Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With just over two weeks left in the 2013 regular session, the budget is starting to take center stage. As I reported to you in my last e-newsletter, Gov. Jay Inslee's budget proposal included about $1.2 billion in new and increased taxes. This, despite his campaign promise that tax increases would not be needed. In his mind, repealing tax incentives for employers to help them create jobs in our state and extending business and occupations taxes set to expire this year – do NOT constitute “tax increases.”
What do you think? Do you think repealing a tax incentive for employers is the same as raising taxes? Click the graphic on the right to take a quick survey.
Budget Battle Continues
Last week, the bipartisan Senate Majority Coalition passed their budget out of the Senate. Here are some quick highlights:
- It's a true “bipartisan budget” with “yeas” and “nays” from both sides of the aisle.
- Contains no new taxes
- Spends $1.5 billion more on education with about $1 billion of that being for the McCleary decision
- Spends $300 million more for higher education and reduces tuitions costs for our parents and students
- Balances out for four years! (no more budget rollercoaster!)
While it's not exactly how we would write the state budget over here in the House, it is a good start toward reaching a compromise that allows us to finish our work on time. There are some fund transfers and other issues that trouble me, but overall, it's a much more balanced budget than what we saw from the governor. Click here to read what our House Republican budget leader, Rep. Gary Alexander, had to say on the Senate budget. Click here for more detailed information on the Senate budget.
In contrast to the no-new-taxes approach from the Senate, the House Democrats have decided to rely on about $1.22 billion in new taxes for their budget – despite the fact that we expect to take in $2 billion more in revenues over the next two-year budget cycle! As it currently stands, their budget has a “placeholder” for over $500 million in tax increases. That's right. As of this writing, we don't know exactly what taxes will be raised. It's “To Be Determined.” Not a smart way to budget if you ask me.
Their budget also completely drains the state's “Rainy Day Account” and then leaves only about $300 million in reserves. With so many things happening on the national and international level, it doesn't take much to imagine a scenario where our state economy's fragile recovery hits a serious snag. It would be much smarter to leave the rainy day fund alone and to leave a little more money in reserves so that if a bump in the road does occur, legislators are not left scrambling with special sessions trying to rewrite the budget so that it balances.
At the end of the day, the House Democrat budget looks very partisan and nothing like the cooperative agreement we've seen from the Senate. I can't imagine one House Republican voting for the House Democrat budget that we see today. Contrast that with the Senate's bipartisan budget. Democrat and Republican Senators voting for the Senate budget represent 30 of the state's 49 legislative districts, 38 of the 39 counties (San Juan County), and over 4.2 million citizens! That's impressive and nearly unprecedented in my years in Olympia!
I'll keep you updated as the budget negotiations continue.
House Democrats maybe rethinking their 10-cent gas tax increase
The public backlash over the House Democrats' proposed 10-cent increase to the state gas tax has been deafening. We've seen poll numbers of 80-90 percent AGAINST raising the gas tax. It's hard to sell the public on the need for higher gas taxes when so much money is wasted by a transportation system in desperate need of reform. Last week, the House released a transportation budget that does NOT include an gas tax increase. You can read a summary of the budget here. However, we're still hearing that another – SMALLER – gas tax increase could be in the mix for the last few days of session.
As always, thanks for reading my e-newsletter and for staying involved. Please feel free to contact my office if you have a question or concern about state government or any of the issues we're dealing with in Olympia.