Braun astonished by new taxes, spending in proposed budget

OLYMPIA… Sen. John Braun says Washington taxpayers are in for it if the new taxes and spending in the next state operating budget are even close to what’s in the tentative budget he saw today.

“It’s astonishing. We came into this session with the best budget situation of the century, maybe longer, and absolutely no justification for new taxes,” Braun said. “Now, two days away from the end of the session, the Democrat majorities in the Senate and House are on track to approve the biggest spending increase in 30 years and a ‘taxapalooza’ to prop it up.

“No one is safe from what they’re about to do,” said the 20th District lawmaker, who is budget leader for the Senate Republican Caucus.

Six years of huge investments in K-12 education swelled the state’s two-year operating budget swelled to a record $44.6 billion for the 2017-19 budget cycle. The Legislature’s budget writers had $50.5 billion available for the 2019-21 budget, thanks to continued strong performance from Washington’s economy. But the majority Democrats want to spend even more – $52.4 billion – and that means lots of new taxes, Braun said.

Braun says to look for higher taxes on major employers, small employers and certain professional services, and higher taxes on real-estate sales. The Senate’s Democrat majority already approved a stealth tax on fuel, and a billion-dollar payroll tax, and a tax that will threaten border-county retailers. Also on the horizon is a controversial change in the school-funding system, approved late Friday by members of the Senate majority. It could see many property owners paying 67 percent more in local school taxes, while raising new constitutional concerns.

None of the new taxes is necessary, Braun stressed, because state government already had more than enough revenue to make new investments in special education and mental-health treatment while continuing other services and programs at their normal levels.

“What a difference two years makes,” said Braun, who was in charge of crafting the Senate budget for 2017-19 when Republicans led a bipartisan majority coalition. “This wouldn’t be happening if our side was still writing the budget, because we viewed new taxes as a last resort. That’s not the attitude I’m seeing now.”