In a routine that’s become as predictable as the Mariners missing the playoffs or Starbucks hiking the price of a cup of coffee, Governor Jay Inslee has released a budget proposal that would raise taxes on Washingtonians by billions of dollars — $10 billion over the next four years to be exact.
Along with a new capital gains income tax would come an increase in the service B&O tax rate. The governor has also proposed an increase to the real estate excise tax for tens of thousands of property owners across Washington state.
Some may be eager to dismiss these tax hikes as mere wish list items for a governor that wants to shore up his progressive credentials as he prepares to run for president. However, a bill to implement a capital gains tax has already been introduced this session by one of his allies in the House.
Time and time again, Washingtonians have said ‘no’ to tax increases. On five separate occasions, voters have approved ballot measures to require a supermajority in both chambers to raise taxes. In 2010, all but one county voted against an initiative to impose a state income tax, and in both 2016 and 2018, the vast majority of voters rejected measures to implement a new carbon tax.
Despite these votes, some politicians continue to make it their mission to raise taxes. It’s almost as if they’re more interested in advancing their own agenda than listening to the people.
Along with an eagerness to raise taxes is an eagerness to spend more of your hard-earned dollars. In the 2011-13 biennium, the state’s operating budget totaled $30.9 billion. The governor’s 2019-21 budget would spend $54.4 billion. That’s a 76-percent increase in less than a decade.
While we are currently living in the best economic times in recent memory, most economists will tell you that we are overdue for a slowdown. As much as we wish otherwise, the good times won’t always last. As someone who navigated a business through the 2008 financial crisis, I know that as well as anyone.
What state lawmakers and the governor need to understand is the value of fiscal discipline. It may not be as exciting of an approach as spending every dime we have and hoping for the best, but it is the only approach that will ensure we are prepared for an economic downturn. This session, the Legislature must commit to building up the state’s rainy day fund instead of raiding it for short-term needs.
This debate over tax hikes and the growth of spending is nothing new. What’s different this year is that Democrats have larger majorities in the House and Senate. That means they are fully in the driver’s seat and can choose to ignore those of us in the minority calling for fiscal restraint.
It is my hope, however, that they will not only heed our warnings but that they will respect what Washingtonians have repeatedly stated they want: no new taxes and a government that lives within its means.
Anything short of that will rightly be seen as failure.