We invite Republicans to join us in investing in people instead of protecting our unfair tax system.
WASHINGTON’S economy is getting back on track. After years of struggle, it’s time to reinvest in our future. The state House has proposed a responsible budget that invests the public’s hard-earned tax dollars wisely in vital services for children and families.
Our budget meets the state’s constitutional obligation to fund K-12 public education with $3.2 billion in additional funding. These investments would reduce class sizes in K-3 grades, fund all-day kindergarten for every child, buy classroom supplies and give teachers hard-earned, cost-of-living pay increases.
The budget also would invest nearly $100 million in new mental health-care solutions rather than inhumanely (and unconstitutionally) parking people in emergency rooms and local jails. We fix the horrific backlog of uninvestigated child-abuse cases and better care for our state’s 12,000 foster youths.
Editor’s note: The Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House have hit an impasse on the state budget as the legislative session approaches its Sunday close. Democratic budget writers explain their priorities in this guest column.
Our investment in high-quality early learning for low-income preschoolers is the largest in state history. The financial and moral return would pay off for generations.
To help hundreds of thousands of college students and families, the House budget would freeze tuition for another two years and add financial aid for 8,300 more students. It would support the University of Washington and all of our state’s colleges and universities in creating more positions for deserving students. And it would fund more computer science and medical slots to drive our economy forward.
These critical investments won’t come for free: Adding court-ordered funding for education requires significant new revenue. Otherwise, we have to make unconscionably large cuts from higher education or the safety net. The House proposes instead to ask large corporations and wealthy investors to pay their fair share.
We would help fix the most unfair tax system in the country by adding a modest 5 percent capital-gains tax that would apply only to the wealthiest 32,000 taxpayers out of the state’s 7 million individuals, leveling the playing field for online shopping, and closing or reducing a handful of lucrative tax breaks for large corporations.
The Senate Republicans’ proposed budget is a bumper sticker that promises everything to everyone — all free of charge. The reality is a little different.
In K-12 funding, they meet our state constitutional “paramount duty” to fund the basic operating costs of running a school system (materials, supplies and operating costs) by giving districts an ultimatum: They’ll get their funding only if they agree to reduce their local levies. Unfortunately, the Senate wouldn’t reduce the districts’ dependence on those local levies to pay teacher salaries. The result could mean a reduction of hundreds of millions a year out of school districts. The state Supreme Court is unlikely to accept a plan like this.
The Senate’s budget promises tuition cuts for college students, but underfunds colleges and cuts the low-income scholarship fund to pay for it.
The Republican budget would spend $115 million less on our youngest kids than the House does in its early learning investment. This number is oddly identical to the amount of new corporate tax breaks the Senate demands for many of the most profitable corporations in the country.
The Senate budget would create inevitable tax increases in cities and counties by taking hundreds of millions away from local governments. Today, that money is used for local law enforcement, public safety and building projects that provide jobs. This is a hidden tax increase.
Initiative 502 voters expected the new marijuana tax system to pay for youth prevention and treatment, public-health programs and basic health plans. The Senate budget would do none of this. In turn, the Senate counts on spending hundreds of millions in additional pot taxes, based on overly optimistic assumptions, to pay for its education funding gap.
The House budget respects how hard taxpayers work to pay the bills. It would carefully invest in the middle class, working families, small businesses, and would improve state residents’ quality of life.
As the House works with Senate Republicans to reach a final budget agreement, we invite them to join us in investing in real people living real lives instead of protecting the status quo of our unfair tax system. We’re all in this together.