Pro-education, no-new-taxes Senate budget wins Rivers’ support

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-18Sen. Ann Rivers said the bipartisan operating-budget adopted by the Senate today would spend more on basic and higher education while addressing the needs of Washington’s most vulnerable citizens, all without raising taxes. The measure passed with a bipartisan 30-18 vote.

“The people I represent are having to live within their means; Olympia needs to do the same. Tax increases would discourage job creation and stifle our state economy just when it’s showing signs of life. This is the right plan at the right time,” said Rivers, R-La Center.

Rivers said there’s plenty to appreciate about the $33.3 billion, two-year spending plan. For instance, she pointed to the 11.1 percent increase it would provide in state support for basic education, the fact that higher tax rates adopted three years ago would be allowed to revert to their pre-2010 levels, and the $611 million that would be left in reserve, much of that going into the state’s rainy-day fund.

“I can’t overstate the importance of allowing those ‘temporary’ tax increases from 2010 to expire this year, as was promised. Employers across our state who have been paying those higher rates need the Legislature to be true to its word,” Rivers said.

The Senate accepted an amendment Rivers proposed that would essentially direct the state Liquor Control Board to include medical cannabis in research related to implementation of the state’s voter-approved recreational-marijuana law. Rivers’ amendment is in line with legislation she recently introduced, which is aimed at keeping Washington’s medical-cannabis industry from becoming a haven for those wanting to skirt taxes on recreational marijuana.

Rivers said she realizes people inside and outside the Capitol were wondering how the Senate could invest more in education without tax increases. It comes down to priorities, she explained.

“Washington’s economy is still pretty fragile, yet it’s growing just enough to generate around 2 billion dollars of additional revenue. That meant we could put a billion and a half dollars of that toward our public K-12 schools and still have a budget that doesn’t spend more than the state expects to take in during the next two years.”

Now that the Senate operating budget has been adopted a corresponding proposal is expected from the House of Representatives soon. The two sides need to reach agreement no later than April 28 for the Legislature to adjourn its 105-day session on schedule.