Rivers opposes tax-heavy, big-spending Senate budget

OLYMPIA… On a mostly partisan 27-22 vote, the state Senate today approved a $59.5 billion operating-budget proposal for 2021-23. Sen. Ann Rivers voted no, citing the sheer size of the spending plan and its reliance on imposing two controversial new taxes and draining the state’s rainy-day fund.

“Today we offered an alternative, no-new-taxes budget that comes in at $55.5 billion. The Republican approach would do everything a budget should do at a time like this, while enabling some visionary tax reforms that would help Washington’s families and employers in the future.

“The Senate Democrats said no, they’re insisting on a budget that ‘goes big.’ That means spending $4 billion more than Republicans would support – plus a big new capital-gains income tax, and a big new  “cap-and-tax” scheme, and the biggest hit possible to the rainy-day fund,” said Rivers, R-La Center, who is Senate Republican caucus chair.

“I’m disappointed that the majority is seizing on opportunities to take more money from the people and ignoring the opportunities we presented to reverse or at least slow the rise in property-tax bills, and to assist our state’s manufacturing sector, which includes aerospace. We also would leave the rainy-day fund untouched. Clearly their values are different than ours.”

Rivers was particularly struck by the assertion that the Democratic budget approach is better for childcare and K-12 education.

“Between decisions by the majority party and the executive branch, many private childcare providers have been squeezed out of existence in the past few years. Then people who were put out of work by the governor’s pandemic restrictions couldn’t afford childcare. Now the Democrats, who are largely responsible for the collapse of the childcare system, say their budget is the solution,” said Rivers, a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“And if providing for K-12 education is truly our state’s paramount duty, it should never have to rely on revenue from a new tax – especially one as volatile as a tax on the income from capital gains. Everyone knows an income tax is considered unconstitutional in our state, and yet they’re tying it to schools?”

Rivers also challenges the Democrats’ claim that their budget is equitable, in light of the tax changes it includes – or doesn’t include.

“The plan to take from ‘the 1 percent’ with the capital-gains income tax is not equitable in and of itself. If the Democrats are serious about having an equitable budget, where is the tax relief for lower- and middle-income families? What is equitable about their new tax on energy? The progressive ‘homestead exemption’ in the Republican approach that would reduce property taxes is a much better example of equity than anything in the Democratic budget,” Rivers said.

Once the House of Representatives passes its operating budget, negotiators from the two chambers will meet toward negotiating a final agreement.