February 25, 2019
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More spending, new taxes looming larger in Olympia



"Even with a robust economy, the majority party might seek more revenue to carry out its wish list," reporter Jerry Cornfield writes in The Everett Herald. The story's headline is a little more direct: "What a surprise: Democrats eye the need for higher taxes."

He writes that the list of Democratic priorities is long: transform the state’s mental health system, end homelessness, build housing, expand preschool education, make college tuition free, boost special education funding, broaden access to health care, provide pay raises for state workers, clear every blocked fish passage and save the Southern Resident orcas.

That expensive list would be much more than the state could afford, even as tax money comes in $4 billion higher than the last budget cycle.

Legislative leaders aren't ready to come out yet and say they intend to raise taxes, but that they're laying the groundwork, Cornfield writes. A chart provided to journalists last week shows that state revenues are coming in at $50 billion, while the cost of paying for existing programs and the McCleary education commitments adds up to $51.1 billion.

"Theoretically, the gap can be covered with existing reserves, they said. Not part of the equation are all those investments — code for new spending — their members want to do. They cost a couple of more billion dollars," Cornfield notes.

Opportunity Washington takes a deeper look at the issue, and notes that state spending has increased by 44 percent since 2008. On top of that growth, Gov. Jay Inslee's proposed budget for this year would increase spending by another 22.3 percent, relying on a new capital gains tax, as well as increased real estate and B&O taxes.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are looking at a major tax overhaul, beginning with a four-year study on how to "modernize and rebalance the Washington state tax structure so that it is equitable, adequate, stable, and transparent." House Bill 2117 and its "Mother of All Tax Studies" will likely have a public hearing Tuesday with a vote as early as the next day.

Contact Clay Hill, AWB government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, to learn more.



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Attack on the Dams


Inslee's proposed Snake River dam task force will be a waste of money

By The Tri-City Herald Editorial Board

State legislators looking to trim the budget this session can save $750,000 straight off if they don't fund a proposed Snake River dams task force.

A new state committee is not going to be able to compete with the federal team that has been studying this same issue since September 2016, so trying to duplicate the effort is absurd.

The Snake River dams are critical to the economy of Eastern Washington and the Northwest. They play an important role in providing irrigation, hydropower and navigation.

Community leaders note that barging on the inland Columbia Snake River system moves, on average, about 9 million tons of cargo valued at more than $3 billion each year. The dams are part of the lifeblood of the region.

But anti-dam activists want to see them gone, and the plight of the Puget Sound orcas are fueling their efforts...

Read the full editorial in The Tri-City Herald
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Career Link seeks to pair students, employers

By The Herald Editorial Board

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The school district is providing employers with training and guidance in setting up the internships and matching students to internships, paperwork regarding state Labor and Industries compliance and liability and ongoing support during the internships.

While it's at the employer's discretion to offer interns a stipend, the program is intended as an outgrowth of the classroom; students -- for their 90 hours of participation -- will earn half of the Career and Technical Education credit they need toward their high school graduation requirement.

More than the students benefit. The time spent with local students can help employers develop deeper ties in the community, get a better understanding of the work underway in schools and appreciation for the pool of talent that exists in their own community.

We've repeated the forecast often, first made by Washington Roundtable, that employers in Washington state expect some 740,000 new jobs to be available by 2021. And nearly 80 percent of those jobs will be either career jobs that require a college degree or career-pathway jobs that require at least some level of post-high school training and certification...

Read the full editorial in The Herald
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