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DOA? Republican reception to Gregoire budget plan quite chilly

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Dec. 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm with No Comments »
December 18, 2012 1:33 pm

Rep. Gary Alexander, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, says Gov. Chris Gregoire’s latest budget proposals that call for tax hikes are as good as “dead on arrival.” Republican Sen. Andy Hill, who hopes to take over the Senate Ways and Means Committee in January, said he also sees little chance of passing taxes, and Hill notes incoming Gov. Jay Inslee had said during his campaign he would veto tax increases.

I’m still waiting to hear what Inslee really thinks of the complicated plan, which can be seek its its full roll-out glory here. Inslee’s spokesman put out a limited, non-committal statement here.

Gregoire’s draft plans seek to extend current taxes on hospitals, service businesses, and beer sales, and add new taxes to soda pop, junk food and candy, repeal a tax break on fuels that benefits refineries and raise a wholesale fuel tax to pay for pupil transportation in public schools.

All told she raises more than $1 billion in revenues, and she suggests the junk food tax be dedicated to paying for new pay raises for homecare workers, who recently won an arbitration award on the pay issue – which is worth $134 million from the general fund and potentially $300 million or more from all funds.

Gregoire also assumes that if Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act, which authorizes point of sale collections of tax on online transactions, that $383 million would go into the state general fund for K-12 schools in the 2013-15 biennium. More than $700 would be earmarked that way for 2017-19 as the state’s collection of the tax improves, state budget director Stan Marshburn says.

Alexander’s statement, linked here, is as follows:

OLYMPIA – Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, released today the following statement regarding Governor Chris Gregoire’s 2013-15 budget proposal: “I have great respect for Gov. Gregoire and her budget team. They did their best to come up with what they believe is a balanced solution to our 2013-15 biennial budget. They put forth a spending plan in good faith to address the McCleary state Supreme Court ruling – something the Education Funding Task Force was unwilling or unable to do.
“However, the fact that her budget increases spending by about $3 billion and includes around $1.2 billion in new taxes leads me to believe her proposals are dead on arrival.
“Her budget ties student transportation funding to one of the most volatile funding sources – a tax on the wholesale price of gas. She also ties certain health care funding to new taxes on beer, candy, soda and gum – something the voters soundly rejected just a couple years ago.
“While I can see using a few of her budget reductions, I just can’t see the incoming legislature or the new governor using her overall budget or her tax increases as a starting point.
“I want to make it clear that I firmly believe we can meet our constitutional and morale obligations of funding education, public safety and protecting the most vulnerable without raising taxes. We need to prioritize spending and seriously review some of the policies that are still ‘on the books’ but haven’t been funded in years or never funded at all. It’s time to eliminate some of these programs altogether instead of stringing folks along with continued broken promises.
“My intention is to continue working on our House Republican budget plan that meets the education spending goals of the McCleary decision, protects public safety, protects the most vulnerable, and helps propel small businesses and employers around the state past the ‘recovery’ stage of the economic downturn and into the ‘prosperity’ stage.
“It’s very possible that, like last year, House Republicans will once again release the legislature’s first budget of the session.”

Here’s Hill’s statement (and his position is key because tax increases need two-thirds votes and the GOP’s coalition represents more than half the Senate’s votes at this point):

OLYMPIA…Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond, incoming chairman of the Senate budget committee, made this statement about the 2013-15 state operating budget put forth by outgoing Gov. Christine Gregoire.
“I appreciate the time and thought Governor Gregoire and her staff put into the budget she proposed today. Seeing how this is the eighth and final state budget she will offer, it’s a great time to thank the governor for her decades of dedicated service to the people of Washington. What she submitted will be a useful reference as the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus moves forward on developing a sustainable budget that lives within the state’s means.
“The next Senate budget will reflect our coalition’s commitments: to build a world-class education system, including K-12 schools and our colleges and universities, encourage job growth and ensure the protection of our most vulnerable residents. We will be working under a number of constraints. One is the new state law that requires the budget to balance across four years of projections. This will have the effect of creating a responsible budget that looks to long-term stability. Also, given Governor-elect Inslee’s promise to veto any new taxes, we are moving forward under the assumption that additional taxes are not an option.
“The budgets passed by the Senate in the 2011 and 2012 sessions were the products of bipartisan work; I am already reaching out to legislators across the aisle and across the Rotunda, and they are reaching out to me as well. I’m encouraged by the interest in cooperation and see no reason why the Legislature can’t have an approved budget on the governor’s desk in 105 days or less.”
The 2013 legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 14 and is limited by the state constitution to 105 days.
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