Governor’s spending proposal continues worrisome trends, says Republican budget chief

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee’s new supplemental budget proposal continues the same worrisome trends of the decade he has been in office, said Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“The good news is that the governor isn’t proposing any new taxes,” Wilson said. “The bad news is that the taxes he has already passed continue to fuel rapid growth in state spending. Washington’s new income tax on capital gains and the ‘hidden gas tax’ of the Climate Commitment Act have enabled the governor to more than double state spending during the decade he has been in office. When people wonder why gas prices are climbing, why groceries and housing are more expensive, and why they have less to spend this Christmas — they need look no further than Olympia.”

The governor’s supplemental budget proposal for 2023-2025 comes in the second year of Washington’s two-year budget cycle. It would add $2 billion in spending to the $69.8 billion operating budget passed by lawmakers earlier this year. About $870 million of the proposed increase would maintain current state programs, while the remaining $1.1 billion reflects new spending for programs advocated by the governor.

Lawmakers will consider the governor’s proposal during the 2024 legislative session, which begins January 8.

Wilson said she was encouraged by the governor’s proposal to provide local governments $10 million for law enforcement personnel, including recruitment and retention. She said she hopes lawmakers will increase that amount in the final version of the budget.

Another proposal for new spending contained in the governor’s budget is a $150 million “energy voucher” program designed to assist low-income Washington residents in coping with higher energy costs. Wilson noted that higher prices for motor fuel and electricity are being driven by high-cost energy programs advocated by the governor in previous legislative sessions. The Climate Commitment Act, the official name for the state’s cap-and-trade program, has added about 50 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas, making Washington one of the costliest states for transportation in the country.

“This new voucher proposal is a tacit acknowledgement of the burden the governor’s misguided and misleading policies have placed on the people of Washington,” Wilson said. “Yet this proposal provides only one-time relief, and for only a small segment of the population. We deserve better.

“This proposal is the last supplemental budget the governor will place before the Legislature, and I think it is a good time to look back on the governor’s legacy. During the decade he has been in office, Washington has seen declines in affordability, public safety and education. These results come in spite of the rapid growth in state spending – or because of it.”

  • State spending over the last decade has far outpaced wage growth. Spending has increased 135.6 percent since 2011-13 ($31.2 billion), while the median income for workers in Washington state has increased 67.9 percent.
  • The price of gas in Washington in 2013 was $3.30, three cents above the national average. Today it is $4.20, 94 cents above the national average.
  • Washington’s state and local tax burden was 22nd highest national in 2013, $4,465 per capita. Today it ranks 13th at $6,220.
  • Housing affordability was 39th worst in 2013 and is 45th worst today. Rents were 29th least affordable and are 44th least affordable today.
  • Rates of violent crime are at a 25-year high, while the number of law enforcement officers per capita is the lowest in the nation.
  • K-12 student test scores in math and English are on the decline, compared to other states. Enrollment in public higher education also is falling, most significantly at the community college level.