As of Monday, December 21, 2015
OLYMPIA Yakima Valley lawmakers are less than enthusiastic about Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal for 2016.
A nearly $5,000 raise for beginning teachers, repealing a sales tax emption on bottled water and $29 million for wildfire recovery are included in Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget.
Inslee called Thursday’s proposals “modest” adjustments to the current 2015–17 budget.
“At first glance, we’re pleased to see emergency money allocated for fire suppression efforts across the state,” State Rep. Bruce Chandler said.
None of the local lawmakers disagreed with the governor’s call for teacher raises or increases in basic education spending.
However, they are disappointed in how Inslee wants to pay for them.
Chandler, ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, rejects Inslee’s call for lifting the sales tax exemption on bottled water.
The same goes for State Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee).
“Here we go again. The governor proposes additional spending and offers nothing but tax increases to pay for it,” Taylor said. “Repealing the sales tax exemption on bottled water is not a solution. In fact, a few very short years ago, the voters rejected that very proposal.”
Taylor and Chandler also reject other tax proposals Inslee made in his draft budget, such as applying sales tax to those living outside of Washington state.
“These tax increases have either been rejected by voters in the past, like the tax on bottled water, or already reviewed by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee,” Chandler said. “The Legislature had ample opportunity to impose these new tax increases over the last few years, but after citizen input and careful scrutiny, chose not to. If the governor felt it was an emergency to add further growth to state government, the public would be better served by innovation and new ideas rather than a continuation of failed efforts of taking more from taxpayers.”
Taylor added, “Applying sales tax to non-residents will hurt our border communities (i.e. Tri-Cities, Spokane Valley, Vancouver, etc.) and is not a long-term solution. In fact, if you look closely at how this proposal works, the state would be banking on non-residents not applying for sales tax refunds.”
To make matters worse, Inslee’s budget does not fix issues raised in the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling, according to Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside).
Honeyford also takes Inslee to task for dipping into the state’s emergency fund.
“The governor proposes over $521 million in new spending for which he wants to use the emergency fund,” Honeyford said. “(That) is not an appropriate use of this fund.”
Honeyford adds, “His budget ignores I-1366 that requires a vote on the two-thirds requirement for new taxes or reducing the sales tax.”
Chandler also called on Inslee to do more for charter schools.
He said Inslee’s budget proposal could have been an opportunity for the governor to “…lend his support to bipartisan legislative efforts to ensure all students and parents of our state are served equally.”
He added, “Legislators will invest precious time and political capital in crafting a solution to our state’s voter-approved public charter school system. However, without the engagement of our governor in those efforts, the solution will be more difficult.”
The legislative session will convene in Olympia on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. It is scheduled to last 60 days and conclude on March 11.