Lawmakers pass $59 billion budget

As the end of the mostly virtual legislative session drew near April 25, lawmakers passed a $59 billion budget that will funnel millions into childcare, public health, rental assistance and addressing the economic impact of a yearlong global pandemic.

The budget includes a controversial capital gains tax, which would collect 7% on the exchange of capital assets such as stocks above $250,000. Democrats plan on using the revenue to fund childcare and tax credits for low-income

families.

“We addressed tax reform through the Working Families Tax Credit for Washingtonians struggling to make ends

meet and a capital gains tax on extraordinary profits,” Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said in a statement. “We took

bold steps to expand access to affordable childcare and support our K-12 schools. We focused on helping small

businesses to survive the pandemic.”

Republicans opposed the increase in taxes, saying a capital gains tax will result in a court challenge and make the tax structure worse for small businesses. “It’s only awesome for those who like the idea of being on the path to a full-blown state income tax,” Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, said in a statement.

The budget also includes a cap-and-trade tax to address the state priority of increasing green transportation, which

some argued would result in higher gas prices. Left unpassed was a mammoth $11 billion transportation funding

plan.

“I think that there’s broad consensus that there’s significant unmet needs in our state’s transportation system,” said

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien. “We didn’t get there this session on a transportation revenue package, but I think we

all agree that we need one.”

Legislators will keep working, Fitzgibbon said, and want to complete a more climate-friendly transportation funding

plan before Jan. 1, 2023.

“I will say one thing about the Cap and Invest bill which we passed, it does contain really significant investments in

transportation, particularly in transportation investments that decarbonize our transportation system, both through

transportation electrification and through multimodal investments,” Fitzgibbon said. “So, at least one of the building

blocks in the transportation package is already in place.”

While Democrats praised what they called progressive policies, Republicans characterized the plan as an unnecessary spending spree.

“At a time when we are collecting record tax revenue and sitting on billions in federal stimulus funds, this Legislature is choosing to impose a number of regressive policies that will raise the price of household necessities like cell phones and gasoline,” Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, said in a statement.

Lawmakers voted along party lines to pass the budget — the Senate 27-22 and the House 57-40.

The measure, along with several Democrat-led police accountability bills and the capital gains tax, heads to Gov. Jay

Inslee’s desk.

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