Judging by the news today, the public is starting to become aware of the possibility that Republican intransigence over the budget could cause a shutdown of the Washington state government. If a budget isn’t approved by June 30, then starting on July 1, many state government operations will slow or cease.
As a public service, the Northwest Progressive Institute has put together this overview of a state government shut down: how we got here and how we can avoid it.
What happens if the state government shuts down?
According to the AP, a bunch of workers don’t get paid and a bunch of public services shut down:
Under the government shutdown contingency plan that is currently on the Office of Financial Management’s website, all of the state’s universities and community colleges would remain open. But agencies like the Liquor Control Board, state parks and state Lottery would face a complete shutdown, while others like the governor’s office, the Department of Social & Health Services, and Department of Corrections would face a partial shutdown. Among those offices that would remain open are the Department of Transportation, the Traffic Safety Commission and the Office of the Treasurer.
That sounds terrible. Why would the state government shut down?
The short answer: Republicans want to protect the rich from being taxed to pay for public schools.
The long answer: it’s pretty much the same as what happened in Congress in October 2013, when the federal government did indeed shut down for three weeks. At the time, Republicans held only one of the two houses of Congress — the House of Representatives — and Democrats held the Senate and the White House. House Republicans demanded that Democrats agree to defund Obamacare. Democrats and President Obama refused, and the Republicans eventually caved.
Here in Washington State, Republicans have a narrow two-seat majority in the State Senate, and Democrats control the House of Representatives and the Governor’s office. Governor Inslee and House Democrats agree on all the basic points of a new budget. Republicans in the State Senate do not.
What are they arguing about?
There are several points of disagreement between Democrats and Senate Republicans, but the biggest one by far is Governor Inslee’s proposal to tax the investment income (also known as a capital gains tax) of the wealthiest 32,000 residents of Washington State to help add more money for public education. Governor Inslee and House Democrats have moved toward a compromise on several other issues, including dropping for this year a proposed cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. The governor and House Democrats support the capital gains tax. Senate Republicans adamantly oppose it.
A capital gains tax for public schools sounds controversial. Does the public support it?
They sure do. A poll done in January showed 57% of voters support Gov. Inslee’s capital gains tax.
Newspaper editorial boards across the state have gone on record in support of the capital gains tax, including The Olympian and the Seattle Times.
Wait, what was that last part? The rabidly anti-tax Seattle Times supports the capital gains tax?
Shockingly, yes. Here’s what they said about it last weekend:
A long-term solution to the education-funding crisis in Washington is right in front of lawmakers.
Instead of punting to committees and next year’s Legislature, they should buckle down and make the choice to begin taxing capital gains.
A capital-gains tax, with ironclad limitations to prevent it from being used for anything other than education, is a more palatable option. Capital-gains taxes are common — all but nine states have them, according to the Tax Foundation.
When even the Seattle Times agrees that a capital gains tax is needed, then it’s time for Republicans to give up and accept reality. Especially those suburban Senate Republicans like Steve Litzow or Andy Hill who are rumored to be running for governor in 2016.
So basically, Republicans are willing to shut down the state government to protect the rich from being taxed to pay for public schools?
What do we do now?
Simple: demand Senate Republicans accept a capital gains tax to pay for public schools. That’s it. No strings attached, no “we’ll give you your capital gains tax if you give us some crazy right-wing thing we’ve always wanted.” Tax the rich to fund our schools, get this budget done, and stop a shutdown from happening. Make the State Senate Republicans cave to public pressure just like John Boehner and Republicans in Congress caved to public pressure in the October 2013 shutdown.