Lawmakers send $59 billion budget to governor

Major transportation funding goes undone, budget funnels billions to public health, childcare

By Sydney Brown

WNPA News Service

As the end of the mostly virtual legislative session drew near April 25, lawmakers passed a hefty $59 billion budget that will funnel millions into childcare, public health, rental assistance and addressing the economic impact of a yearlong global pandemic.

The budget includes a controversial capital gains tax, which would collect 7% on the exchange of capital assets such as stocks above $250,000. Democrats plan on using the revenue to fund childcare and tax credits for low-income families.

“We addressed tax reform through the Working Families Tax Credit for Washingtonians struggling to make ends meet and a capital gains tax on extraordinary profits,” Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said in a statement. “We took bold steps to expand access to affordable childcare and support our K-12 schools. We focused on helping small businesses to survive the pandemic.”

Republicans opposed the increase in taxes from the outset, saying a capital gains tax will result in a court challenge and make the tax structure worse for small businesses.

“It’s only awesome for those who like the idea of being on the path to a full-blown state income tax,” Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, said in a statement.

The budget also includes a cap-and-trade tax to address the state priority of increasing green transportation, which some argued would result in higher gas prices. Left unpassed was a mammoth $11 billion transportation funding plan.

“I think that there’s broad consensus that there’s significant unmet needs in our state’s transportation system,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien. “We didn’t get there this session on a transportation revenue package, but I think we all agree that we need one.”

Legislators will keep working, Fitzgibbon said, and want to complete a more climate-friendly transportation funding plan before Jan. 1, 2023.

“I will say one thing about the Cap and Invest bill which we passed, it does contain really significant investments in transportation, particularly in transportation investments that decarbonize our transportation system, both through transportation electrification and through multimodal investments,” Fitzgibbon said. “So, at least one of the building blocks in the transportation package is already in place.”

While Democrats praised what they called progressive policies, Republicans characterized the plan as an unnecessary spending spree.

“At a time when we are collecting record tax revenue and sitting on billions in federal stimulus funds, this Legislature is choosing to impose a number of regressive policies that will raise the price of household necessities like cell phones and gasoline,” Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, said in a statement.

Lawmakers voted along party lines to pass the budget — the Senate voted 27-22 and the House voted 57-40. The measure, along with several Democrat-led police accountability bills and the capital gains tax, heads to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for approval.

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