House Republicans offered a budget alternative Friday that fully pays for public schools, slashes welfare spending by $225 million, and forces state employees to take two more days off work each month without pay.
In a plan that has little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled House, the GOP also suggests ending three tax breaks – an interest exemption for large, out-of-state mortgage lenders, a sales-tax refund for renewable energy sales, and a business and occupation tax break for out-of-state firms described as “shell corporations.” Closing the three preferences could raise $36 million.
Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Thurston County, said he offered the plan as an alternative to what Democrats are expected to announce next week. He said he wants to show that a balanced budget does not need a $490 million sales tax hike to “buy back” cuts to schools and programs for the vulnerable, which Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed.
“It is a budget that is based on priorities,’’ Alexander said. Public schools, vulnerable people and public safety are the top three spending areas.
“No sales tax increase is in our budget. We don’t see any need to buy back critical services, because we don’t make reductions in those critical services.’’
House Ways and Means chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, likely will roll out the majority-party’s budget plan Tuesday, and it is expected to cut less and spend more.
“The hardest part of any budget isn’t writing one that balances,” Hunter said in a statement. “It’s writing one that the majority of legislators in the House and Senate can agree on.
“I don’t think this proposal meets that challenge, frankly.”
Gregoire had asked for a spring ballot proposal in the form of a temporary, half-cent sales tax.
That idea might be losing steam after a $96 million uptick in state revenue estimates and after caseload estimates for welfare and medical services fell, saving an estimated $330 million through June 2013.
In some ways, Alexander’s budget represents a shift in philosophy – from trimming most every state-funded program to eliminating whole programs, said Rep. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup.
Overall, the Republicans want to kill off 51 programs, including the Basic Health Plan, a low-income property tax deferral program, a drug task force, homeless assistance, an IT Academy, the Readiness to Learn program, a Food Assistance Program, growth management administration and many others.
Alexander also saves another $103 million by eliminating the Disability Lifeline for people temporarily disabled and unemployed.
House Republicans also propose to cut welfare subsidies – reducing lifetime benefits from 60 months to 48 months, and reducing benefit amounts.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/politicsblog.