Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week, the majority party in the House released their 2011-13 operating budget proposal, including their solutions to our approximately $5.1 billion budget shortfall.
As you read the papers and watch or listen to the newscasts over the next few weeks while the Legislature debates the budget in earnest, it's important to remember how we got to the point where we're facing such an immense deficit. Not to point fingers and play political games, but to adhere to that old but wise adage: “Those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
This budget is partially the result of excessive government spending when times were good – along with the reliance upon federal dollars and other one-time budget transfers when the economy started to take a turn. Instead of quickly making changes two years ago – changes that would have been difficult, but would have led to budget stability today – budget writers kicked the can down the road, choosing instead to pin their hopes on an improving economy.
Unfortunately, the economy didn't improve – as many unemployed workers in and around the Tri-Cities can attest to – and here we are today with a substantial budget shortfall.
As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, I've been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find sustainable budget solutions that will set us on a new path and Get Washington Working Again.
However, while I agree with many of the necessary reductions in spending found in the House Democrat budget, a significant difference in priorities and principles has led House Republicans to offer a different plan.
Our plan is more sustainable, more transparent and prioritizes spending by focusing precious resources on three key areas:
- Education – Our plan prioritizes education as the constitutional mandate that it is. We leave more money in K-12 education and we don't eliminate $6 million for the school food program;
- Public Safety – Our plan prioritizes public safety and protects our communities. Their plan proposes to let criminals out of jail early to save money.
- Protecting the most vulnerable – Our plan protects the most vulnerable citizens. Their plan reduces or eliminates developmentally disabled employment programs. Their plan cuts Medicaid funding – our plan does not. Their plan implements severe cuts to nursing homes, harming our senior citizens. Our plan does not. We believe these folks are truly the most in need of government help and assistance.
In addition to these differences, our plan also makes more reforms and is more sustainable moving forward. Rather than keep certain programs on life support by barely funding them, we choose to eliminate expensive or unnecessary programs and agencies in order to protect high-priority services.
For more information on our state budget plan, click here.
To read my press release on the two budget proposals, click here.
Tax loophole rhetoric is just that – RHETORIC
I thought you might like to see a few photos from some of the thousands of protesters who came to the state Capitol last week to protest cuts in the budget. Many of them rely on your hard-earned tax dollars. They want higher taxes, but you won't hear them say that directly. Instead, you'll hear them say “cut tax loopholes.”
The term “loopholes” makes many people think there's a mistake in the system – like something was accidental or overlooked that allows for ways to buck the system. That's really not the case at all.
In Washington state, we don't have tax loopholes. We have tax INCENTIVES. The distinction between the two is important to understand because the tax incentives we have in Washington are no accident. They were enacted deliberately for very specific purposes: to create jobs.
For example, in the first 10 years after the Legislature adopted a tax incentive that exempted sales tax on manufacturing and equipment, it created 285,000 new jobs. Those new jobs generated billions of dollars in tax revenue.
Thousands of jobs with high wages and benefits have been created and many jobs have been saved as a result of these incentives.
What are some of the proposals to close these so-called “tax loopholes?” Supporters want to eliminate the sales tax exemption on food, increase taxes on medical devices and insulin, extend taxes to church daycare centers, and tax employers on creating jobs in rural counties. These proposals would hurt Washington families at a time when they are struggling most.
Eliminate tax incentives and jobs will be eliminated. It's that simple. With more than 330,000 people in Washington unemployed, we don't need to put more people out of work. Instead, I believe we need to get Washington working again.
When people are working, they have a better quality of life and they are spending money, which provides revenue to the state budget to support education, public safety and services for the state's most vulnerable citizens.
Visitors from district
Recently, I had the privilege of having Kraig Stephens and Dr. Mikel Olsson visit me in Olympia from the 8th Legislative District. The House passed a resolution honoring the physical and mental health benefits of T'ai Chi. Mr. Stephens and Dr. Olsson are practitioners of T'ai Chi and were present for the resolution.
I also welcomed Legislative Page Jillian Shipman from Kennewick. She attends Kamiakin High School. It was great to have her serve as a Page in the Legislature. I know this was an experience she'll take with her throughout her academic and professional career. Thanks for all your hard work, Jillian.