Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's budget time at the state Capitol. Last week, the revenue forecast was released. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans unveiled their 2017-19 state operating budget proposal. This coming Monday, House Democrats will release their budget plan.
Revenue forecast delivers good news
The state's quarterly economic revenue forecast was released Thursday, March 16. It delivered some welcome news. State Economist Steve Lerch says Washington is expected to take in an additional $247 million for the 2015-17 budget cycle and $303 million for the 2017-19 budget cycle. Add that to the $3 billion over the previous biennium the state is taking in and you will see that Washington does not have a revenue problem.
Read more about the revenue forecast here.
Senate Republicans release education-centric operating budget
The new revenue figures gave budget writers the ability to plug in the new numbers to their budget plans and prepare them for the public. On Tuesday, the Majority Coalition Caucus (Senate Republicans) released their state operating budget proposal, which would spend $43 billion over the 2017-19 budget cycle — a 13 percent increase from the current budget.
Here are some quick points about the Senate budget proposal:
- Education is the number one priority. With this budget, education funding will have doubled in a decade (2011 = $13b; 2021 = $27b). Education investments will be more than 50 percent of the operating budget for the first time in years and the highest it has been since 1983. The Senate budget builds on previous investments of $4.6 billion in additional education spending over the last two budget cycles.
- Protects the most vulnerable. The Senate budget plan prioritizes taking care of the most vulnerable and those with mental health issues by making a sizable down payment ($250 million over four years) on needed services. It also includes significant investments to protect foster children and those with developmental disabilities.
- Protects taxpayers. There is no income tax; no capital gains income tax; no increased sales tax; no carbon tax; no taxes on bottled water; no increased taxes on border county economic activity. It does include the property tax levy reform, which would make our state property tax system more equitable and fair. The Senate budget plan would also leave our state's Rainy-Day Fund intact and healthy with nearly $2 billion in case of future economic downturns.
There may be some concerns in the Senate budget where we differ. Remember, it is early in the budget process. What is proposed and what will be the final budget are two different things. I do believe the Senate budget plan is a good starting point for budget negotiations.
Read more about this budget plan here.
House Democrat plan coming next week
House Democrats will unveil their operating budget plan on Monday. Although we have yet to see the details, there's early indication it will be dependent on some major tax increases. If their budget is anything such as the governor proposed in December, in which he called for an additional $5.3 billion in tax increases, it will be very concerning.
As I mentioned above, Washington is expected to take in an additional $3.5 billion over the previous budget cycle — and that's without tax increases. That's largely because Seattle and central Puget Sound's economy is booming. Let's remember that when you get out of King County and head east, many other counties in the state are still struggling with their economies – and unemployment remains high. Further tax increases would slowly strangle our state's economy. That's not where we need to go.
Revenues coming into our state are about 13 percent higher. Did you get a 13 percent raise in your paycheck? Again, I believe Washington does not have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. Instead of raising taxes following a significant increase of incoming revenue, we need to prioritize our budget, just like you do at home, and live within our means.
Less than a month away from the final day of the 2017 session, it will be important for Republicans and Democrats to sit down together and find common ground in their budget proposals. There will be lots of negotiations taking place. Both sides will have to give toward compromises. I'm still holding out hope we can finish all of our business and be adjourned on time on April 23.
Local youth gains recognition for leadership abilities
Congratulations to Paula Banda of Sedro-Woolley who has been named 2017 County Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington state. I was honored to join Paula earlier this week during a breakfast reception at the Governor's Mansion in Olympia. The Boys and Girls Clubs choose young people for the award based on their leadership skills, including communication, goal setting and teamwork.
Stay in touch!
If you have questions, comments or suggestions about any of the information in this email update or legislation, feel free to call my office. My contact information can be found below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to represent you!
In your service,