The State House Democrats finally recognized the reality of this year’s legislative session(s), and yesterday finally released their version of a no-new-taxes budget proposal – along with another budget that would include spending funded by ending certain tax incentives. A quick comparison between the Democrats’ latest budget and the last budget passed by the Republican-majority Senate reveals that the liberals prioritize government operations and welfare spending while the GOP make education (including higher education) the highest spending priority.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the latest House budget is that it not only does not cut college tuition, as the Republicans propose, but even authorizes tuition increases in the second year of the biennia. The House Democrats’ so-called tuition freeze would only take place if taxes are raised. The Democrats’ move to ignore the Senate’s tuition reduction proposal is a negotiating ploy to take something away that is important to Republicans. It’s political posturing at the expense of the middle class.
The Democrats’ no-new-taxes budget does at least eliminate their previous commitment to giving their teacher union allies a bigger pay raise (the so-called “SuperCOLA” pay increase). Both the Senate and House budgets now contain the COLA hikes approved by voters in Initiative 732. The higher COLA increase is, however, included in the Democrats’ tax bill.
Democrats decided to also attach the Capital Budget to their tax bill, but did not fund the debt service needed to fund a capital budget in their no-new-taxes budget. Apparently, there will only be a Capital Budget if taxes are raised. Additionally, Democrats chose not to fund drought relief… at all.
The most significant policy addition in Democrats’ budget (that is not in Republicans’ budget) is funding for cash grant increase to welfare recipients.
House Democrats’ tax-raising bill would bring in $356 million in 2015-17 and $474 million in 2017-19, totaling $830 million over four years. It would do so by ending certain tax incentives, including the sales tax break on bottled water (which Washington voters have previously voted to retain) and taxing purchases for non-Washington State residents. Democrats also propose repealing the business and occupation tax break for prescription drug resellers and for royalty income.