We’ve all heard the saying... “we get the government we deserve,” which means that when we elect bad representatives, we generally suffer the consequences of their actions. The only exception is the Washington State Legislature. While most of us in Clark County elect conservative candidates to serve in the state House and Senate, Puget Sound Democrats hold solid majorities in both chambers, so they largely control statewide politics, including the state budget.
Even though our state government has a whopping $2.8 billion surplus over the previous budget, this wasn’t enough to satisfy the spending habits of Majority Democrats during this recent Legislative Session. They passed $5.5 billion in new taxes that will take effect over the next four years.
According to 17th District Washington State Representative Vicki Kraft, Democrats pushed forth several new taxes that are now in state law. Here are the ones that will sting the most:
• A new Business & Occupation tax surcharge on services ($945 million tax increase over four years) will impact 90,000 employers and raise costs for consumers.
• A new, graduated real estate excise tax will restrict housing supply, increase rents and harm the economy.
• A higher tax on oil will increase the price of gas we all pay at the pump.
• Ending the sales tax exemption for Oregonians will drive away business from Clark County.
• Removing the public school local levy lid will increase property taxes for Washington families because it allows local school districts to collect even more levy dollars for K-12 programs.
Removing the levy lid is particularly troubling since most Washington residents are still reeling from the giant property tax increases imposed in 2018-19 to fund public education. Remember the promises made by legislators that our property taxes would go down after the initial spike? Well, that’s not going to happen now! By increasing the ability for individual school districts to increase levy rates, the Legislature is again allowing wealthy school districts to impose higher levies, while poorer districts who cannot pass those same levies will be unable to offer equal programming.
All this does is set us up for McCleary 2.0, whereby funding inequities between school districts will result in yet another high profile Supreme Court case. Except, next time around, Puget Sound Democrats will push for a new Capital Gains Tax or a full-blown state income tax in order to fund the next public school funding crisis. In the end, it’s always the taxpayers’ pockets that get picked.
The most egregious bills always get passed in the dark of night. It was that way when I served in Olympia and this session was no exception. Just as troubling, Republican legislators were completely shut out of the budget process. And, with just one day remaining in the regular session, rank and file members had just 24 hours to review the $52.5 billion, 808 page, two-year state operating budget. This certainly provided no transparency for the public and not enough time for state legislators to thoroughly review the document that is now state law.
With Puget Sound Democrats at the wheel of state politics, there’s not much we can do to stop their tax-and-spend steamroller. Many residents are moving out of Washington to relocate to a more tax-friendly state. That’s one option. For those of us who love this state and want to remain living here, our best bet is to elect honest, hardworking and trustworthy citizens to local office who will insist these agencies live within their means.
Locally, our votes can truly make a difference. Candidate filing week is now underway and ends May 17. Consider filing for office to run for a local school board or city council seat. If you are not willing to run, encourage other qualified citizens to do so. Talk to your friends, relatives, neighbors and those you worship with. Help identify candidates that you can support.
Liz Pike is a retired Washington State Representative who served three terms, from 2012 to 2018. Today she operates Shangri-La Farm, a small-scale organic farm in Fern Prairie outside of Camas with her husband Neil and also teaches oil painting classes. She can be reached at (360) 281-8720 or email@example.com.