The State of Washington experiences recurring budget crises, so the Legislature keeps making drastic cuts. Revenue keeps falling short of the needs, so they keep slashing and slashing. They have cut funding for state employees, state parks, K-12 education, higher education, health care, assistance for our poorest people, and pretty much everything.
But it’s never enough. The Governor and state legislators scrutinize everything on the expenditure side, but they have been refusing to seriously examine the seriously dysfunctional revenue side. They don’t seriously examine “tax expenditures” – various tax breaks, exemptions and loopholes. Some of these have existed for decades without any oversight.
And they have refused to consider systemic changes in Washington State’s tax system, which is the most regressive in the nation. This means that our state’s richest people pay very low tax rates, while poor people pay very high tax rates.
The Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation’s December 2011 TV program examines all of this, with both short-term and long-term solutions. We expose the growing gaps in income and in wealth. Washington State’s tax system (mostly sales tax, property tax, and a Business & Occupation tax) is terribly regressive.
One of our TV guests flatly says, “We cannot cut our way to prosperity.” We are long past any notion of merely “cutting the fat.” For several years we have been cutting muscle and bone. The only solution is to increase revenue. If we think of the budget as a pie chart, we can adjust the relative sizes of the pieces of the budget pie. We also can make a bigger pie by adding revenue.
We have three exceptionally well informed guests:
• Jim Dawson is the Campaign Director for Fuse Washington, a statewide non-profit organization that works on taxation and other public policy issues.
• Brendan Williams is a former State Representative from the 22nd Legislative District. He earned a great reputation for boldly analyzing and critiquing our state’s fiscal problems and for speaking and acting boldly to solve those problems.
• Chris Reykdal is a current State Representative from our 22nd Legislative District. He likewise is vigorously representing the public’s interest in promoting social and economic justice in various ways, including working to reform our state’s tax system.