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.

Adjacent posts

6 replies on “Everything you need to know about a state government shutdown”

  1. I think you have mis­rep­re­sent­ed the main rea­son by say­ing that Repub­li­cans are will­ing to shut down the gov­ern­ment to pro­tect the rich. Every­body should do their part — to pay into the things that are impor­tant to them. Of course the pub­lic is in favor because that same major­i­ty would not be impact­ed by this capi­tol gains tax. But that major­i­ty could sac­ri­fice their android phones, month­ly car pay­ments, boat adn jet skis and insur­ance, cable TV pack­ages and flatscreens for the ben­e­fit of pub­lic edu­ca­tion could­n’t they?

  2. Lar­ry makes a good point. Of course peo­ple would be in favor of a tax they don’t have to pay. 

    The real prob­lem is that Cap­i­tal Gains tax rev­enue is extreme­ly volatile. We should not rely on a rev­enue stream that can fluc­tu­ate wild­ly from year-to-year based on both the mar­ket’s volatil­i­ty and the whim of investors; at least not for some­thing as crit­i­cal as basic education.

  3. Lar­ry you seem to for­get that we do sup­port edu­ca­tion with prop­er­ty tax­es. And you seem to for­get that our gov­er­nor gave Boe­ing a $9 bil­lion tax cred­it. Maybe he could cut some of that cred­it and there would be no need for a cap­i­tal gains tax.

  4. Shut down the Lot­tery? Did­n’t that mon­ey sup­port edu­ca­tion? That is what we were all told by the media.

  5. Cut the bud­get! From the com­ments above we pay prop­er­ty tax­es to sup­port edu­ca­tion, we have mon­ey com­ing from the State Lot­tery for edu­ca­tion How much mon­ey does edu­ca­tion need? Live with­in your means. As a retiree I have no choice. My income is fixed. Par­ti­san pol­i­tics has no bear­ing on this issue.

    1. Patrick, “cut the bud­get” is a mean­ing­less and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive slo­gan — unless you tell us what it is you want to cut. So is “live with­in your means”. If peo­ple and busi­ness­es real­ly lived with­in their means, then they would­n’t take out loans to buy hous­es and cars or use cred­it cards to start up busi­ness­es. But this hap­pens all the time. 

      Like­wise, we as a peo­ple (we the peo­ple are the gov­ern­ment) bor­row mon­ey to get things done. We’ve been doing it since before this coun­try was a country. 

      Due to infla­tion, pop­u­la­tion growth, and new devel­op­ment, demand for essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices is con­tin­u­al­ly out­strip­ping the rev­enue avail­able to pro­vide those ser­vices. That’s why the Leg­is­la­ture is in its third spe­cial ses­sion: it’s under­fund­ed our schools so bad­ly that it’s in con­tempt of the Supreme Court, and is try­ing to reach an agree­ment on a bud­get the Court won’t deem total­ly inadequate.

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