Opinion editorial by Rep. Terry Nealey: The answer to Washington’s budget crisis is jobs
The Washington State Supreme Court recently struck down a requirement for a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to increase taxes. The two-thirds majority rule had been approved five separate times by voters in a series of initiatives. The requirement was challenged by a coalition of House Democrats and education groups who had grown increasingly frustrated by the inability to “raise revenue” (buzzword in Olympia for raising taxes) to address budget shortfalls. This year, the Legislature must close a budget shortfall of just under $1 billion. Since the court ruling is still hot off the press, it's too early to know whether this same coalition would attempt tax increases during the remaining eight weeks of this legislative session. I am concerned any tax increases in this fragile economy would damage the slim progress of economic recovery in our state. There's a better way to fix Washington's budget crisis. The answer is jobs. When people are working, they have more discretionary money to spend. Money to buy furniture, fix up the house, go out to dinner and a movie, get new clothes, buy a car – these are common things people do when they have a job and a regular income. What is the common factor that happens when consumers purchase these things? In Washington, they pay sales taxes. And that money is transferred to the state's general fund to support education, public safety and the other things funded in Washington's operating budget. When people are jobless or their hours have been cut back at work, they curtail discretionary spending, and that leads to budget shortages in our state. Would a tax increase fix the problem? No! It would only serve to inflict further damage against employers and families struggling to survive in this economy. That's why we need to abandon any discussion of tax increases in the Legislature and focus our attention on private-sector job creation. My House Republican colleagues and I have a checklist of solution-oriented legislation that employers tell us would help them to create jobs and get Washington working. Our proposals include:
- Reform the workers' compensation system and reduce costs for employers while protecting earnings for injured workers.
- Reduce regulatory red tape that ties the hands of employers.
- Require state agencies to make permit decisions in 90 days or the permit is granted.
- Impose a moratorium on state agency rulemaking until our economy improves.
- Suspend the Growth Management Act and its accompanying job-killing regulations in counties with persistent unemployment.
- Require state agencies to determine whether a new regulation would have a negative economic impact and not enforce it until the Legislature enacts the law.
- Amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds vote for the Legislature to raise taxes.
Raising taxes would push our state's economy back into a tail spin and create larger long-term budget deficits as more unemployed people turn to the government for assistance. The best way we can help our state's budget and fund essentials, such as education, public safety, and helping our most vulnerable citizens, is by getting government off the backs of employers so they can create jobs and get Washington working again.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, represents the 16th Legislative District, is the ranking member of the House Finance Committee, and serves on the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. Read details of these proposals at: https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/our-solutions/jobs-economy/.