AWB president urges state lawmakers to deal with budget shortfall now. “Waiting makes it worse.”

In his column in the Wenatchee Valley Business World, Association of Washington Business president Kris Johnson calls on state lawmakers to act now to address the state’s budget shortfall. 

When the coronavirus swept our state this year, Washingtonians got to work.

Employers adapted and kept critical supplies flowing to our communities, from groceries to masks and gloves. Essential workers, the majority of whom are women, put in long hours to make deliveries, and care for the sick. And families made big adjustments to online school, remote work and less childcare, all at the same time.

These Washingtonians stepped up and did what needed to be done, despite the enormous challenges and disruptions from the pandemic. It’s time for Washington lawmakers to do the same.

He cites the Washington Research Council analysis we have pointed to in making a similar case. The WRC does the math and reports that the longer lawmakers wait, the deeper the budget cuts would have to be. Johnson writes,

These cuts could be as low as 3.5% if lawmakers act immediately and enact across-the-board spending cuts. Or, the cuts could be as high as 28% if they wait until next year and protect areas like basic education and retirement. Waiting only makes the problem worse.

And the same concept applies if lawmakers resort to tax increases to fill the deficit.

We recommend reading the column in its entirety and were struck again by the toll the pandemic has taken on businesses in the state.

In a recent survey of Association of Washington Business members, 62% reported reduced revenue and nearly a quarter have laid off employees.

When asked how the state could help businesses during this downturn, 44% said that a business and occupation tax reduction is the best way for the state to help businesses now. Twenty-three percent listed a freeze on unemployment insurance rates, and 16% said a holiday on workers’ compensation insurance.

These businesses have stepped up to meet unprecedented challenges. Although state policymakers have said they would prefer to wait for another federal bailout, Johnson says, 

Some hope the federal government will provide more funding, or free up relief funds already allocated to the states. We shared that hope, but Congress recessed for the summer break without reaching a deal.

Our state can do better than betting on federal relief to balance the state budget and provide necessary services to help people weather the pandemic.

In conclusion,

Addressing this challenge will not be easy. But waiting makes it worse. It’s time for state action.