Optimism is the word for 2019

Sen. Phil Fortunato writes about revenue flowing into state coffers, and how its time to give taxpayers a break.

I, for one, am looking forward to the 2019 legislative session. I’m optimistic in part because of the news of record-setting state tax collections, which should mean an opportunity to bring some needed tax relief for hardworking people in our state. Working with my Democratic colleagues, we should seek to protect taxpayers and provide needed investments in the state’s infrastructure with all the extra, unexpected money you sent to Olympia.

The state’s chief economist recently said something in an interview that I’ve been saying for the past year. Because of federal tax cuts and deregulation, our state’s economy is booming. The past several budget cycles, Olympia has been taking in billions more than we’ve expected. News reports around the state have noted that we’ve never had this much money to spend, and I’m hopeful my colleagues across the aisle will work with me to find creative ways to protect the investments Senate Republicans have made in budgets past, and spend this new money wisely.

We need to think critically about how we spend your tax dollars. There are tons of great ideas and programs, but they not only cost money now, they likely will have larger budget consequences in the future. Consider recent investments in teacher pay. Those aren’t just measured in the immediate salary increases, but years down the road they drive up our already-underfunded pension liabilities.

Going into the 2019 legislative session, state revenue collections are projected to inch the state’s budget up to $50 billion. As Everett Herald reporter Jerry Cornfield notes, “State revenues to reach$50B but new fees or taxes loom.” That came true this past week in the governor’s budget proposal. Despite record tax collections, the governor is proposing a new state income tax, a 67 percent increase in taxes on small businesses and higher property taxes, to the tune of over $5 billion. That’s a 20 percent increase in state spending – $10 billion over the next two years.

The citizens of this state have entrusted the Democrats with a respectable majority in the Legislature. They expect us to get the job done, and with taxpayers sending so much more money to the state, we can build a budget that is sustainable and look to give taxpayers money back, not seek more ways to squeeze your household budget and taking food off your table.

Late last year, I turned my focus toward the state’s ailing infrastructure and need for investment. You don’t have to drive much to realize our entire transportation system needs a lot of work. Taxpayers have already sent the state more than enough money, and they are looking to us to be responsible stewards of those funds. I’ll be pushing hard for my plan to implement an inflation-linked funding source for transportation that doesn’t rely on new taxes. The fact of the matter is that we don’t need them.

Taxpayers need a break. This is the year to do it.

Sen. Phil Fortunato

District 31

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