House Democrats released a slimmed down version of their budget proposal on Wednesday that abandons a plan to extend a business tax, and also reduces the number of tax breaks they seek to close.
The plan calls for about $800 million in McCleary-related education spending over the next two school years. Democratic leaders say the new budget plan is an attempt to reach a compromise with the mostly Republican majority in the Senate, which is opposed to higher taxes.
“The governor asked us to compromise,” said Democratic lead budget writer Ross Hunter. “This is a very large move in that direction.”
The new budget gets rid of seven tax breaks worth about $255 million — down from the House’s original proposal to eliminate 11 tax breaks.
Among the tax breaks it would close is one enjoyed by out-of-state shoppers, who currently do not have to pay Washington’s sales tax if they’re from a no-sales-tax state like Oregon. The shoppers would have to apply for a refund instead of getting it automatically at the checkout counter.
Democrats dropped a plan to extend a B&O tax surcharge on a wide variety of service professionals, including realtors, car dealers, doctors and lawyers. It would have raised about $500 million.
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan called it a “modest plan with significant efforts to bridge the differences” between the House and Senate. Democrats say they are putting forward the plan in an attempt to finish by next Tuesday, the last day of special session.
“We recognize that the clock is ticking and in order to be done by Tuesday we have to begin passing this budget this week,” Sullivan said.
The Senate is controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus comprised of 23 Republicans and two Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom released a statement on Wednesday that said the Senate will continue to work with the House, but they “will not let political expediency stand in the way” of education funding.
“I am disappointed that this House budget proposal is balanced on the backs of Washington’s school kids. Our children deserve our first dollars, not our last dime,” Tom said.
House Republican budget writer Rep. Gary Alexander said the proposal is a “genuine effort” to find common ground. But he criticized the way the Democrats unveiled their proposal at a news conference, saying it should have been brought to the negotiating table instead.
“To me, this looks like a step back from the negotiating table,” Alexander said in a press release.
The House Appropriations Committee is considering bills related to the budget proposal Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., and it will possibly vote on the budget in executive session. Watch live on TVW, or on the web.