Policy Agenda: Framework for Prosperity
• Education and Opportunity
• Thriving Communities
• Healthy People and Environment
• Economic Security
• Capital Gains
• Sales Tax
• Working Families Tax Rebate
• Strengthening the Rainy Day Fund
This is a crucial time in Washington state’s history. There are choices to be made by our newly elected Governor and state Legislature that will impact millions of Washingtonians.
- How to fulfill the requirements of the McCleary school funding decision, which will touch not only education but all areas of the budget?
- How to implement the Affordable Care Act, to provide access to health coverage?
- What should our priorities be for investing in the building blocks of a strong economy?
- How will we pay for all these things?
When I think of the kind of state I want my young son to grow up in, I know every Washingtonian wants the same: a state with safe, thriving communities, healthy people, an environment with clean air and water, jobs that offer economic security for families, and an education that provides opportunities for the next generation. But those values are in jeopardy right now. All of this comes together in one place—the state budget.
It’s a powerful tool for social change and a reflection of our values. In this document, we lay out specific recommendations for targeted investments that would bring our state closer to providing prosperity for all Washingtonians. We also provide revenue options to help pay for those investments.
The measure of our success is a state with the financial resources to invest in what reflects Washingtonians’ values—a state that can create shared prosperity during good times, and during bad times maintains our commitment to progress. This document is a framework to help get us there.
The Washington State Budget & Policy Center staff and I look forward to working with elected officials, advocates, community members, and everyone else who cares about tomorrow’s Washington state to realize this vision.
_Remy Trupin, Executive Director
Widely shared prosperity does not happen by accident. It happens when we deliberately invest in the foundations of a strong economy—broad and equal opportunity to build knowledge and skills, adequate compensation
and support for workers, and targeted investments in conditions that foster
Washington state’s investments should:
Provide opportunity for all. Opportunities that most Washingtonians need to prosper—access to high-quality education, health care, transportation,
clean environment, and work supports—are cost-effective and improve
long-term outcomes for families, communities, and the economy.
Create better jobs. A thriving middle class is dependent on having enough
jobs that allow Washingtonians to get ahead, and policies that reward
workers for their productivity. In addition, jobs that maintain our physical
infrastructure (construction and maintenance on schools, roads, bridges,
transportation) and build knowledge and skills (teachers, job trainers,
social workers) strengthen the foundation of a strong economy.
When more people have a chance to reach their full potential and enough economic security to make investments in their future, our economy will grow.
After the worst recession of our lifetime, rebuilding Washington state’s economy must be policymakers first priority. To build a strong state, we need reforms that will create a more robust and stable revenue system that is able to meet the demands of the 21st century economy.
Washington state’s revenue system is:
Behind the times. Our state revenue system hasn’t substantially changed
since 1935. Seventy-seven years ago Washington state’s economy was based
on agriculture, manufacturing, and purchases of tangible goods. Today our
state produces advanced software and other high-tech goods and services that weren’t even imagined in the 1930s.
Losing pace. Just 40 years ago, our revenue system generated 6.9 cents of every dollar of personal income produced in the state. Today it generates only 4.9 cents per dollar of personal income. That’s a 30 percent decline that won’t abate without changes.
Upside-down. State taxes take a much larger bite out of family incomes among lower- and middle-income households compared to the richest households. As a share of their incomes, ordinary Washingtonians can pay up to eight times more in state and local taxes than those at the top of the income scale.
Instead of de-funding our values with deep budget cuts, Washington state lawmakers should focus on making changes to our revenue system that will rebuild the economy to work for everyone.