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Friends and Neighbors,
Last week was budget week. The House released their operating budget proposal, and it was immediately apparent it had a vastly different approach from the Senate version for spending your hard-earned tax dollars.
House Bill 1067 was the budget proposed by the House majority. It calls for $3 billion of taxes over the next two years and $8 billion of taxes over the next 4 years. This burdensome proposal calls for a 20 percent B&O tax increase and the implementation of a capital gains income tax. Washington voters have made it abundantly clear, many times, that they do not support an income tax.
Most disappointingly, this proposal would overburden working families by sending more of their dollars to Olympia with no guarantees or protections to ensure it will go towards fixing our broken education funding system
Senate Bill 5048 was the budget proposed by the Senate, and it addresses K-12 funding head on. It offers solutions to fix our broken levy system and funnels more than 50% of the budget into education, taking education funding to its highest levels since 1983.
The Senate budget listens to what the voters of Washington have said for decades and does not implement any variation of an income tax, not even a capital gains tax, does not increase sales tax, and does not increase taxes on border county economic activity.
Top priorities in the budget include taking care of the most vulnerable individuals, including significant investments in foster children and mental health services. Eight new public safety classes are funded as well, providing increased training for our men and women who serve in law enforcement.
Most importantly, the Senate budget proves that the government can live within its means. Our positive revenue forecast combined with commonsense fiscal responsibility show that it is possible to build a state budget without implementing new taxes.
Now that each chamber has brought a proposal forward, we'll begin the process of finding common ground between the two budgets. This is not always an easy process, but it is necessary to fund necessary programs while protecting taxpayers and families. I look forward to the product of these negotiations over the coming weeks.
Holding Seattle accountable
As the ranking minority member of the House Transportation Committee, providing reliable roads while protecting taxpayers is my priority. While the House transportation budget will likely come to the House floor later this week, I introduced a bill last week that I believe is important to protecting taxpayers and holding Seattle accountable.
Last Thursday, I introduced House Bill 2193 to enable Seattle to uphold their end of a bargain they made in 2009 to pay for any cost overruns in the construction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
As you may recall, the Alaskan Way Viaduct is the tunnel project in Seattle that was approved in 2009 after the original viaduct sustained damage in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. The new viaduct was scheduled for completion by November 2015. After significant delays due to malfunctions with the tunneling machine, Bertha, it remains unfinished.
Although Bertha emerged today and the tunneling portion of the project may have just finished, there is still a significant amount of construction to be done.
According to the original language of the bill, which was sponsored by then-Senator Ed Murray (who now serves as Seattle's Mayor), Washington state partnered with the City of Seattle and agreed to a state contribution limited to $2.4 billion for the project. Any costs which exceeded the state's original contribution were to be paid for by, “property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from replacement of the existing viaduct…”
After years of delays and cost overruns, it's now affecting our state budget.
In fact, the 2017-2019 House transportation budget includes an additional $60 million to the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to cover delay costs incurred by Bertha's malfunctions. It also spends another $15 million on transit mitigation due to the delay. WSDOT expects future additional costs of as much as $89 million.
House Bill 2193 takes the rest of Washington taxpayers off the hook and provides a mechanism for the City of Seattle to pay for the cost overruns if WSDOT or Seattle are deemed responsible for the extra costs.
The city can impose one of two taxes to pay for cost overruns related to the project, including a sales and use tax of 0.1 percent within the city or a property tax of $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. Seattle would have the discretion to apply the property tax city wide or create a special taxing district within city limits to apply to those property owners benefiting from the replacement project.
If Seattle does not impose one of the tax proposals outlined in the bill, the state would begin withholding some state-shared revenue streams, including revenue collected from the liquor excise tax, liquor profits sharing, fuel tax sharing, etc.
To me, this is commonsense — Seattle made a promise to the taxpayers of Washington eight years ago, and that promise must be kept.
Please call, email or visits me at the capitol in our final weeks of the regular legislative session. I strive to truly represent you, but I can only do that if I hear from you. I look forward to answering any questions you may have and discussing the issues that matter the most to you.
408 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7990 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000