Governor Inslee had included tax increases in all six budgets he’d submitted to the Legislature during his time in office. I figured he was a lock to make it 7-for-7, in the proposal he’d be putting on the table for 2019.
Even so, I was amazed by what the governor unveiled yesterday. He’d spend $54 billion over the next two years – up $10 billion, or 22 percent, from the current budget cycle. He wants to tax personal income for the first time, plus a 67 percent tax hike on more than 175,000 employers who provide services, from health care to janitorial. He’d also set property owners up for more than double the local-education taxes they’re paying now.
The governor’s budget is so over the top that words like “staggering” still can’t capture its magnitude. Inslee has outdone himself this time, to the point of seeming downright insatiable when it comes to taxes and spending.
State government is expecting to collect $50 billion in revenue over the next two years. That’s $4 billion-plus over the current budget cycle. We have more billions in reserve than ever. Yet somehow, it’s still not enough. Besides all the naturally occurring revenue plus revenue from the huge tax increases, the governor wants to tap the reserves for another $1 billion.
I don’t know why Inslee thinks a state income tax would be constitutional. And speaking of the constitution, the Legislature just got through bringing the state’s K-12 funding system back into constitutional compliance. Why does Inslee want to undo that progress by going back to the local-education levy rate that encouraged the growth of educational inequities across Washington, and helped lead to the McCleary lawsuit in the first place?
On top of that, the K-12 reforms we adopted in 2017 are still kicking in, and they’ll lower the majority of 2019 property-tax bills across the state. If Inslee wants to discard the bipartisan levy cap we’d put on school districts, he’d better be ready to accept credit for the huge property-tax increases that are sure to follow.
It’s been more a month since Republican senators stepped forward with ideas about affordable housing/homelessness, and even longer since we shared an agenda about improving mental-health treatment. I appreciate that the governor’s budget also addresses those topics, although this is more a case of having common ground on the “what” but not the “how.”
The Legislature is free to ignore Inslee’s budget. But with Democrats controlling both the state Senate and House for only the second time during his years in the mansion, and with larger majorities than 2018, look for it to serve as a cue card instead.