STATEMENT: Governor’s budget proposal is a disappointment for Washington families, says Republican budget leader

VANCOUVER… The budget leader for Washington’s Senate Republicans said the 2023-25 operating budget proposal made public today by Gov. Jay Inslee fails to put priority on issues that affect Washington families most.

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, offered this assessment of the $70.4 billion proposal, which will be submitted to the Legislature as required by state law but is not binding on lawmakers.

“Even though the state economist has warned us about the risk of a recession, the governor wants to spend just about every tax dollar available. His budget includes more than 2 billion dollars that were deliberately stashed last year outside of the constitutionally protected rainy-day fund. It’s disappointing that he would increase state spending by 9.8% and still fail to invest in thoughtful answers to the things that concern Washington families most: the safety of our communities, the cost of living, and education issues that include K-12 learning loss. Those are Senate Republican priorities for 2023, but they don’t seem important to the governor.

“The governor’s support for behavioral health is appropriate, at least on the surface, but that will do nothing in the short term to deal with the record number of murders and fatal drug overdoses in our state, or help hire law-enforcement officers to fight crime in our communities. And while I’m sure he views his climate agenda as being important for future generations, I’m worried more about helping today’s children recover from the learning loss that is due largely to his closing classrooms for so long. His budget would keep K-12 spending below 44% of the general fund, which is embarrassing when providing for schools is state government’s paramount duty, and far below the 50%-plus appropriated from the general fund when Republicans last led the Senate.

“As if the cost of living wasn’t high enough already, it’s going to get worse for Washington families in 2023 because of policies the governor has supported in past years that are coming due. There will be higher prices for gas and diesel, perhaps as much as 46 cents a gallon, and the unpopular payroll tax that was deferred until after the November election. Some also must begin paying the capital-gains income tax, even though it was declared unconstitutional – they can thank the state attorney general for that. It seems irresponsible at best for the governor to ‘book’ 1.4 billion dollars of revenue from the income tax in his proposal, and pretend the state Supreme Court has already overturned the lower-court decision.

“The 6 billion dollars in reserve are more than enough to support meaningful tax relief for the average Washington family – even something temporary to offset the effects of record price inflation. Unfortunately, the governor is showing once again that in his world, government’s desires come ahead of families’ needs. The Inslee budget represents a rate of spending growth that is more than double the growth in median wages in our state over the past decade. The working people of our state can’t continue to afford that. It’s time to consider a spending limit that respects them.”