Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Legislature reaches agreement on budget

The standoff is over.

After weeks of being at loggerheads, Democratic negotiators in the House and the Senate have finally come up with a budget deal that their members can agree on, less than seventy two hours before the special session is due to end.

The final budget proposal incorporates close to $800 million in new revenue and assumes the federal government will chip in a half billion, sparing Governor Chris Gregoire from having to implement horrendous budget cuts (like the elimination of the Basic Health Plan). That doesn't mean nothing will be axed... the budget also includes around $1 billion in cuts.

The six major revenue components are:
  • a temporary business & occupation surcharge,
  • a temporary rise in the beer tax (fifty cents per gallon, with Washington based microbreweries exempt),
  • a temporary rise in the tax on soda (two cents per twelve ounces, with bottlers doing less then ten million dollars in volume exempt),
  • an increase in the tax on cigarettes,
  • application of the sales tax to bottled water, candy, and gum,
  • and finally, the tightening or outright repeal of several tax exemptions that are collectively costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Legislature also appears set to refer a jobs referendum to the people this November. Crafted by Representative Hans Dunshee, the referendum, if approved, would authorize several hundred million dollars in bonds to modernize public buildings, making them more energy efficient.

The weatherization and conservation projects would create jobs and result in significant cost savings (originally estimated at $191 million a year) to the state.

Since the measures would ultimately pay for themselves, the proposal is a win/win. It's progressive thought in action. NPI will campaign in strong support of this referendum if it makes it onto the ballot as expected.

The Senate is expected to vote on the budget tomorrow.

The Senate's Ways & Means Committee met today to consider the Jobs Act, as well as a bill that would allow the Secretary of State's office to adjust corporate filing fees on its own, so it can more flexibly cope with demand in the future and avoid backlogs. Both bills were sent to the Rules Committee following a public hearing with a "do pass" recommendation.


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