Opinion-editorial by Reps. Terry Nealey and Maureen Walsh, and Sen. Mike Hewitt: Some things are worth fighting for, even if it means a special session

Some things are worth fighting for, even if it means a special session
By Rep. Terry Nealey, Rep. Maureen Walsh and Sen. Mike Hewitt

After being in a regular session for 105 days, we are disappointed the Legislature adjourned April 28 without reaching a final agreement on a two-year state operating budget. Gov. Jay Inslee has called a special session beginning May 13, which could last up to – but no longer than – 30 days.

Why are we going into a special session?  The governor and House Democrats want to spend nearly $1 billion more than the state plans to take in for regular tax collections. To do so, they want to increase taxes on Main Street sectors of our fragile economy. House Republicans and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (SMCC) believe the operating budget can be balanced by setting priorities and without raising taxes.

Democrats insist taxes must be raised before they will approve an operating budget. House Republicans and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus have provided responsible budget plans that would fund priorities of government, including the education funding requirements of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, without raising taxes. It is this chasm that has sent the Legislature into a special session.

Here are the working people that could be affected by the House Democrats’ plan to permanently extend the business and occupation (B&O) surtax: accountants, appraisers, architects, assayers, barbers, beauty shop owners, court reporters, employment agents, engineers, refuse collectors, janitors, kennel operators, landscape architects, loan agents, music teachers, oculists, orchestra or band leaders contracting to provide musical services, real estate agents, school bus operators, stenographers, certain warehouse operators, theater operators, undertakers, veterinarians and more.

House Democrats would also place a new B&O tax on travel agents, tour operators, high-tech research and development, import commerce and resellers of prescription drugs. They would repeal the non-resident sales and use tax exemptions, especially affecting our border counties, and add a sales and use tax to bottled water (the same tax that was repealed by voters in 2010). Plus, they would impose a public utility tax on truck transport of goods in state that are destined for out of state, and add new taxes for fuel.

We are concerned how these taxes would affect employers who are operating on razor-thin margins. Many testified in committee that such tax increases would either force them to lay off more employees or close their businesses.

Here’s the most important point of this discussion: Washington plans to take in an additional $2 billion in the coming budget cycle – a nearly 7 percent increase in revenue – without tax increases. 

The bipartisan Senate passed an operating budget April 5 that would increase classroom funding by about $1 billion — and provide sufficient funding for the state’s other priorities, such as caring for the most vulnerable and public safety needs — all within existing revenue and without tax increases. We know it can be done without destroying jobs and without hurting families and businesses.

Some things are worth fighting for. We don’t want a special session, but a state operating budget that would grow government at the expense of your private-sector job is not the right direction for the state of Washington. We can and must do better, even if we have to go into overtime.

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Editor’s note: Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, and Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, represent the citizens of the 16th Legislative District.