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Less spending, not more taxes, is recipe for state budget

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As the state Legislature convened in Olympia (and on Zoom) Monday — with the critical task of approving a two-year state budget topping the agenda — too many lawmakers, as well as the governor, are pondering more taxes.

That’s the wrong mindset.

The midst of a pandemic, which has already slowed the state’s economy, is not the right time to add to the tax bill of citizens.

But it is the right time to curb spending to ensure a balanced budget if the economy dips further. Washington’s economy has slowed because of the COVID-19 shutdown that started in March and continues today.

Many are suffering financially. They are dependent on federal aid to make it until the economy fully recovers.

Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed a $57.6 billion two-year budget for 2021-2023 that is $5.5 billion more than the two-year budget approved in 2019.

That budget proposal, as we have said before, seems too ambitious given the economic uncertainties at this moment.

Inslee and Democratic leaders who control the House and Senate are itching for new taxes, including a capital-gains tax. While we believe it’s the wrong time for any tax hike or new tax, a capital-gains tax is particularly onerous as it is an income tax, which is not allowed under the state constitution.

Inslee has been pushing for a capital-gains tax for more than six years.

In a recent interview with The Seattle Times, Inslee said he has “an extra high level of confidence” his plan will finally pass, saying the public “has had a bellyful for our unfair tax system.”

The public might have a “bellyful” when it comes to taxes, but that should not be interpreted as wanting another heapin’ helping of a new one.

Voters in Washington state have rejected various forms of income tax 10 times, including efforts to change the state constitution, since the 1960s.

Outside of the Seattle area, the public’s appetite for an income tax has not grown.

“I’m not a fan of new taxes in any year, but this year in particular,” Senate Republican Leader John Braun told the Times. “We don’t need them to balance the budget, we don’t need them to make additional investments to help with COVID.”

Inslee, of course, disagrees. He and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will have the upper hand in pushing for new taxes.

But as the various tax proposals are rolled out to be debated, the people will weigh in to give lawmakers a glimpse of the harsh reality of the toll the pandemic has taken.

Now is the time for a state budget that calls for prudent spending and no new taxes.

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