Impasse caused by taxes, spending

By now, most residents in the 7th District are aware the Legislature has been called back for a special, 30-day session due to disagreement on the state operating budget and the House

Democrats’ insistence on a massive tax package.

To be clear, tax collections during the 2013-15 budget are expected to be $2 billion higher than the current, 2011-13 budget. That’s an increase of 6.6 percent! Anyone in our neck of the woods who saw their paychecks go up by nearly 7 percent would be ecstatic. But, House Democrats say they need $1.3 billion more than that in new and higher taxes to balance their spending plan.

The tax increases are unjustified, but more than that the marketing of their tax package is not fair to taxpayers. The House Democrats’ message that their taxes are about “closing tax loopholes” on special interest groups, Wall Street firms and the notorious “1 percent” is patently false. Here is a small list of business types that would be hit with tax hikes under their plan:

• Health care services;

• Assisted living facilities and nursing care facilities;

• Employment assistance services (the exact companies helping people find jobs);

• Arts community;

• Housing programs;

• Human rights organizations;

• Fruit and nut tree farming;

• Metal ore mining;

• Logging;

• Bee pollen collection, bee production and horse production; and

• Child day care facilities.

Does this list represent Wall Street firms and the wealthy? I don’t think so either. And, this is just a sample of the Main Street operations that will be paying the tab for the overspending habit of the majority party in the House.

What is also being lost in this debate is that new and higher taxes on Main Street employers, community services and those caring for the most vulnerable will be passed on to all of us — the consumers of goods and services. For those advocating for the $1.3 billion tax package to imply it will help middle-class families and job creation is as far from reality as it gets.

Now is the time for responsible budgeting. We can balance state spending within the increased tax collections in a way that puts kids first and protects the most vulnerable and public safety.

If follow the line that the state budget is a moral document, why is K-12 education funded last in the House Democrats’ budget? Their plan funds everything else first, then holds out kids as a way to convince people that tax increases are the only way to fund education fully and amply. This is not the right way to budget.

The House Republicans’ Fund Education First budget and the bipartisan Senate Majority Coalition Caucus’ budget are examples of responsible and prioritized spending. Both budgets used the additional $2 billion in tax collections to bolster education funding in a way that both added needed reforms and complied with the state Supreme Court mandate under the McCleary education funding case ruling.

We can and should prioritize spending in a manner that respects taxpayers. In the current economy and with jobless rates in the 7th District at double digits – Ferry County’s rate is above 15 percent – now is the wrong time to dig deeper into struggling Washingtonians’ wallets.

As we continue with the special session, my hope is a common ground can be found on spending. House Republicans have continued to be at the table, offering solutions that ensure we protect our top spending priorities in the budget while also acknowledging that taxpayers are tapped out.

To find out if your business or employer is on the list to be taxed under the House Democrats’ plan, visit http://houserepublicans.wa.gov/files/uploads/TheTaxList.pdf and follow us on Twitter at WAHouseGOP using hash tag #areyouonthelist?.

Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, serves as the deputy leader for the House Republicans. He can be contacted at joel.kretz@leg.wa.gov.

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