Friends and Neighbors,
First, let me thank everyone who participated in the telephone town hall March 24 with Sen. John Braun and me. We broke a record, with 6,321 total participants, 1,279 people listening at the call's peak, and 900 people on the line for almost the whole call!
We had a lot of thoughtful questions and a good discussion. I appreciate you taking an hour of your evening to express your thoughts and concerns.
With less than a month to go until the legislative session is scheduled to end, we are now starting to consider proposals for the operating, transportation and capital budgets. In this update I'll give a brief overview of all three budget proposals in the state House.
Operating budget: $1.5 billion tax hike
Last Friday the majority party in the state House issued its proposed operating budget. Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on its spending components, today the House Finance Committee held a hearing on its tax components, and on Thursday we are scheduled to debate and vote on the operating budget legislation on the House floor.
The proposed budget includes:
- $5,100,000,000.00 (that's $5.1 billion) in new spending. The four-year outlook projects spending to increase by a total of $9,200,000,000.00 ($9.2 billion).
- $1,500,000,000.00 ($1.5 billion) in new and increased taxes, including a new capital gains tax, which is a tax on income. Taxes would go up an additional $2,400,000,000.00 ($2.4 billion) in 2017-19.
- Elimination of the voter-approved state spending limit.
With an additional $3,900,000,000.00 ($3.9 billion) in existing revenues coming in to the state this budget cycle, I see no reason why we should consider taking even more money from taxpayers. If state government can't make do with that kind of revenue increase, then there's something wrong with state government.
In fact, when the governor gave his State of the State speech in January, he was able to pinpoint only $7.1 million in savings and efficiencies, out of a proposed budget of $39 billion — that's a mere 0.02 percent. It is very difficult to believe those are the only savings that could be found in our massive state government.
The House transportation budget proposed Monday does not contain new taxes — it spends current revenues only and is separate from the Senate transportation revenue package you may have heard about.
Total spending of current revenues in the transportation budget is $7,700,000,000.00 ($7.7 billion). This includes previously appropriated transportation projects as well as ongoing operations of the state Department of Transportation, the Washington State Patrol and the Department of Licensing, plus services, transit and local government distributions from current taxes and fees.
The House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on this budget Wednesday.
The capital budget includes funding for construction, maintenance and repair of state buildings, environmental programs, and housing for vulnerable populations.
This year's House capital budget proposal, unveiled last Friday, spends $3,770,000,000.00 ($3.77 billion) from existing tax and non-tax dollar revenues. Any of these proposals will change considerably as they advance from committee and from the House floor as well as during negotiations with the state Senate.
Local students visit Olympia
It's always a pleasure to meet students who visit the state Capitol. Some of the 20th District schools that have made the trip to the Legislature include East Olympia Elementary, Centralia Christian School and Winlock High School. I enjoyed talking with them and hope they enjoyed their visit.
That's all for this update. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don't hesitate to email me at Ed.Orcutt@leg.wa.gov. I am here to serve you.