At an Association of Washington Business Lobby Lunch last week, Governor Inslee’s policy director Drew Shirk reminded the audience that this is one of the largest agendas that has come out of the Governor’s office, with 38 bills in the House and Senate.
Shirk discussed the top categories that are priorities in the last biennium of Inslee’s second term.
Early learning and higher education, which includes career connected learning and apprenticeship opportunities, continue to be a focus designed to improve Washington’s education system.
A priority on clean energy and the environment also drive Inslee’s agenda with a goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2045. The strategy includes retrofitting old buildings and updating standards that will provide cost savings and create good-paying jobs.
Healthcare is another area of focus targeted on improving behavioral healthcare and addressing the opioid response plan to reduce abuse, increase addiction treatment and make overdose antidotes more available.
Providing rural communities with access to adequate broadband services will focus on offering more educational and economic opportunities around the state.
David Schumacher, Director of the Office of Financial Management, discussed the record tax collections of around $50 billion. He stated that these record revenues do not quite pay for the government we have right now, much less for new programs.
Commitments made during the last budget cycle to fund the McLeary court decision are one of those drivers.
“The bills were passed but they were not fully-funded until this biennium,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher also talked about a 3 percent salary increase for state employees and a new healthcare program for school employees as elements driving the budget.
Governor Inslee’s budget proposal considers a new 9 percent capital gains tax, an increase in the Service Business B&O tax rate and an increase in the real estate excise tax.
The Washington Retail Association agrees with AWB’s stated position that state government can and should strive to operate within the $50 billion in current tax collections, and not raise taxes on retail employers and the thousands of small businesses in Washington State that drive innovation and employ thousands.