Op-Ed by Rep. David Taylor: House Democrats pass unsustainable budget
House Democrats passed their supplemental operating budget proposal off the House floor this week with a partisan vote. While I anticipate some Puget Sound media to gloss over the details and spoon-feed their readers the joys of more government spending, those of us who have yet to buy in to the gimme, gimme, gimme Westside culture might see things differently.
It’s important to note that less than eight months ago, the Legislature passed a two-year, $38 billion state operating budget. This year is a supplemental budget year. A supplemental budget is not another bite at the apple, rather it is for unexpected shifts in caseloads, minor adjustments and emergencies, like wildfires.
Democrats in the state House seem to have forgotten this principle as the budget proposal they passed this week is unsustainable, requires new tax increases – that they won’t have the guts to vote on – and relies on financial shell games to balance the books. Their plan creates new programs, increases policy spending, and dips into our state’s rainy day fund for non-emergency spending.
The tax increases they propose include things that have either been rejected by voters in the past – like a tax on bottled water – or been rejected by the Joint Legislative and Audit Review Committee, which is tasked to determine whether or not tax exemptions have economic benefit to our state.
This same old song-and-dance of trying to increase taxes on working families still struggling to make ends meet is getting old.
Many of my House Republican colleagues and I attempted to amend the budget on the House floor but most were defeated by party-line votes. One amendment I offered requested an immediate defunding of publicly-funded abortions. Instead, that $5.5 million could be diverted to local screenings for breast and cervical cancer.
This is one of the issues I’m contacted about continually: Why are state funds paying for abortions when the Hyde Amendment at the federal level says public funds can’t be used for abortions?
My amendment was defeated.
Another amendment offered by a colleague would have prevented the Human Rights Commission from spending any money on the implementation and enforcement of its new transgender bathroom/locker room rule in public schools. Like many of you, I have concerns over boys and men using girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms. I am not convinced this is necessary to implement in our public schools.
Again, this amendment was defeated.
We also tried to rein in Department of Fish and Wildlife spending.
When the Conservation Commission budgets for fencing it usually falls in the $10,000-$15,000 range per-mile. Yet, in Fish and Wildlife’s requests we see upwards of $70,000 per-mile. I still haven’t received an adequate explanation to describe this discrepancy.
Again, our amendment was defeated.
Another amendment I offered would have eliminated the transfer fee between private individuals for gun sales. Another one would have required all agency rules to be finalized by Dec. 1 of the year and then sit idle for a year so the Legislature could review them.
Of course, as you may have guessed, neither of these amendments were approved.
In reality, the House Democrats’ budget was really more of a negotiating stance than an honest attempt at presenting a spending plan.
Democrats won’t take a vote on the taxes needed to implement their plan, they know it drains our rainy day fund at a time of economic uncertainty in our state, and they know they needed budget gimmicks to make it pencil out in the four-year budget outlook, as required by state law.
Let’s see if the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus can present a more balanced, fiscally-responsible approach.
(Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.)