Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are in the final week of session and I am committed to ending on time, April 28. There are very different budgets from the House and Senate, and those differences will need to be worked out before the constitutional deadline.
The Senate budget was introduced first and does not include any new taxes. It funds $1 billion more in targeted education funding, and protects the most vulnerable populations in our state, like our folks with developmental disabilities. It leaves $611 million in reserves and would decrease tuition for four-year universities by 3 percent. This budget proves that we can balance the budget within existing revenue, while protecting the most vulnerable and fully funding education.
The House Democrats' budget followed the lead of our governor's budget outline by increasing taxes by $1.3 billion. While the governor says ending tax exemptions is not the same as increasing taxes, the reality is people will pay more to state government at the end of the day. I was extremely disappointed the governor so quickly abandoned his promises to not raise taxes. The House Democrats' original proposal would have made temporary taxes on beer permanent and expanded to them to microbreweries, as well as increased taxes on insurance agents and even janitorial services. All of those were recently removed from the tax package in the Finance Committee after a major public outcry. However, $905 million in tax increases are still moving forward – on everyone buying bottled water, to real estate agents, to architects, to our hometown primary care physicians and many, many more.
A hearing on House Bill 2038, which would implement these taxes, turned out hundreds who came to testify from all parts of the state about how the tax increases would impact them. Several realtors testified that the tax would hit them at a time when the housing market is still down. Another man who provides architecture services testified that the temporary business and occupation tax increase on his business that is set to expire but would be made permanent under the proposal is preventing him from hiring two to three more people. People who work at our state's ports testified that a new tax on trade will prevent growth in trade. A man from a bottled water company testified that a sales tax on bottled water would cut his customer base while his costs continue to go up. The tax increase that I think would affect our district the most is charging a sales tax on our shoppers from Oregon. This will have a detrimental impact on our retailers on the border, as Oregon shoppers realize they can wait and use their discretionary income at home. This will have an unintended consequence of reducing revenues to the state, as retailers will have less sales.
It's not too late to share your opinion of these budgets and the Democrats' tax package – you can submit public comments online or call the Legislative Hotline toll-free at (800) 562-6000 and ask to share your comments with all of the House Democrats. The public has proven their input is heard and does make a difference.
It's an honor to serve you.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000