The 2020 supplemental budget is a missed opportunity for tax relief

Floor action alert!: Thursday, Democrats voted down a budget amendment that would increase transparency on settlements to lawsuits against the state. We should shine a light on what state agencies are doing wrong to generate large settlements.

 

After hearing recently that the state could expect an additional $1.5 billion in extraordinary revenue this biennium, bringing the total to $2.4 billion over four years, I hoped the Legislature would seize the opportunity to give the hardworking taxpayers of Washington a break. I hoped we’d enact the $30 car tabs you overwhelmingly voted for, and I hoped we’d provide some assistance with skyrocketing property taxes.
Unfortunately, this tax relief is nowhere to be found in the Senate Democrat supplemental operating budget that passed off the Senate floor this week. It ignores the will of the people and it doesn’t provide any meaningful tax relief for the average Washingtonian.
Even the money the budget allocates to help the homeless has limited focus. The surplus should have allowed us to provide the additional temporary housing included in the Senate budget as well as to increase substance-abuse treatment, mental-health treatment, job training and public-safety improvements. Homelessness is a complex problem. But this budget only scratches the surface.
Another disappointment is that the budget does not include any money to give relief to health-care providers who are struggling to keep their practices open because of rising costs like the 20-percent increase in the business tax. I sponsored a bill this session that would have exempted them from that increase.
Important facts about the Senate supplemental operating budget:
  • Represents nearly 20-percent growth in state spending, which is the highest in 30 years
  • Increases spending $1.1 billion in this biennium alone
  • Spreads the extra revenue thinly across various agencies, like peanut butter, rather than provide substantive help to anyone
  • Spends the entire $2.4 billion surplus down to $0
  • Contains 13 different tax increases, raising $26 billion over 10 years
  • Puts $100 million into a “climate resiliency” account, but without any real guidelines for how the money will be spent
If this budget becomes law, it will mean that the rate of government spending during the current administration will reach twice the rate of wage growth in Washington. Outside of King County, where wage growth is slower, it represents an even wider gap. (See chart above.)
What are some good things that are included in the Senate’s supplemental operating budget?
  • $24 million per biennium for skilled-nursing facilities, although this is a fraction of what is needed to save them from closing their doors
  • $13 million to exempt behavioral health providers from the business tax increase, but nothing to exempt health-care providers such as private-practice physicians
  • Expands postpartum Medicaid coverage to one year after delivery
  • Increases Medicaid rates for primary-care providers
  • $50 million in additional funding for improvements benefiting individuals with developmental disabilities, including eliminating the waiting list for services
  • $100 million to construct a behavioral-health hospital at the University of Washington
  • $38 million to increase staffing at Western State Mental Hospital
In the end, the supplemental operating budget that becomes law likely will be a combination of this budget with the House version. I’ll update you when I know more about how this final product will look. You can read more about what’s in the budget here.

The presidential primary:

“Why do I have to declare my party affiliation on the OUTSIDE of my ballot envelope?”

That’s the most common question I’m hearing from constituents who are calling and writing my office right now. Rightly so, many of you have concerns about the requirement to declare an affiliation with either the Republican or Democrat parties on the outside of the envelope for the presidential primary ballot.

We looked into the issue more deeply so that we could explain the reasoning behind the process.

Currently, the oath you sign when you send in your ballot has to accompany the name and registration information. It legally can’t be on the ballot or the security envelope because elections staff can’t be allowed to see your name and your ballot at the same time. Instead, the oath and the party declaration are on the outside of the envelope so the privacy of the ballot itself is protected.

I know many have concerns about their personal information being on the mailing envelope, visible to the mail carrier and others. I understand your concerns. As I understand it, the best way to move forward would be to require an additional envelope, within the mailing envelope, be used for the oath, name and party declaration.

One other important thing to mention is that declaring a party in the primary does not prevent you from voting for whichever candidate you choose in the general election.

If you have additional questions or comments, you can contact the Office of the Secretary of State.

 

This week’s Senate pages: Brock Tuminello and Philip Harnett

This week I sponsored two Senate pages.

Brock Tuminello, 14, is an 8th grader at St. Anne School in Seattle. He loves basketball, crew, soccer, football and video production.

Philip Harnett, 14, is also an 8th grader at St Anne School. He loves swimming, running, basketball, crew and volleyball.

I really enjoyed having these young men serve the Senate this week and I hope they learned a lot about the legislative process while also having fun.

Click here more information on the Senate page program.

 

Welcome to the Capitol: 2020 Daffodil Princesses

Anyone who lives in Western Washington knows how important the Daffodil Festival is to Pierce County. These smart and accomplished young women are wonderful representatives of our area’s high schools. I’d like to thank each of them for visiting me while they were in Senate Chambers for Sen. Hans Zeiger’s resolution honoring the Daffodil Festival.

It’s so important for the people to be involved in the legislative process. If you would like to visit me in Olympia, contact my office.