This afternoon Governor Gregoire signed a budget that undermines Washington’s economic recovery and poses a sustained threat to the well-being of our residents.
There should be no cause for celebrating – an all-cuts approach will have a devastating impact on our state. Notably, this was not the only path that lawmakers could have taken. Other choices – including raising revenue – would have put Washington on the path to economic recovery. The 2011-2013 budget denies our state that opportunity. And as we anticipate additional declines in the revenue forecast on Thursday, the public investments needed to create jobs and ignite the economy will remain inadequate.
The 2011-2013 budget relies almost exclusively on cutting public investments essential to supporting the jobs necessary for a strong economy. Instead of raising revenue to foster these critical investments, the Governor and legislature have cut $10 billion from the budget since the beginning of the recession in 2008, resulting in:
• Persistently high unemployment due to layoffs in state and local government;
• Diminished quality of our future workforce due to less affordable higher education; and
• Fewer people able to buy goods and services that would help the economy grow.
The economic outlook is only part of the story. The human toll of the cuts is equally devastating. The loss of public sector jobs and across-the-board cuts to essential human services will intensify the suffering of thousands of Washingtonians trying to get back on their feet in an economy that is failing them.
To ensure our state legacy, different choices could have been made. Throughout legislative session, lawmakers could have chosen common sense solutions to balance the budget, including:
• Eliminating millions of dollars in tax breaks that benefit large corporations at the expense of average Washingtonians;
• Expanding the tax base to include specific services, such as pet grooming, day spa services, teeth bleaching, and cosmetic surgery; or
• Temporarily increasing the sales tax until we enter a sustained period of economic growth.
The failure to include any revenue alternatives in the budget severely weakens an already fragile economic recovery. Necessary investments in public structures that would support job creation and ease the pain of the recession on Washingtonians won’t be made. Further complicating matters, the state revenue forecast will be released tomorrow, which is expected to be down. Without serious consideration of revenue raising alternatives, we can expect current economic conditions to persist and worsen.
The signing of our state budget is not a time for celebration, nor is it the end of the discussion. It is an opportunity to reflect and plan for what we want our state to be and how to create a prosperous future for our families, businesses, and communities. In the coming months, the Budget & Policy Center will continue to offer viable solutions and pushing for the reforms that will put Washington on a stronger path to prosperity.