Friends and Neighbors,
We have reached a point in the legislative session when the Legislature's attention turns to the three state budgets: operating, transportation and capital. In odd-numbered years, which coincide with 105-day legislative sessions, state lawmakers pass two-year state spending plans that begin on July 1 of that year.
The operating budget is the largest of the three state budgets and pays for priorities such as K-12 education, higher education, corrections, human services, and other government operations. Since the Democrats hold majorities in the House and Senate, they will take the lead on writing this budget. House Democrats will release their proposal first on Monday, with Senate Democrats following with theirs a few days later. Based on comments made today, both proposals are expected to include new taxes/tax increases.
Budget writers received good news on Wednesday when the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the March revenue forecast. The forecast revealed that our state collections remain very strong. In fact, our state will now have $50.6 billion in revenue for the 2019-21 budget cycle. For reference, our current state spending for the two-year budget cycle that ends this June 30 is $44.4 billion.
While it's always hard to justify raising taxes and fees on Washington individuals, families and employers, it's especially difficult when the state's economy and taxpayers are already providing the Legislature this type of natural growth in tax collections. I'll share with you what I shared with the media in a statement on Wednesday:
“I am pleased to see that the economy is still growing and producing more revenue for our state. However, we know these economic conditions will not last forever. As budget writers develop our next state spending plan, they must be fiscally responsible. Our state needs to live within its means and fund its priorities within existing revenue. There is no reason to raise taxes.”
The debate in Olympia should not be about what new taxes to raise or create but, rather, how can we budget responsibly and in a way that prepares for the inevitable rainy day that we know will arrive someday. I am hoping the moderate Democrats in the Legislature can make this case in their respective caucuses and that we see fiscally responsible proposals come forward in the House and Senate. We will find out next week.
There is no doubt in my mind that my colleague Rep. Drew Stokesbary and our senator John Braun, if given the opportunity, could write a fiscally responsible budget that would address our state's priorities and not rely on new taxes/tax increases. Both made their case for this approach in a news conference earlier this week. I am hoping that Democrats allow them to be a part of the budget-writing process.
Please contact me if I can ever help you or answer your questions. I can be contacted at (360) 786-7990 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.