Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we head into the last week of the 2015 legislative session, it appears that budget negotiators with the House Democrats and Senate Majority Coalition Caucus are not getting closer to a budget agreement. While I still hold out hope – and am urging my colleagues to finish on time – a special session is looking like a distinct possibility.
While this reality is disappointing, folks back home need to understand the main question comes down to tax increases. The House proposes $1.5 billion in new and increased taxes; the Senate does not. I may not agree with everything in the Senate budget proposal – or how some of the funding is obtained – but at least their budget is funded. At this point, the House Democrats have declined to even vote on the tax increases needed to fund their budget plan. In other words, it's just a “wish list” at this point.
Do you support the House Democrat $1.5 billion tax increase proposal?
I asked this question two weeks ago and gave you the opportunity to participate in an online survey. The main question I have for folks back home is this: Is there a compelling reason to raise taxes in light of the extra $3 billion in tax revenues being collected by Washington state over the next two-year budget cycle? Here are the results of my online survey, along with some comments from you:
YES = 7.89%
NO = 92.11%
Comments from 9th District constituents
“3 BBBBBBBBBillion extra and they still want to raise taxes? It's time for some people to start living within their means. Thanks Joe for the informative news letter each week.”
“The only reason to raise taxes is so I have less and need more help from the government, therefore they have more power! Thanks for standing against wasteful spending and efforts to take more in taxes.”
“Washington is one of the three most regressive taxing states in the country. That means the poorer you are the more of your money goes to taxes. A capital gains tax on high investment earnings – not modest amounts needed for retirement income – levels the playing field and takes the pressure off hard working, lower income citizens.”
“Utilizing increased revenues due to an improved economy is reasonable. Increasing taxes is out of touch with reality and is irresponsible. Just because someone wants or even needs something does not mean it should be provided. Private citizens and businesses must make these hard choices every day.”
“Why does the government always raise taxes. I think they should be like me and my budget. If there is no money for it do not do it. Most family budgets are already strapped. With rising prices and no water in California most people can't afford groceries. Please work with what you have.”
Capital and Transportation budgets
Still to be negotiated is the capital budget – the state's “bricks and mortar” budget – with construction projects around the state. And also the transportation budget. It's important to distinguish between the 2015-17 transportation budget, which pays for road maintenance, the state patrol, our state ferry system, etc., and any agreed upon transportation package. A transportation package would most likely include a gas tax increase (possibly up to 12 cents per gallon) which would then pay for new transportation projects around the state.
One of the major sticking points to any negotiated transportation package is Gov. Jay Inslee's continued threat of implementing a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) through executive order once the Legislature leaves town. A low carbon fuel standard could add immense new costs to the price of fuel. The governor's own Climate and Executive Workgroup (CLEW) last year estimated an LCFS would cost between $.45 to $1.17 per gallon.
With this potential cost increase hanging over the heads of consumers, I'm finding it difficult to consider an increase in the gas tax. I'll keep you posted on any new developments on this issues over the next week.
A visit from former 9th LD Rep. David Buri
It was great to see former 9th Legislative District Representative David Buri as he and his wife Becky and son Paul David visited with me in Olympia. David serves as the Governmental Affairs Director at Eastern Washington University. Paul David gets his picture taken each year in front of the House rostrum to measure how tall he's growing! I think he'll be catching up to his folks very soon! Thanks for visiting, guys. And thanks for all you do for EWU and our communities.
As always, thanks for reading my e-newsletter and for staying involved. I appreciate your input as we work together to make Washington state – and the 9th Legislative District – the best place to live, work and raise a family!