As the Washington State legislature enters its seventh special session in three years, disrupting fall plans, meetings, and speaking appearances for the members of both state houses, the session called by Governor Inslee deserves notice for where key players in statewide budget and revenue fights are lining up–mainly that Boeing and the Association of Washington Business have come out in support of increased taxes for residents of the state. And these two organizations are doing so despite furiously resisting every attempt in the past to pay slightly higher taxes to go towards those programs which reduce income inequality and strengthen our shared society.
Moving forward from the legislature’s failure to pass a transportation budget in the regular and two special sessions earlier in the year, it was widely surmised that the main focus of the shorter 2014 session would be passing a transportation budget. Instead, the legislature is being called in early so that Boeing can begin to receive expanded tax breaks that would give them $8 billion dollars in incentives through 2040.
Passing a transportation budget is a crucial step to strengthening public infrastructure and restructure the way we travel. The collapse of the Skagit I‑5 bridge alone is enough indication of the need to reinvest in our shared transit systems. And even expanding tax incentives for Boeing will have its benefits, as the production of the 777X in the state is projected to create more than 50,000 jobs in the area and generate billions of dollars in economic activity, according to the Governor’s office. But fundamentally Boeing and the AWB are asking for direct benefits for themselves while they were content to see our schools get crowded, our universities become inaccessible, and working families fall behind as childcare and healthcare programs get cut.
Any attempt to raise revenue to prevent the billions of dollars in cuts to social services and public goods over the past few biennium have been met with opposition by these entities, with just two examples being Boeing and the Association working to stop any sort of income tax or capital gains tax from appearing in our state. These revenue changes would have solved the structural problems in our tax structure and provided billions of dollars to fund our schools and other public investments. Instead, we’ve had the second highest tuition increases in the nation since the recession began and families are no losing access to childcare while they are out working, just a couple among a tragic diversity of issues which show the lack of attention that has been paid to the working and middle classes.
On top of this, more than a million Washingtonians are being affected by the recent cuts to federal food assistance programs, losing an average of 21 meals a month for a family of four. The number of residents in our state affected by these cuts is greater than the national average, and indicates that the legislature needs to focus on these residents and make sure they have the security and opportunity needed to lead a thriving, productive life.
Boeing and the Association of Washington Business getting what they want out of the transportation budget could indeed be a boon for our state. It shows, however, that they aren’t anti-tax by any means. When the legislature next brings up revenue proposals to fund the programs critical to a healthy society, either this session or one in the near future, the Association and Boeing should find a bit of tact and a bit of grace to recognize that the state is providing for them what they’ve not been willing to see for others. Next time the legislature brings up new revenue packages for consideration the AWB should do a little less fighting and a little more helping, not just for themselves, but for all Washingtonians.