Reactions to governor’s budget: “great blueprint…more ambitious” than Legislature will pass; “extreme spending spree”

Early to the governor’s budget rollout indicate that his spending plan may be the high-water mark for the session. The Seattle Times has reactions from Senate’s budget leader.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, on Thursday called Inslee’s proposal “a great blueprint” with priorities that are “shared I think by the majority of Democrats in the Legislature.”

But Rolfes, who is the chief Democratic budget writer in the Senate, said the governor’s revenue package may be too much for lawmakers to embrace.

“His tax increases will be taken up by the Legislature, but they’re probably more ambitious than the Legislature will be able to pass,” she said. Rolfes added that she would encourage lawmakers to discuss some tax increases to solve significant problems that the state is confronting.

The ranking Republican on the budget committee, Sen. John Braun, released a sharply critical statement, saying

Ultimately the governor wants to go on an extreme spending spree and come January it will be up to lawmakers to address our priorities by governing with what we have. At some point, the public is going to run out of patience with annual demands for billions more of their money.

Braun also challenged the governor’s call to undo parts of the Legislature’s McCleary fix. The ST describes the governors proposal this way.

The governor’s plan would also raise the cap for school districts to impose local school-district property taxes up to 28 percent of their combined state and federal revenues. Those local levies had been capped and lowered as part of the 2017 bipartisan school-funding deal.

Some school districts, including those that had teacher strikes over the summer, have since complained that the lower levy caps would lead to revenue shortfalls. In a statement Thursday, the Washington Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, applauded the governor’s budget, including the move to raise the local levy caps.

Inslee said he was confident that raising the caps wouldn’t run afoul of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary order. And the move is necessary so school districts can fund additional programs like arts, band or computer-coding programs, he said.

In his statement, Braun writes,

While the governor may pitch this plan as a return to the old levy system, he’s failing to acknowledge how the significant increase in state spending on K-12 education factors into a 28 percent levy cap – meaning it allows a much larger amount of money to be raised locally. This would again make some high-income communities winners and low-income areas losers. This comes after our previous plan rebalanced significant statewide inequities and is set to provide 70 percent of state residents with local education property tax relief.

The Spokesman-Review reports the reaction from the top budget writer in the House.

House Appropriations Chairman Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, called it a good starting point for upcoming budget discussions. “His focus on behavioral health, higher education and the environment are issues both House and Senate Democrats have championed for years,” he said in a news release.

As we wrote previously, many local districts entered into collective bargaining agreements that will be unsustainable without an additional infusion of funding.

TJ Martinell writes of the proposed  capital gains tax in The Lens,, noting it

…marks the second time in the last three years Inslee has proposed a capital gains income tax in his operating budget, despite one state Department of Commerce official calling the lack of one a “selling point” for attracting new businesses to Washington and its absence included as part of a Puget Sound proposal for Amazon’s HQ2. The tax’s volatility inspired California voters in 2014 to pass a constitutional amendment placing a percentage of the revenue in savings during good years to prevent budget shortfalls.

While efforts to implement the tax in the past have failed to clear the state House and Senate, Inslee claimed that newly-strengthened Democrat majorities in both chambers at a Dec. 13 press conference means there’s a “really good chance that we’re going to adopt this as one of our measures.”

Under his proposal, the tax would apply to capital gains of $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers. The tax would not apply to residential home, farm or forestry sales, though at nine percent it would be the fourth-highest rate in the country. Currently, Washington is one of nine states to have not a capital gains income tax.

If implemented, the tax is almost guaranteed to trigger a lawsuit for violating the state constitution’s one-percent cap on property taxes.

More coverage by the Associated Press, Northwest Public Broadcasting, and the Seattle Times.