Jay Inslee outlined his legislative wish list during his State of the State speech yesterday. He used his time to again pitch his budget proposal —particularly his capital gains tax and cap-and-tax scheme—to a joint session of the state House and Senate. Inslee’s 2015 wish list is clear—he wants historic tax increases to the tune of $1.5 billion, a generous dipping ($600 million) into the state’s revenue reserves and an unprecedented 15.4% spending increase over the next two years.
Inslee wrapped his spending proposals in a whopping $39 billion budget package for the benefit of various special interest groups, campaign donors, and to the detriment of Washington’s working families. That’s perhaps why many special interests groups, including extreme environmental activists and state employee unions, have championed Inslee’s budget as a “bold new approach.”
What our green governor wishes for in 2015 matches the priorities of his favorite special interests—that reality is not a coincidence. Inslee’s benefitted from the generous donations of his special interest allies during his 2012 gubernatorial campaign, now he is paying them back. Here’s how:
As Shift reported, Inslee’s budget includes a whopping $867 million in spending for state employee pay hikes. The generous pay hikes were the result of secret negotiations (read: concessions) between Inslee’s office and top union executives from the state employees’ unions.
State employee unions come out as the sole beneficiaries of the $867 million in pay hikes. Top union executives—with the support Inslee—try to justify this big hit on the state budget by claiming that state employees have not received pay raises for the past seven years. In turn, the lack of pay hikes hurts the retention rate of state employees.
These two arguments are key to the legislative lobbying efforts of state employee unions and both arguments are demonstrably false. As Shift pointed out, the majority of state employees have received “step increases” —an automatic increase in pay after a set amount of time as a state employee, something that any private sector worker would call a pay raise. In fact, a recent study found that state employee compensation is “not out of line with prevailing private sector rates.” Additionally, Inslee’s own Office of Financial Management found that “our current compensation market position has not adversely impacted employee retention, turnover or our ability to hire.”
This week, the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC), along with its affiliated unions, announced its plan to pursue a Shared Prosperity Agenda in the 2015 Legislature. The agenda—set to be unveiled later this week—will have a “political makeup similar to 2013-14.” That means pay hikes, including a $12 per hour minimum wage to be phased in over the next two years.
Inslee’s budget certainly caters to the biggest priority of state employee unions, but it also tailor fits the agenda of environmental groups. Our green governor’s budget proposed two schemes that left environmentalists salivating at the mouth—a cap-and-tax plan and a fuel mandate.
Alan Durning, executive director of the Sightline Institute (a Seattle-based liberal environmental advocacy group) hailed Inslee’s green agenda as “the most comprehensive and probably the most progressive carbon-pollution regulation system anywhere in the world.” The Washington Environmental Council called Inslee’s plan “a positive step forward” for fulfilling the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy—the fuel mandate pact Inslee negotiated in secret and agreed to, along with California, Oregon, and British Columbia, without legislative approval.
Inslee’s cap-and-tax and fuel mandate even received the “warm endorsement” of California billionaire and environmental hypocrite Tom Steyer. He recently said, “Under strong progressive leadership from officials like Gov. Inslee, the West has the potential to lead the nation on climate action.” Considering the fact that Steyer was most likely involved in the policy-making process, his ringing praise of Inslee should come as no surprise.
Though extreme environmental groups praise Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme, they are under no illusion of how difficult it will be to pass through the Legislature. A far-left environmental blog admitted, “There will be a fight, and it’s optimistic to hope that the governor’s plan will make it through intact.”
Despite the difficulty, environmental special interest groups are sure to put up a fight. Inslee’s status as the nation’s greenest governor sets a political stage they are not likely pass up. Of course, even if the environmental groups are not successful in convincing the Legislature to pass a cap-and-tax, they always have our green governor and the bureaucrats at the Department of Ecology who are more than ready and willing to bypass the legislative process and implement a fuel mandate via executive order.