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Coalition: New Revenue Too Little, New Cuts Too Deep

February 24, 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Budget-balancing resembles high-wire juggling for Washington state lawmakers lately. Both the House and Senate released their budget proposals on Tuesday; both include raising similar amounts of revenue - under $1 billion - to close a budget shortfall of $2.8 billion.

So, each proposal is already being scrutinized and coming up lacking. The grassroots group Fuse Washington says the budgets are generally aiming in the right direction, although they continue to rely heavily on deeper cuts to education, health and senior services. Jim Dawson, Fuse Washington's campaign director, says at first glance, the legislators appear to be overlooking many ways to bring in more cash.

"There is a lot more revenue they could generate through closing other tax loopholes, making polluters pay their fair share, and raising some targeted 'sin taxes' on nonessentials like candy and gum and bottled water."

The Senate budget proposal does include closing some loopholes, as well as temporarily raising the sales tax three-tenths of a penny and hiking cigarette taxes. The House has not yet released its particulars. In the next few weeks, they'll be heard in legislative committees in an attempt to reconcile them.

Dawson points out that state budget cuts have already resulted in thousands of people losing jobs and services like health care, and that the safety net can only stretch so far.

"This is in the context of over $3.6 billion in cuts that were already made. And so, when you compare the two, you're looking at about $4 in cuts to every $1 in new revenue sources. The package is not big enough."

A common complaint about raising taxes is that they are are harmful to the economy or will cost jobs, but Dawson cites a study released last year by the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities (www.cbpp.org/fils/5-13-09sfp.pdf). It shows in the last recession, the states that managed to raise taxes recovered more quickly by keeping their safety nets in place.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA