Senate Republican Budget Proposal Puts Washington’s Economic Future on Shaky Ground
Statement from Misha Werschkul, executive director of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center:
The two-year spending plan proposed by Republican leaders in the Washington State Senate would put the economic security of our state on shaky ground for future generations. This budget would fracture the foundation of our state economy with unsustainable fiscal gimmicks as well as deep cuts now – with even deeper cuts into the future – to investments that benefit all Washingtonians. And it ignores the real problem facing our state: an upside-down tax code that disproportionately and unsustainably relies on the people with the lowest incomes to pay the highest share of their incomes in state and local taxes – while special interests and the wealthy get tax breaks.
It is the responsibility of policymakers to ensure the budget invests in the protection of our state’s current and future well-being – especially during this time when we face so many threats from the federal level. This proposal doesn’t do that. Instead, it would turn our state’s budget into a house of cards, precariously held together by fiscal gimmicks. For example, it would:
• Drain $700 million from our state’s budget stabilization account (or rainy day fund), which will be needed the next time we enter an economic downturn, in order to make a one-time contribution to a chronically underfunded pension fund.
• Mask deep cuts that legislators would need make in the future to public safety, environmental protection, and a host of other investments, by dedicating all future revenue growth to K-12 education and property tax reductions.
And if enacted, this plan would make devastating changes to some of our state’s most crucial investments. It would:
• Eliminate or dramatically cut programs that help keep working families and individuals out of poverty, in stable housing, and with access to safe and reliable child care.
• Do away with the voter-approved initiatives to reduce class sizes and to provide teachers with pay increases to keep up with the rising cost of living.
That’s not a prescription for economic growth and broad prosperity.
It doesn’t have to be this way. To truly invest in the foundations that make our communities thrive, lawmakers can turn our tax code right-side up and invest in schools and other priorities by closing wasteful tax breaks, including a huge break on capital gains enjoyed by the very wealthiest households in our state. Doing so would build a better future for our communities. Senate Republican leaders would be wise to rework this budget to ensure that it strengthens the economic foundations of our communities and advances the well-being of all Washingtonians.