The drive home to Adams County today gave me time to reflect on the magnitude of what the Legislature accomplished yesterday. It was something.
A new operating budget is always a heavy lift by itself, but the 2017-19 budget had to dovetail with the school-funding reforms that represented five years of collective effort (more for Senate Republicans, who had worked on this since 2010).
Because the two pieces of legislation are so closely linked, the Senate and House had to bring them along in tandem, meaning we voted on one bill while the House voted on the other. But it all came together without a major hitch.
The 2017-19 budget doesn’t rely on the new taxes or tax increases many Democrats wanted. No tax on the personal income from capital gains, no “carbon tax,” no 20-percent hike in taxes on most employers, no change in the real-estate tax. And yet the budget received 39 “yes” votes in the 49-member Senate – one more than the 2015-17 budget did.
Governor Inslee also didn’t seem to mind that the taxes he wanted weren’t included. The statement he issued after signing the new budget last night was full of praise for what it supports and the cooperation that produced it.
I didn’t come to Olympia this year expecting we could offer tax relief to a segment of our state’s employers – heck, I just wanted to shield them from higher taxes. But there we were yesterday, voting to reduce the B&O tax on manufacturing to match the lower rate set for the aerospace industry several years ago.
The new budget allowed for the change, but we needed to put the policy in place as well. I look forward to telling small manufacturers in Clarkston and Kettle Falls and other corners of our state that their B&O tax is now the same as Boeing’s. That’s huge.
Unfortunately, the past 24 hours weren’t all sweetness and light. The good-faith negotiating with the House that produced an operating budget, a McCleary solution and even a paid family leave bill still seems lacking when it comes to a fix for the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision.
The governor gets the linkage between a Hirst fix and a new capital budget, but where I will be this coming Wednesday – at the farm, or at the Capitol – depends on whether the House figures it out too. I hope they do.