Once again the Washington state Legislature is in a special session. The word “special” has lost its meaning when it comes to Olympia. This is the seventh special session in four years. Taxpayers are rightly frustrated and disappointed.
The debate keeping the Legislature from completing its business within its allotted 105 days is the disagreement over the state operating budget, but when you look at the incoming tax revenue, there is no reason a budget couldn’t have been drafted and passed in the regular session. The bipartisan Senate Majority Coalition Caucus and House Republicans believe a budget can be balanced with existing revenue. In fact, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus passed a budget, with bipartisan support, that accomplishes that. However, House Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee would like to see tax increases passed to further increase state spending. But when you look at the details, how can you justify raising taxes?
The state is expected to bring in an additional $2 billion in tax revenue over the next biennium. And, it isn’t as if we cut spending in the previous budget cycle, we also increased spending by about $2 billion in the budget.
The operating budget passed by the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus was within the expected revenues and would put more than $1 billion in additional funding toward K-12 education — without tax increases. House Democrats and the governor would also put more money toward education, but their education funding plan relies on increasing taxes by $879 million.
Their plan to permanently extend the business and occupation surtax on service businesses would impact accountants, appraisers, architects, barbers, beauty shop owners, dentists, doctors, employment agents, engineers, janitors, landscape architects, loan agents, music teachers, real estate agents, school bus operators, veterinarians, child day care facilities, home health care services, assisted living and nursing care facilities and many more.
But, they don’t stop there. They also want to place a new business and occupation tax on travel agents, high-tech research and development, import commerce and resellers of prescription drugs. They would repeal the non-resident sales and use tax exemptions, especially affecting our border counties, and extend a sales and use tax to bottled water (the same tax that was repealed by voters in 2010). Plus, they would impose a public utility tax on truck transport of goods in state that are destined for out of state, and add new taxes for fuel.
The House Democrats’ and governor’s plan is a job killer, hurts our employers’ ability to hire and invest in their business.
According to reports earlier this week, the state’s unemployment rate continues to drop, but that is misleading. King County’s unemployment rate is 4.4 percent while more than 16 counties have an unemployment rate of more than double King County, including Okanogan County at 9.8 percent. Do you think the tax plan is going to help the economy or our employers, particularly in the rural areas?
The senators who voted for the operating budget represented 30 of the 49 legislative districts, 38 of the 39 counties and over 4.2 million citizens. It was truly a bipartisan plan.
While the Senate operating budget is not perfect, it certainly follows the correct philosophy and principles needed to pass a bipartisan, no-new-taxes plan that supports education.
The governor, who was absent during the regular session when it came to budget negotiations, can now do something “special” and have budget negotiators currently meeting behind closed doors hammer out an agreement that reflect core principles instead of balancing the budget on the backs of our hardworking citizens. The proposal passed by House Democrats in the regular session would spend about $34.5 billion up about 35 percent from the budget passed in 2003. Every budget cycle since then taxes and fees have been increased or implemented. When is enough, enough?
Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, has served in the Legislature since 2003. He represents the 12th District.