(The Center Square) – Republicans did not hide their disdain with the fact the Senate and House supplemental budgets unveiled by Democrats for the 2021-23 biennium contained no broad-based tax relief.
Senate Republican leader John Braun and House Republican leader J.T. Wilcox issued a joint statement on the Senate and House supplemental budgets from Democrats.
“The time for relief is now when we have a historic surplus,” they said. “State spending has nearly doubled since Gov. [Jay] Inslee took office, far outpacing average worker wage growth. It’s up 90% from 2011-13 to 2021-23 and it’s grown at a rate roughly four times that of inflation. When do taxpayers get relief from that level of government greed?”
Last week, the state’s revenue forecast showed a total of almost $1.5 billion in increased revenue for the 2021-23 biennium. Combined with prior increases since lawmakers adopted the 2021-23 budget, projected revenues have now exceeded expectations by $10.5 billion.
Released publicly on Monday, both budget proposals include large expenditures in transportation, housing and homelessness, and K-12 public schools. The Senate proposes to spend $63.4 billion in its operating budget plan. The House proposes spending $65 billion in its supplemental operating budget plan.
The only tax relief to be found in either budget is in the House version in the form of elimination of the sales tax for three days in September to help people pay for back-to-school items and other necessities. It would create a “sales tax holiday” from Sept. 3-5 to make purchase of $1,000 or less on items such as clothing, computers, Energy Star appliances, health care equipment, over-the-counter drugs, and school supplies.
“Washingtonians deserve better,” Braun and Wilcox said of the latest proposals. “They deserve direct tax relief that makes it easier to stretch a dollar right now. They need tax relief that helps employers to create more jobs instead of laying people off and shutting facilities down. They do not need gimmicks like a three-day sales-tax holiday.”
Sen. Lynda Wilson also took Democrats to task for failing to offer any major tax relief in their proposed supplemental budgets.
“How can they possibly justify this to people who are finding it unaffordable to live in our state, between the rising prices for gas, food, housing, and electricity, the economic struggles brought on by the pandemic, and all the new taxes and fees they have adopted – and are pursuing again this session, with no end in sight?” the Vancouver Republican asked in a press release.
She went on to say, “All along Republicans have proposed using part of the surplus to make a real difference for Washington families, like our legislation to make owning a home more affordable and promote good, family-wage jobs in our state’s manufacturing sector. The majority clearly has other priorities – instead of direct tax relief for the people, they put more than 1,000 other things into this proposal that would make government larger in one way or another. The tax incentives amount to crumbs, and the biggest beneficiaries of those are credit-card companies and Hollywood.”
Wilson is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5769, which has stalled in committee.
SB 5769 would provide significant property tax relief, eliminate the state’s business and occupation tax on manufacturers, eliminate the capital gains tax passed by Democrats last session, and eliminate the long-term care payroll tax and program.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary went a step further. The Auburn Republican has proposed an alternative supplemental budget with a major sales tax cut.
Not everyone was displeased with the Democrats’ proposed supplemental budgets.
Andrew Villeneuve, founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, shared some initial impressions of the budgets.
“We thank Democratic legislative leaders for their work to put together budgets that will provide funding for Washington State's essential public services,” he told The Center Square in an email. “We'd like to see a significant increase in funding to address our teacher shortage in the final budget. At a minimum, House and Senate budget writers should add several hundred million dollars in appropriations for our schools to ensure they can fully recover from the pandemic, but the Legislature should go even further to ensure our constitutional obligation to make ample provision for the education of our youth is being upheld.”
He concluded, “An amended investment of $2 billion to address the teacher shortage, raise funding for special education, and increase nurses and school counselors would be appropriate and welcome.”
The Center Square reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment on the fact the two supplemental budget proposals, like the governor’s own supplemental budget from December 2021, contains no broad-based tax relief.
“Communities have faced several significant challenges regarding housing, behavioral health care, schools, roads and more,” said Jaime Smith, executive director of communications for the Governor’s Office, in an email response. “COVID-19 exacerbated many of these, and the state is partnering with locals to provide families relief through rent or utility assistance, food assistance, and other support services. House and Senate leaders are offering proposals that help us meet the challenges of our time.”