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Budget and Spending

I come from the business sector. I have experience managing millions of dollars in spending and staffing for several businesses over my career. It’s not easy work, but it has taught me that tackling pressing issues first is critical and measuring results with the spending is equally as important.

With the final 2023-25 state operating budget signed in March, we have seen a massive increase in spending over the current governor’s 12-year tenure. The enacted supplemental operating budget provides for two-year total fund spending of $140.9 billion, and general fund spending (subject to outlook) of $71.9 billion. While there are many good things in the budget, such as education funding and programs that support our most vulnerable, there is also a lot of risk to those programs simply because of how the budget was crafted with one-time money for ongoing spending. Additionally, there were no provisions put in place for the government to be accountable to voters or measure the success of the spending on the outcomes we want to see, such as higher graduation rates, a drop in homelessness, etc.

There has been a lot of growth in spending. There has also been a bad habit of taking one-time funds or volatile sources of revenue and using them for ongoing spending. This only sets taxpayers up for either cuts in things they care about or higher taxes. Neither is acceptable. Here are some examples:

  • Washington lawmakers have promised the first $500 million in taxes gathered from the state’s new capital gains income tax, or the capital gains excise tax, will go to the Education Legacy Trust Fund. Unfortunately, the taxes have fallen far short of expectations, and the trust fund is not secure. Voters will have an opportunity to repeal the tax on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot via Initiative 2109.
  • The Climate Commitment Act, while raising some $2 billion for projects that claim to address environmental issues and racial justice, the carbon tax will, if all goes as planned, dwindle along with emissions. It has also raised the price of gasoline to one of the highest in the nation. Voters will have an opportunity to repeal this tax in November via Initiative 2771.

We can do better. We can craft a budget that aligns with our values and look forward to the impacts it will have on programs we put at the top of our values list, such as the environment, public safety, education, housing, and programs that serve the most vulnerable among us.

My position on Initiative 2771 (Repealing the Climate Commitment Act) and Initiative 2109 (Repealing the Capital Gains Tax) is that the voters should speak. The lawmakers they elected to serve them in our state Legislature voted for the policies. This fall, those voters will get to weigh in on whether they believe they are successful and let the next Legislature and governor know that either they approve or disapprove of the policies’ outcomes and results.

If voters choose to keep the taxes in place, I believe that taxes generated by the CCA or Income Tax should not be spent on ongoing programs since there is simply too much volatility in their collection, particularly over time. The fact is, as carbon emissions drop, so will funds generated by the CCA, and as those impacted by the Income Tax move to more tax-friendly states, that will also drop. 

We can craft a budget that aligns with our shared values while assessing the future impacts of the spending and measuring results along the way to course correct as needed.