Republicans and Democrats in Olympia share many of the same priorities. We want to increase the supply of affordable housing, reform our broken mental health system, combat homelessness, make our schools safer, and much more.
One area where we differ, however, is the need for new taxes. On that issue, those of us in the minority party actually represent the majority of people in Washington state.
On six separate occasions since 1993, Washingtonians have supported ballot measures requiring two-thirds legislative approval to raise taxes.
In 2010, they rejected an initiative to impose a state income tax by a whopping 28 points, while overwhelmingly supporting a separate initiative to repeal state taxes on candy, soft drinks and bottled water.
In 2016, they rejected a carbon tax initiative. Two years later, they did so again.
Yet here we are looking at a new, two-year operating budget proposal from the majority party that would raise taxes by more than $4 billion over the next four years.
Why, you ask?
It’s certainly not due to a lack of revenue. Thanks to a strong economy and Washington’s taxpayers, we currently have a $3 billion surplus with which to fund our shared priorities.
It’s also not due to a lack of spending. Since the 2011-13 biennium, the budget has ballooned by nearly $14 billion, and if the House 2019-21 operating budget proposal is adopted, spending will have increased by 70 percent since 2013.
The only conclusion we can draw is there’s a fundamental lack of respect for taxpayers by those who control the purse strings in Olympia. How else to explain these new tax increase proposals, or the passage of a bill earlier this session to impose a low carbon fuel standard program that would significantly raise the price of gas and the cost of goods?
At each of the seven town hall meetings we’ve held in the 18th District this year, constituents have voiced their concerns about the size and scope of government, as well the constant push for new taxes. They’re tired of feeling as if their voice and vote doesn’t matter. Can you blame them? Rejecting a tax increase on the ballot only to see it enacted by the Legislature months later is deflating.
Lawmakers must stop looking to advance their own agendas, and instead acknowledge there is no need to take more of your money. We have more than enough revenue to fund the priorities we listed above, and many more.
We need more lawmakers committed to being fiscally responsible, prioritizing the dollars you’ve provided, and keeping an eye on the future. After all, we know the good economic times won’t last forever.
We’ve seen incredible growth in recent years, which has brought record revenues. However, eventually growth slows and hiring stops. When that time comes, what’s our excuse going to be for spending every dime you provided us? What reason will we give for not adequately prioritizing existing revenues, while asking you for billions more?
Let’s hope we don’t get to that point. To ensure we don’t, let’s live within our means and respect taxpayers who have told us time and time again, “No more.”
Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, and Rep. Larry Hoff, R-Vancouver, represent the 18th Legislative District.