OLYMPIA, Wash. -- An ambitious plan of new taxes and new spending -- that was the message of Gov. Jay Inslee in his 2015 State of the State Address on Tuesday.
“It is now time for reinvestment,” Inslee said to lawmakers assembled in the House chamber of the state Capitol.
The governor called for billions more for public schools and transportation. To help pay for his program, the governor wants a new tax on capital gains that would target the wealthiest 1% in the state.
“Washington has the nation’s most unfair tax system,” Inslee said. “A new teacher pays three times more in taxes as a percentage than our wealthiest citizens.”
As he called for over $2 billion in addition funds for public schools, the governor reminded legislators of a state Supreme Court order requiring more money for K-12 education.
While there isn’t a similar court order to fix the state’s aging roads and bridges, Inslee was adamant that he wants a transportation package this session, something that has been stalled for years.
“Without action, there will be a 52 percent cut in the maintenance budget, and 71 bridges will become structurally deficient or functionally obsolete,” the governor said. “The state cannot accept a continued failure to move on transportation.”
Inslee proposed a carbon cap and trade system, specifically to pay for road and bridge projects.
Republicans were quick to respond -- and criticize -- Inslee's proposals. They argued that while transportation improvements are needed, they want major reforms to the Washington State Department of Transportation first, before any new money is given to the agency.
“With the (State Route) 520 (Bridge) problem, with the ferry problems, and so on and so on and so on," said Rep. Dan Kristiansen, House Republican leader, "the public has become very, very, very concerned about the accountability, or lack thereof, when it comes to a state agency.”
The GOP gained seats in last November’s election and now fully the control the state Senate. Given how polarized the parties are when it comes to raising new money, it’s expected that this session could easily go past the April deadline to come up with a budget plan.