Eastern Washington Legislative Conference 2019
Jim Dawson says state budget affects all of life
Jim Dawson, program director of Fuse Washington in Spokane, believes the "upside-down tax code" in Washington "holds us back on everything—expanding the basic health plan, environmental justice and racial justice."
Anything that needs money is hard to pass in the Legislature, he said, even though this is one of the best-off U.S. states economically.
"Instead of having surplus for the budget, we have a deficit," Jim said. "It affects us from the time we are born to child care, education, student debt, nursing care and death."
While some see the budget as being about money, he urges seeing it as being about people having education, fighting wildfires, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, child care, preschools, long-term care, state parks, a healthy environment, housing, criminal justice, health care and more.
"Because the state budget impacts every part of life," Jim said, "it should reflect our values, what it means to be good neighbors."
The budget is passed every two years, so the legislature is writing the 2019 to 2021 budget that begins in July.
Jim said there are three budgets: a capital budget for building, a transportation budget for infrastructure and the operating budget with half for education and half for everything else—including social services, health care, corrections, central government and natural resources.
With two-thirds of the budget designated, if there is a gap, it comes from the remaining one-third, he said.
"Washington has the 50th most regressive tax code. That means that those least able to pay, are paying the most, and those most able to pay, pay the least," he said.
"If we had tax codes like Oregon or Idaho, we would have $10 to $12 billion more in our budget. The biggest revenue source is from sales taxes on goods and services, which were once 60 percent of the economy, but are now 30 percent with more economic activity online," Jim said.
"Economic growth has gone to the top one percent, whom we tax at the lowest rates, increasing income inequality," he said.
This session is considering some ways to raise revenue: close the capital gains tax loophole, and fund a working family's tax credit, he said, adding that there is no active campaign for a state income tax.
For information, call 206-420-0133 or visit fusewashington.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree,March, 2019