Inslee proposes ambitious budget, along with tax increases
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday proposed an ambitious budget for 2015-17. He is pushing billions in new spending for public schools and mental health.
“We should work together toward a future in which every child has access to a high-quality education and every child has a shot at a good-paying job,” Inslee said.
To pay for it all, Inslee also proplosed several new taxes, including on capital gains. Those taxes are already creating a firestorm.
“Tax increases should be the last resort, not the first response,” said state Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the chief budget writer for the GOP in the state Senate.
Inslee argued that there is no way to meet the state’s obligations, including public schools, without raising taxes.
However, in 2012, when he was running for election, then-candidate Inslee promised to veto any tax increase that was brought to him. Times have changed, he now says.
“I have tried to avoid this route, but we now have an obligation to our children,” Inslee said. “They ought to have a first-class education. It is a duty of ours and I intend to fulfill it.”
Here are the highlights of Inslee’s 2015-17 spending plan:
- Lower K-3 class size and provide all-day kindergarten
- Freeze college tuition
- 180 new mental health beds
- 100 new child protective and welfare workers
- Increased funding for state parks
- Public employee raise
Here are the major taxes that Inslee plans to raise:
- Capital Gains (7%)
- Cigarettes (increase of 50 cents a pack)
- Bottled Water (remove sales tax exemption)
- Carbon Pollution (cap and trade system)
Despite over $2 billion more for schools, many educators criticized the governor for not fully implementing last month’s voter-approved initiative to lower class sizes for all grades.
“K through 3 is nice, but we have to do more,” said Pam Kruse, a teacher at Ford Middle School. “We can’t wait. There’s not more kicking the can down the road. It’s time to fully fund education.”
Lawmakers will start debating Inslee's plan when the new session convenes in January.
The Association of Washington Business, Washington state’s largest business organization representing small, medium and large employers, issued the following statement from AWB President Kris Johnson regarding Inslee’s proposed 2015-17 state budget:
“We share the governor’s goals in many areas, including the need to invest in education, but we cannot support $1.4 billion in new taxes as he proposed today."