Tuesday Jolt: The Governor's Budget Proposal

By Afternoon Jolt November 22, 2011

Today's Jolt isn't so much a loser—even though there are certainly some losers here—as much as a reality check.

In pressing voters to "stand with me" yesterday when she proposed a half-penny sales tax increase, Gov. Chris Gregoire used some pretty dramatic language: “This is an issue about whether we're going to have a future for Washington State, for the values of our people. It is time for this generation, our generation, to step up and see to it that we do have a future.”

Her dramatic appeal stressed the things that $500 million from the tax would restore from her proposed all-cuts budget.

Here's the thing, though: Despite staving off a 17 percent hit to four-year colleges, restoring adult day health services for 1,000 Medicaid clients, and keeping school levy equalization intact, Gregoire's budget would still cut $652 million from human services (goodbye Basic Health Plan, sorry chemical dependency programs, out of luck low-income, pregnant woman); $97 million from education, including $5 million from early learning programs  (sorry funding for deaf and blind children); $17 million from the Department of Natural Resources; $73 million in local assistance dollars; and $30 million from corrections, among other hits.

All of this does highlight a few winners: Gregoire looked at 185 potential sources of new revenue—either from closing tax breaks or increasing taxes—but only opted to endorse 13 of them. That leaves quite a few winners who will avoid paying up. Among the chosen few—a $10 million B&O exemption on private school tuition, a $1.4 million exemption on horse racing income, and no capital gains tax for $730 million---the biggest winner is polluters.

The governor decided to pass on increasing the hazardous substance tax from 0.7 percent to 2 percent for $240 million. The tax, first approved by voters three decades ago, hasn't been raised since 1988.
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