Schoesler criticizes final operating budget for ‘not listening to the people’

After today’s Senate vote to pass a compromise 2020 state supplemental operating budget, 9th Legislative District Sen. Mark Schoesler criticized the plan for its sharp increase in spending.

“The supplemental operating budget is supposed to make minor adjustments to the original two-year budget passed by the Legislature, but this budget goes too far,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville, after the 28-21 vote. “It raises state spending too sharply and imposes some tax increases despite our state having plenty of revenue in reserve.

“Judging by last fall’s passage of Initiative 976, citizens want us to keep taxes low and rein in spending. Unfortunately, the budget passed today shows that the majorities in the Senate and House are not listening to the people.”

The conference operating budget, which was approved by House and Senate negotiators earlier this week, increases spending by $975 million above the 2019-21 state operating budget passed last year. Schoesler noted that the original House and Senate operating budget proposals would have raised spending by at least $1.1 billion, but worries over the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Washington’s economy caused budget negotiators to show more restraint on the final size of the supplemental budget.

Factoring in the supplemental budget, the state budget has grown from $44.9 billion in 2017-19 to $53.9 billion in the current budget cycle, a 20 percent increase.

“I’ve been in the Legislature since 1993, and it’s shocking that the Democrats think it’s OK to increase spending at such a sharp level,” said Schoesler. “We can’t keep spending at this level, especially if our economy hits a rough patch and revenues go down. If the coronavirus outbreak gets worse, that could make for a very rough patch.”

Schoesler noted that state-government spending has grown by 78.2 percent since 2013, while the state’s average wage growth has risen by 40.2 percent during this time. Not including King County, state wage growth has increased by 27.9 percent.

“When state spending outpaces wage growth, that is a real concern because it’s a sign that government is taking too much money from taxpayers. This kind of rampant spending isn’t sustainable in case of an economic downturn,” said Schoesler, who is a member of the budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Today is the final day of the Legislature’s 60-day session.