Budget talks continue…and so does the spin

Jun 12, 2017

The former FBI director spoke last week about the challenge posed by media coverage of sensitive topics involving classified information. Because officials who know the details aren’t inclined to talk to reporters, he told a Senate committee, they have to “leave it” when reports are off-target.

Budget negotiations in Olympia (which have been going since April) don’t involve classified information. But spending is a sensitive topic, so here too, those with the details tend to avoid sharing them publicly.

Unfortunately, special-interest disinformation fills the void – along with pure political spin. Just last week a new Democratic senator accused our Senate majority of “my way or the highway” negotiating. Being in the minority, she might not know we and the House majority have exchanged several offers. Still, that’s no defense.

Some claims, like these in a recent news report, can be addressed without upsetting negotiations:

Claim: House Democrats want to “radically overhaul” the state’s business-and-occupation taxes. Our Senate Majority Coalition Caucus doesn’t.
Fact: Democrats want to raise business-and-occupation taxes by 20% on service-oriented businesses such as daycares. And it’s true, we don’t.

Claim: Democrats want to close several tax breaks. We don’t.
Fact: Democrats want to close several tax incentives that help create jobs. We’re open to evaluating tax preferences that don’t create jobs.

Claim: We want to overhaul the state property-tax system, which would “significantly” increase those taxes on Puget Sound residents.
Fact: The MCC property-tax overhaul addresses the Supreme Court’s constitutional concerns about education funding. The flat tax rate we propose statewide happens to be less than what 83% of property owners in Washington are paying now. While the flat rate represents an increase in some school districts, it’s also fair. And every school district would receive more funding. Also, as a whole, King County property owners would save with our plan compared to the mix of tax changes House Democrats want.

Claim: We would ignore most new tentative contracts negotiated with state employees in 2016.
Fact: What we want is legislative oversight concerning those tentative contracts. We’d also prioritize raises for underpaid state employees.

The claim that we see the Democrats’ proposed capital-gains tax as a “business-killing Trojan Horse for a state income tax” sounds about right. Just ask Connecticut.

Contrary to the disinformation, our side is actively negotiating. Others may gain from pushing Olympia to the brink of a shutdown, but not us.