Special Session Priorities

Washington lawmakers adjourned the 105-day legislative session last month with lots of unfinished business. Approving a new two-year state operating budget is at the top of their agenda, but the health of the state's economy requires that they take action on other issues, too, including transportation funding and workers' compensation.

Fund education without raising taxes

Before they adjourned, the Senate and House of Representatives both approved spending plans that boost funding for education - something mandated by the Washington Supreme Court's McCleary decision. The Senate's budget adds $1.852 billion to the Department of Early Learning, public schools and higher education (an 11.22 percent increase). The House budget adds $2.251 billion to those departments (13.63 percent increase). But the Senate's budget manages to increase school funding without raising taxes.

The House budget, on the other hand, includes $900 million in higher taxes mostly aimed at employers. It also increases the rest of state spending by$1.012 billion; the Senate plan only increases other government spending by $247.4 million. The proposed $900 million tax hike would end up costing businesses $5.3 billion over 10 years, according to the state Office of Financial Management. Here are some examples of how it would cost employers:

  • Extending the "temporary" tax on service businesses: $3.4 billion
  • Higher taxes on bottled water (despite voters rejecting it in 2010): $283 million
  • Higher taxes on out-of-state residents who shop in Washington's border counties: $296 million
  • Tax increases on travel agents and tour guides: $91 million
  • Higher taxes on research and development: $23 million
  • Higher taxes on importing and exporting goods in Washington: $320 million

The economic recovery is too fragile - and the unemployment rate still too high - to place this kind of burden on Washington employers. It's time for a sustainable budget. Tell your legislators to support a spending plan that's closer to the Senate version than the House version.

Transportation revenue

Legislators came to agreement on a base transportation budget before they adjourned, but it's important that they continue working on a new revenue package during the special session. Existing roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair and the list of new projects in need of funding is long. That's why lawmakers must support a new revenue package that pays for preservation of Washington's existing transportation system, and makes needed improvements. A reliable, efficient transportation system is vital to the state's economic health and competitiveness. It's the best way to keep the state moving forward.

Workers' compensation

The Senate began the 2013 session on a promising note, quickly approving three bills that continue the workers' compensation reform that began two years ago. One of them, Senate Bill 5127, passed with strong bipartisan support, and yet all three failed to receive a hearing in the House. The special session provides lawmakers with another chance to approve SB 5127, a bill that would give injured workers age 40 and older the option to enter into voluntary settlements with the state Department of Labor & Industries. Officials estimate the change would result in a one-time savings of $230 million and an annual savings of $90 million. Help prevent future rate increases. Tell your legislators to support SB 5127.