House Democrats unveil budget: 13% spending increase, capital gains tax, increase B&O surtax, more

The House Democrats have released their 2015-17 budget proposal, with more revenue specifics than many had anticipated. Melissa Santos and Jordan Schrader have the story. 

House leaders said their $38.8 billion spending plan, a nearly 13 percent increase over the last two-year budget, would meet key requirements of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision that ordered the Legislature to fully fund basic education in Washington by 2018.

Paying for it?

The House budget proposes enacting a 5 percent tax on capital gains, lower than the similar 7 percent tax on sales of stocks, bonds and investment properties proposed by Inslee. The tax – which would exempt most sales of primary residences and retirement funds – would raise about $570 million a year.

…Another major source of revenue in the House budget comes from increasing the business and occupation tax on services businesses such as doctors, lawyers and architects. An increase of 0.3 percentage points in the tax rates for those businesses would generate $532 million in new revenue in the next two years.

But Democrats insisted some small businesses would actually pay less under their proposal, which enlarges a tax credit to eliminate B&O taxes for an extra 15,000 businesses.

House Democrats also set their sights on ending seven tax breaks. Their budget would repeal a sales tax exemption on bottled water, limit sales tax breaks for Oregon residents who purchase small items in Washington, and get rid of tax breaks for travel agents, tour operators and resellers of prescription drugs, among others. Together, those tax adjustments would raise $384 million.

Details on the overall proposal are here. Here’s the budget bill. The capital gains tax, branded as “fair share tax,” is described here. The B&O changes are here. And the list of seven exemptions targeted for repeal, most of which have been seen before, is here. Although there’s not a carbon or cap-and-trade tax proposal included in this proposal, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, House Finance chair, says he wants that to be part of the coming discussion.

The public debate has officially begun. The public hearing on the budget plan is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

New Washington Research Council Report Examines Senate Transportation Plans

Hours before the House Transportation Committee hearing on the Senate’s transportation bills, the Washington Research Council has released its analysis of the Senate legislation.

The Senate’s opening bid in the transportation budget process includes a budget bill (ESSB 5988), a revenue bill (ESSB 5987), and eight policy reform bills. The package would increase the state gas tax by 11.7 cents over three years and would deliver $13.8 billion in new transportation spending through 2031. This would be the state’s first major transportation investment program since 2005.

Today’s House hearing will be on the the budget and revenue bills. Opportunity Washington strongly endorses passage of both. As the WRC concludes, the Senate legislation funds essential maintenance and preservation. In addition, 

…the package would fund many infrastructure projects that will help get goods to market and people to work. The economic costs of poor road conditions accrue broadly to Washington’s residents, businesses, and government. Reducing congestion, improving freight capacity, and enabling new growth would help make the state more competitive and make Washington a better place to live. The investment is past due.

It’s time to act.