Here’s a reality check: Democrats winning full control of the Legislature won’t give Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee a green light to enact every progressive tax he’s had his eye on these past few years.
Democratic leaders have been promising their constituents big things if they win back control of the Washington state Senate. Now, it appears they’ve done just that, with Democrat Manka Dhingra leading Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund in early returns from Tuesday’s special election in the 45th Legislative District.
Here’s a reality check: If Democrats win full control of the Legislature, it won’t give Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee a green light to enact every progressive tax he’s had his eye on these past few years. Nor will it cause the state to go to hell in a socialist, tax-happy handbasket, as Republicans have alleged in ads throughout the campaign season.
Democrats who control the state House didn’t have the votes this year to enact a tax on carbon emissions, despite Inslee’s continued push for it. That hasn’t changed overnight. And the capital gains tax House Democrats proposed earlier this year still doesn’t have enough votes to clear the state Senate, even if Dhingra’s lead holds and Democrats take over. Too many moderate Democrats in Olympia already say they won’t vote for it.
This reality will impede Inslee’s hopes of enacting either of those taxes. He has suggested them as a way to reduce the statewide property-tax increase lawmakers enacted this year to help fix the way the state pays for schools.
But Democrats will be reluctant to undo that tax deal in a short, 60-day session leading up to a pivotal 2018 election. They will be more focused on getting their work done quickly so they can start campaigning for November, in hopes of expanding their fragile majority.
That will hold true even if the state Supreme Court rules the Legislature has fallen short of meeting its obligations in the McCleary school-funding case. Democratic lawmakers should look to add money for special education and pass a capital budget to help pay for school construction, but they’ll likely wait until 2019 to make more drastic changes.
The new policies Democrats pass in 2018 will probably need to be easier lifts that play to their base and look good on campaign mailers. Things like protecting insurance coverage for birth control and passing a state Voting Rights Act. Probably not on the agenda? Banning assault weapons.
So relax, Republicans — the sky won’t fall now that Democrats appear to have regained full control in Olympia. And Democrats, you might want to tamp down your expectations for next year’s legislative session.