This week we’ve got a press panel retrospective on some of the big proposals that cleared the House and Senate during the unorthodox legislative session that wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield joined us along with McClatchy state government reporter Sara Gentzler before she starts a new job in a different state. Her coverage has appeared in The Olympian, The News Tribune (Tacoma), the Bellingham Herald and the Tri-City Herald.
With revenue collection better than expected and bolstered by another round of federal funding instead of cuts, the House and Senate Democratic majorities went all in, tapping state reserves to spend more, expand existing programs and create new services.
“Rather than buckling down and trying to spend less as this sort of austerity measure while the economy recovers; it’s more of a let’s bolster everything and get out of this,” said Gentzler.“They ended up with what essentially will probably be the largest two or four year spending plan the state may see for a generation,” said Cornfield. “You’re looking at almost seventy billion dollars being pushed out into every corner of the state.”
“It’s so much money that it may be difficult for school districts, cities, counties to actually -and the state- to spend what they’re receiving in the timeframe,” he continued. “They are going to have trouble putting these kinds of dollars into programs efficiently and effectively in the short term.”
Capital Gains Tax
Democratic legislators have introduced capital gains tax bills that failed for years, but this year one passed.
“…the makeup of the legislature has changed to the point where they could just squeak it by through the Senate,” said Gentzler.
“Sometimes it was considered pivotal to getting the McCleary funded. It was early on seen as a pivotal source of tax revenue. Now it’s not. I mean it’s going to bring in less money than cannabis,” said Cornfield. “They don’t really need it for their budget, they need it for their politics.”
Cap and Trade, Low Carbon Fuel Standard
Two of Governor Jay Inslee’s frequently requested environmental policies also made it through the legislature after years of failed bills, a cap and trade carbon emissions regulatory system and a low carbon fuel standard.
“Really there were three big climate bills proposed by Governor Inslee this year the clean buildings bill died really early on and these two bills at the very end just sort of had this last minute push. I mean it was just sort of this dramatic conclusion to a dramatic session,” said Gentzler.
“Let’s presume there’s no referendum on the carbon pricing scheme known as the cap and trade and let’s presume there’s no referendum on clean fuel standards that go forward, they’re not challenged in court,” said Cornfield. “Both of those bills are hinged to passing of a transportation package with a gas tax hike. And oddly the legislature committed future legislatures or themselves to increasing the gas tax in order to get those policies, so that’s not a done deal. And I know next year they could change things, but linking the three, spending money on pavement at a time you have two policies aimed at getting cars off roads, it’s an interesting marriage.”
We also covered the legislature’s eviction response bills and new requirements and restrictions for police.
Watch it here: https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2021051032.