or policies.
It’s particularly important to differentiate between natural and artificially influenced wetlands. I will work to strengthen the definition of regulatory wetlands to exclude any and all wetlands artificially created or influenced by irrigation water, its use, delivery, and return flows.
Issue: The vast majority of the 15th Legislative District is owned by State and Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Ownership by the public entities dramatically increases the tax burden on local landowners.
Discussion: Approximately 75% of the 15th District is owned by public entities, which provide little to no revenue to local governments in the form of property taxes. Local governments rely heavily on property taxes to finance day to day operations and the financing of capital improvement projects to serve their communities. Although there are instances in which local governments receive “PILT” (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funds to mitigate the reduced tax revenue, these payments are generally less than that which would be produced under private ownership.
Disbursement of publicly owned lands to private ownership may allow the creation of new, innovative programs which would benefit agricultural and forestry producers. For example, a percentage of the disbursed lands could be reserved for purchase by young or new producers. There are several benefits such a program would provide.
Solutions: If appointed as the 15th District Representative, I will work to decrease the amount of publically owned lands within the 15th District. Increased private ownership of land will increase revenue to local governments, increase their ability to finance capital facility improvements to address the needs and desires of the communities they serve and should decrease the overall tax burden on individual property owners.
In addition, I would explore the possibility of reserving disbursed lands for the express purpose of creating an available land base to new or young natural resource producers.