Senate Democrats roll out budget and accompanying ‘fix our tax code’ plan

Senate Democrats roll out budget and accompanying ‘fix our tax code’ plan

  • Saturday, March 30, 2019 9:47am
  • News

By Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau

The Senate Democrats introduced their operating budget proposal on Friday totaling $52.2 billion – an increase of $7.5 billion over the last biennium.

K-12 education accounts for 60 percent of the increase in spending with increases of $4.5 billion and an additional $937 million in special education funding. Other major increases include behavioral health and long-term care.

The Senate proposal, like the House version released last week, includes revenue increases, however these increases differ and focus on restructuring the tax system.

“Sometimes I think that we talk about taxes in entirely the wrong way,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane. “Government is us coming together to do the things that would be too expensive or inefficient to do individually, so we work together our common good. It’s a good deal and we pay for it with taxes.”

Washington’s tax structure ranks worst in the nation in tax fairness with lower income individuals paying nearly 18 percent of their income in taxes while wealthy Washingtonians pay 3 percent, said Billig.

The graduated real estate excise tax would bring in $421 million and is proposed separately from the budget in Senate Bill 5991. Currently, the real estate excise tax is at a flat 1.28 percent.

The proposed rate changes would begin at .75 percent for sales under $250,000 and end at 2.5 percent for sales over $5 million. There would be a tax reduction for sales under $250,000, no rate change for sales between $250,000 and $1 million and the increase would be for sales between $1 million and $5 million. The house budget proposal had a similar Real Estate Excise Tax change but rates differ.

Changes in non-resident sale tax exemptions and preferential tax rates are expected to bring in $64 million with the legislation proposed in SB 5997. A preferential business and operations, also known as B&O, tax rate for prescription drug resellers and the travel booking industry are expected to raise $38 million and is housed in SB 5988.

The Senate Democrats propose a capital gains tax but the proposed budget does not rely on it. Still, Billig said it’s a priority in tax code rebalancing efforts.The capital gains tax would fund a variety of tax reductions and credits focused on working families, B&O tax reductions for small business, senior property tax reductions, and the elimination of sales tax on certain products like diapers, feminine hygiene products, or medical equipment.

Senate Minority Leader, Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, does not oppose the idea that Washington’s tax system is unfair but sees other solutions to the issue.

“One of the main arguments that Democrats make when they again demand a state income tax on capital gains is that it’s about fairness,” said Schoesler, in an email on Friday. “If the Democrats really care about tax fairness, they should take advantage of our historically large revenue surplus and actually cut regressive taxes that affect low- and middle-income people the most.”

Wildfire prevention would be funded by an insurance premium surtax for wildfire prevention and suppression is housed in SB 5996 and is estimated at $91 million over the biennium. The increase would be from 2.0 to 2.52 percent on property, auto and casualty insurance, with the funds going to a new account, the Wildfire Prevention and Suppression account.

“The budget that we are introducing today represents our shared values in investing in our kids, our families, our neighbors, many of whom are struggling and need help,” said Chair of the Ways and Means Committee Sen.Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County.

New investments in education are totalled at $540 million with focuses on school employee health insurance, mental health and safety, and special education. Early learning and childcare proposed new funding totals $100 million for the biennium. Higher education funding proposals are focused on scholarship and grants with new funding at $292 million.

Behavioral health, which encompasses mental health and substance use disorder, would see an investment of $283 million with focuses on community beds and services, state hospital operations, and the Trueblood settlement.

Trueblood was a court case regarding the constitutionality of the length of time individuals with mental disabilities spend in jail while waiting for court-ordered competency evaluation and respiration. The state reached a settlement in 2018, and the case is reflected in the behavioral health legislation this session.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

t
Kent Police seek man who reportedly tried to kidnap girl from apartment

Man allegedly reached into bathroom window to grab girl in attempted kidnapping

t
Kent Police arrest man, 18, in fatal shooting of 13-year-old boy

Judge finds probable cause to hold the Kent man for murder, attempted murder and robbery

The Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center in Seattle that handles juvenile detention. COURTESY PHOTO, King County
High-profile juvenile crimes continue to rock Kent this summer

Six incidents in five weeks include fatal shooting, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault

King County Correctional Facility in Seattle. COURTESY PHOTO, King County
Kent man charged with attempted kidnapping of 6-year-old girl

40-year-old man allegedly try to take girl from apartment complex parking lot

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO
Kent man receives 8-year sentence in 2021 fatal shooting

Pleaded guilty to lesser charge of manslaughter in shooting at apartment complex over parking dispute

Courtesy Photo, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
Judge finds probable cause to hold Kent man for kidnapping girl

Man, 40, reportedly grabbed 6-year-old girl in East Hill apartment complex parking lot

t
King County residential property values rise 12.4% in SE Kent

King County Assessor John Wilson begins to release 2024 numbers

t
Three 11-year-old girls in Kent help stop kidnapping of 6-year-old girl

40-year-old man reportedly grabbed girl in apartment complex parking lot on East Hill

t
Kent Police seek male teen driver in fatal hit-and-run on East Hill | Update

Teen reportedly driving stolen vehicle and fleeing police during Saturday, July 13 incident; victim identified

t
13-year-old boy fatally shot in Kent on East Hill near Turnkey Park | Update

Boy found shot near apartment complex Tuesday night, July 16 identified by medical examiner

t
Kent School Board votes 3-1 to send levy to voters in November

Capital projects and technology levy reduced from $192 million to $97 million after previous failures