State Senate and House Republican leaders Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, and Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, signaled disappointment at the legislative bodies’ recent release of proposed supplemental budgets.
Primarily, the two said the state’s $15 billion surplus should have been more than enough to fund meaningful tax relief, but the transportation budget especially tacks on new fees and a tax that could have been avoided, according to a press release.
“We’re stunned at the continuing inability or unwillingness of the Democratic majorities to listen to the people and take to heart the financial pain people are in daily,” they wrote in a joint statement. “Neither of the operating-budget proposals gives any real, meaningful tax relief to middle-income Washingtonians, while their transportation packages pile on with fees and the new fuel tax.”
Some of these fees include an increased license plate fee for vehicles, up to $50 from $10 for cars and up to $20 from $4 for motorcycles, effective July 1.
Among others, a $15 fee for a stolen vehicle check will increase to $50 beginning July 1; a dealer temporary permit will increase from $15 to $40, effective July 1; and the $24 fee for an enhanced driver's license will increase to $42 from $24 for a six-year license, and from a $32 fee to $56 for an eight-year license beginning Oct. 1.
There will also be a new tax, a 6-cent differential tax on exported fuel, beginning June 30, 2023.
“Democrats pay lip service to the needs of people trying to recover from unemployment and other losses,” the minority leaders wrote. “Washingtonians deserve better. They deserve direct tax relief that makes it easier to stretch a dollar right now. They need tax relief that helps employers to create more jobs instead of laying people off and shutting facilities down.”
The leaders lambasted the plans for a three-day sales-tax holiday as a “gimmick” that doesn’t bring meaningful relief.
And all this, they said, has come at a time when the state has a $15 billion surplus.
“The time for relief is now when we have a historic surplus,” Braun and Wilcox wrote. “State spending has nearly doubled since Gov. Inslee took office, far outpacing average worker wage growth. It’s up 90% from 2011-13 to 2021-23 and it’s grown at a rate roughly four times that of inflation. When do taxpayers get relief from that level of government greed?”
They went on to say that it was a misrepresentation of the truth when Inslee and other Democrats said that the budget surplus is one-time money that shouldn’t be used for tax relief.
“Less than 20% of the surplus — only about $2.3 billion — is one-time money,” they wrote. “The rest is ongoing – just like the increases in spending we see in the budget proposals out today.”
Braun and Wilcox said the majority does not value tax relief, while Republicans fight hard to come up with ultimately rejected sensible ways to save taxpayers money.
“The bottom line is that there’s apparently no state surplus large enough for Democrats to allow the people to keep more of their own money,” they wrote. “How many billions more would it take? This approach undermines any attempts at rebuilding public trust.”