Braun: Stark differences between House and Senate budget proposals

With release of distinctly different supplemental budget proposals by Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate, Sen. John Braun sees significant, but not impossible challenges ahead for the two majorities to find common ground before the legislative session ends Mar. 8. Braun, R-Centralia, serves as the ranking member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“I strongly disagree with the House’s plan to raise taxes when the state just received the largest revenue forecast increase in a decade. Lawmakers should not forget we already have a robust $44 billion budget that makes historic investments in schools and mental health, along with an additional $2.3 billion in unanticipated tax collections.

“Taxpayers should also be concerned about Democrat majorities spending tens of millions of dollars to contract out management of Washington’s home care providers to provide the same service.

“I appreciate the House joining our call for property tax relief, but with 70 percent of the state already slated to see lower property taxes next year, it doesn’t make sense to push it into the future. We have the money to provide relief in 2018 and have worked with the Department of Revenue to find a financially and legally sound way to address the immediate needs of taxpayers.

“Earlier this year the House passed a narrowly tailored bill to reduce the business tax on a very small group of manufacturers to help them stay afloat and thrive. This same idea should be applied equitably across the state for this struggling sector, which often provides some of the best paying jobs in each community. This policy was agreed to and passed with a broad bipartisan majority last year before being vetoed by the governor. While I appreciate the House going much further on this issue than the Senate, the idea that it is too expensive blatantly ignores the fact this was already paid for in our existing budget.

“I appreciate the shared interest in making investments focusing on the needs of children in our education system as well as investing in our mental health care and treatment system, building on our work of the previous years.”

Legislators on Senate and House budget committees are holding public hearings on both supplemental budget proposal today, with consideration by the full chambers later this week.