Op-Ed: Tax increases would hurt families when they could least afford it
Just before “Black Friday” last week, a Seattle radio station randomly interviewed people, asking how much they would spend for Christmas gifts this year. Most said they would be spending less, primarily because they have less money this year to spend.
With unemployment nearing double-digit figures and a very uncertain economy, families are changing their spending habits and adapting to these difficult times. It's a lesson lawmakers should apply to state government. Unfortunately, budget writers in Olympia still don't seem to get it.
Recently, the state revenue forecast revealed a $760 million drop in incoming revenue. That brings the projected budget deficit to $2.6 billion by the time legislators meet for session in January.
It took no time for the majority party's budget writers to fall back to their old status quo positions. “Taxes are on the table,” they said during the Nov. 19 forecast. Their comments echoed the governor's remarks in October, when she did a complete about-face from her campaign promises against tax increases and said her “door is open” to those who want to make the case for a tax package.
It's unfortunate the governor and majority party lawmakers are looking through blinders at the impact the deficit is having on their ability to spend — and not at how tax increases would affect citizens who themselves have cut back on spending.
My colleague, Rep. Ed Orcutt, Republican leader on the House Finance Committee, summed up my thoughts when he said, “We cannot afford to raise taxes on working families and businesses that are struggling. We have to be careful we don't worry so much about our budget problems that we forget about the problems of real people. The reason businesses are laying off is they don't have the money to keep people on. If we take more money away in taxes, that's one less employee they will have on. It's one more person unemployed. It's one more person who can't spend and help us recover from our problems.”
Budgeting is about setting the right priorities and not spending more than you have. Families recognize this and in this difficult economy, they have set priorities in their own budgets. So should state government.
If there was ever a time for making changes in the state budget, it is now. That means being willing to find creative solutions to our economic predicament that will get people working again. It means providing reforms that fundamentally alter the way government services are delivered so that every cent of savings is found. It means setting correct priorities, and dealing with budget problems now rather than punting them into the future. And it means reducing state spending immediately for a more efficient government.
Next week, the governor will be releasing her supplemental budget spending plan. I urge you to pay close attention as this will set the stage for how the Legislature deals with the deficit for the remainder of the biennium when it convenes in January. Please also take time to learn more about the state budget from a new Web site: www.fiscal.wa.gov. Finally, I invite your suggestions about how the Legislature can do a better job of budgeting without taking more of your money when you can least afford it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him and sign up for his e-newsletter at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.