“The imminent threat of climate change” tops State of the State agenda; scant mention of budget, taxes

Gov. Jay Inslee’s State of the State address led with the issue with which he is most closely identified: climate change.

Though we’ve accomplished much, we still face challenges that require us to push further. At the top of that list is the imminent threat of climate change.

…I don’t know of any other issue that touches the heart of things so many of us care about:our jobs, our health, our safety and our children’s future.

But this doesn’t have to be our future. Science affirms the necessity of action — this day.This is the 11th hour, but it is Washington’s hour to shine. It’s a time of great peril, but also of great promise.

He followed with discussion of mental health and the orcas.

Another historic chapter we need to write about is mental health.

While we’ve taken significant steps to improve our physical health in medical schools like the Elson Floyd College of Medicine at WSU, we can improve our mental health care efforts, too.

We need to transform behavioral health from a system that responds to crisis to one thathelps people before they reach crisis…

The third thing we need to focus on is saving the Southern Resident orcas.

The word “tax” doesn’t appear in the prepared text. Neither does revenue. He did mention the budget in the context of the fourth major initiative, education. His budget would expand preschool, fund “universal home visits” giving giving new parents the opportunity to meet with a nurse and expand postsecondary training and education through apprenticeships, internships, and the WashingtonCollege Promise. There’s more. The speech is important for establishing the governor’s priorities. Over the next 100+ days, compromise and negotiation will shape the final legislative product.

The Spokesman-Review reported on the absence of a call for new taxes in the address.

The governor made no specific mention of increased taxes or fees to pay for new environmental programs or any of the other policies he discussed in his State of the State speech. The budget he proposed in December calls for both an increase to the state business and occupation tax for the service industry, and a capital gains tax on people who have more than $25,000 in profits from certain investments as an individual, or $50,000 as a couple.

Legislative Republicans, who are the minority in both chambers, likened the governor to a child putting everything on a Christmas wish list or a person who wants to talk about benefits but never costs.

While not mentioned in the address, the governor’s tax proposals have been introduced in the Legislature, as the Washington Research Council writes.

Gov. Inslee’s proposals to impose a 9 percent capital gains tax and increase the B&O tax rate on services have been introduced in the Senate as SB 5129. The bill specifies that the revenues from the additional B&O tax rate must be split between the general fund (20 percent) and the education legacy trust account (80 percent). This is done to avoid an extraordinary revenue growth deposit to the rainy day fund, as we discussed in our policy brief on the governor’s budget…

The REET proposal has been introduced in the Senate as SB 5130. Under current law, revenues from the REET are deposited in the public works assistance account, the education legacy trust account, the city-county assistance account, and the general fund. Under the bill, 16.7 percent of the revenues would be deposited in the motor vehicle fund going forward.

The Seattle Times identified the governor’s change in approach to climate change legislation.

In recent years, Inslee’s ambitious carbon-fee and cap-and-trade proposals stalled in the Legislature. Washington voters in 2016 and 2018 also rejected carbon-fee ballot measures.

This year the governor is taking a different approach. He’s advocating for a series of smaller bills that he said roughly equals the amount of carbon-reduction in his previous, overarching proposals. The package includes a clean-fuels standard for auto emissions, the eventual elimination of “super-pollutant” hydrofluorocarbons used in air conditioning, and more electric-vehicle incentives and tighter energy-efficiency regulations for buildings.

More coverage of the address in The Lens, The News Tribune, and Northwest Public Broadcasting.