April 1, 2021
Majority Democrats in the State Legislature say this is not time for an austerity budget. They’re proposing significant increases in spending to address the ongoing COVID crisis and shore up state services. They’re also embracing a new state capital gains tax.
Minority Republicans, for their part, agree with many of the spending priorities of Democrats — for instance funding the working families tax credit, spending more on foundational public health, reducing COVID-caused unemployment insurance tax spikes for businesses, and putting money into forest health and wildlife prevention. But Republicans say new taxes aren’t necessary, and may be harmful to economic recovery.
We discuss the differing philosophies behind the operating budget with Senate Democratic Budget Chair Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island and Ranking Republican Lynda Wilson of Vancouver.
Meanwhile, there is general bipartisan agreement on the state Capital Budget, which in some ways mirrors the infrastructure package being pitched in the other Washington by President Joe Biden. The capital budget funds construction of K-12 schools and colleges, fish hatcheries and water projects, prisons and parks, pays for land acquisitions and much more.
This year, there is a big focus on broadband expansion, as the COVID pandemic has brought into sharper focus the lack of internet access for many in Washington. Because it focuses on construction, the Capital Budget also is thought to be an economic driver as the state emerges from COVID.
We sit down with Democratic House Capital Budget Chair Steve Tharinger of Port Angeles, and the ranking Republican on the Capital Budget Committee, Rep. Mike Steele of Chelan.