Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I would like to thank all of you who attended the town hall last week. It was very well attended. We appreciate the questions and comments from all those who participated. Your input and feedback are important to us as we make our decisions on the many issues before the Legislature.
House passes Democrat operating budget
On Friday, the state House of Representatives passed a proposed operating budget on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting 'no.'
The proposed operating budget would increase spending by almost 20 percent – an increase of $8.6 billion, for a total budget of around $53 billion.
Their plan includes implementation of a capital gains tax – the first step toward an income tax – which is unconstitutional, unreliable and unpopular. The proposed B&O tax would impact more than 80 classifications of services, and tens of thousands of our businesses. There is no reason to ask our constituents for $4 billion more in new taxes when we are experiencing historical revenue growth and have about a $3 billion surplus.
However, House Republicans were able to get a number of amendments adopted. This is important since we are not directly involved in budget negotiations and our budget priorities differ. Some of the amendments include:
- Increasing Medicaid fraud enforcement, which would save $240 million;
- Providing for more local drug and gang policing in response to the opioid epidemic;
- Raising payment rates for those providing care to seniors and individuals with disabilities;
- Providing a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers and public employees;
- Giving additional assistance to mostly small and rural-school districts uniquely affected by the McCleary legislation.
I am amazed by the explosive growth in spending at the state level. If the House Democrat proposal is enacted will have increased by $21.7 billion, or 70 percent, since 2013.
My experience in local government as a county commissioner required a cautious and fiscally responsible budget. It is frustrating to look at a budget proposal like this one that relies on new taxes and unpredictable revenue.
Keep in mind, counties in Washington state have to budget with a one percent cap on property tax growth every year. However, our local governments have been able to rise to the challenge and continue to offer the core functions of local government despite more unfunded mandates, and rules and regulations coming down from the state.
I voted “no” on this budget because despite the massive increase in spending, it does very little to help local governments. The state continues to provide little assistance with indigent defense, does not increase the percentage of marijuana revenues going back to local governments, and it takes money out of the Public Works Trust Fund.
It is difficult to see Democrats propose spending $53 billion on a budget, knowing local governments are dealing with limited resources and more mandates from the state.
On Friday, Senate Democrats unveiled their budget proposal. It also relies on tax increases. However, it spends about $1 billion less than the House. Over the next week or two we should know more about possible tax increases and what level the majority party wants to spend on the operating budget.
House capital budget
Last week, the House also introduced its proposed capital budget. The proposal includes more than $54 million in funding for the 12th District, including:
- $34 million for the replacement of Wells Hall at Wenatchee Valley College;
- $1.28 million for the Twisp Civic Building and Emergency Operation Center;
- $2 million for the Winthrop Library;
- $1 million for the Wenatchi Landing sewer extension;
- $400,000 for the Manson School District's early learning facilities;
- $200,000 for the design of a substance use disorder facility in Chelan County;
- $52,000 for Heritage Senior Housing;
- $52,000 for revitalization in historic downtown Chelan.
The Senate offered its own proposal, and the House will have to work out any differences with the Senate as we try to finish our work before April 28.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the budgets or any other state issues.