Senate advances governor’s tax increases to gauge legislative support, aid budget talks

The Senate Ways and Means Committee today set the stage for legislators to stand up and be counted on legislation proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee to increase taxes on Washington residents and employers by more than $8 billion per two-year budget cycle.

Sen. John Braun, chair of the Senate budget committee, does not support the proposed tax increases but said allowing the Inslee-requested legislation to move ahead without comment would give lawmakers the chance to determine how much support actually exists.

“The governor and legislative Democrats consistently call for new taxes on Washington residents and employers, but it remains unclear whether or not they fully support the idea,” said Braun, R-Centralia, who serves as chief budget writer in the Senate. “Just this week House Democrats approved a spending wish list of more than $7 billion but declined to share how they planned to pay for it. We cannot wait another month to see if our colleagues across the aisle are serious about their plan to increase taxes on all Washingtonians.”

The governor proposed a capital-gains income tax, carbon tax and a 67-percent increase in the state business-and-occupation tax for service businesses ahead of the 2017 legislative session. The package totals more than $8 billion per two-year budget when fully implemented.

“Over the last four years, we’ve demonstrated we can make historic investments in education and protect and enhance other critical state services without increasing taxes,” said Braun. “We plan to continue that tradition this year as we work together to invest in our schools and fix an education system that is currently inequitable for students, teachers and taxpayers.”

Legislative committees may refer bills to the Senate Rules Committee, the last stop before consideration by the full chamber, with or without recommendation. The Senate budget committee moved the governor’s tax increase legislation without recommendation on the final day for fiscal committees to consider legislation.