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Q&A: Rep. JT Wilcox on 2022 legislative priorities

Rep. JT Wilcox (R-2nd LD) serves as the House Republican Leader, and sits on the House Rules Committee. The Wire spoke with Wilcox to see what House Republican priorities will look like moving into the 2022 session, and what he thinks the 2022 general election could hold. 

Aaron Kunkler: What are your legislative priorities looking forward to the 2022 session?

JT Wilcox: First, public safety. Obviously the bills that were passed were deeply flawed. I’m glad that the Democrats have acknowledged that now. We’re committed to working hard on a fix, but it’s not a fix, it’s just a nibbling around the edges. These things were flawed, and we all agreed that there is room to do police reform. But I said from day one, that our whole goal is to preserve the tools that are necessary to keep people safe, and same time and make it as unlikely as possible that any of them are going to be misused. And that’s not what happened. So the truth is, we have so many amendments available that we ran and almost all of them were rejected. We now know that a lot of those bills didn’t work. And probably these amendments are going to look a lot better this time around. So we are going to continue to offer those amendments and try to provide impetus towards safety rather than ideology.

AK: What are some of those amendments you’re hoping to see passed?

JW: Well, I think the ones that are the most necessary right now are the ones that allow non-lethal tools, you know, the beanbag problem. The next is, let’s make it very plain. Of course, it’s okay for the police to be involved in welfare checks and involuntary commitments. And the police should be able to perform a pursuit under a less impossible standard than what’s established in those bills. So those are the first three big priorities. 

Next is the long term health care tax. That is an unsustainable program. The math doesn’t work. It should be repealed. 

AK: There’s Democratic lawmakers who are exploring ways to adjust the Long Term Care Trust Act, but it sounds like the House Republican position is it should be repealed outright? 

JW: Yeah, I don’t think it’s fixable. Every fix that you do to it makes it less financially sustainable. So we would be in favor of just repealing it. And we could start over again with some kind of panel of people from the private sector that know how to make these work. People are going to start seeing the deductions in January. If we don’t have a sustainable system, we should repeal it and then start over so that people don’t see those dollars disappear.

Next, Andrew Barkis has rolled out a major transportation proposal that actually has the impact of what old gas tax packages used to do without the necessity to impose a gas tax. And that is because working together with Drew Stokesbary and the immense new resources that are available to the general fund, we can finish the projects that are necessary, and we can take care of the deferred maintenance problem with our transportation, using general fund dollars and in some cases taking things away from the transportation budget that should have been general fund in the first place. He’s got a really good explainer out there. I think this is a creative proposal and this is not a transportation lead quarreling with a general funds budget and operating budget lead. These are two people knowing that there are dollars to do both now.

Then the last one, you will see Mary Dye rolling out an environmental proposal that takes a look at what happened with cap-and-tax and says okay, let’s let’s take those dollars and direct them towards things that we can actually fix not just stuff that’s good for politicians but doesn’t do much for the environment. We know that we can stop polluting Puget Sound simply by providing enough capacity so that municipalities can fully process their wastewater. At the same time, we can add capacity for more commercial and industrial development in Puget Sound, while having cleaner water… And we can make a huge impact on carbon by fully and permanently funding the forest practices that are necessary for healthy forests, which sequester carbon at the fastest possible rate. And also a healthy forest avoids the release of carbon that we have all seen over the last few years, due to forest fires that are feeding on poorly maintained forests.

AK: Looking forward, how are you feeling about the 2022 general election?

JW: Well, I think the history of off year elections provide an awful lot of support for the idea it’s gonna be a very, very Republican year.

AK: Do you think that Republicans could take either the House or Senate? 

JW: I think both.

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