Senate budget avoids new taxes, slashes tuition, boosts Mason County, Sheldon says

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA… A $38 billion budget proposal approved by the state Senate Monday avoids tax increases and offers an enormous middle-class tax cut, in the form of reduced tuition at the state’s colleges and universities, said Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

“This is a proposal I think the tough-minded people of rural Washington can support,” Sheldon said. “We’re concerned about protecting jobs and about making sure our kids have a chance to succeed. This is a budget that protects opportunity.”

The Senate budget cuts college tuition an average 25 percent, and fully funds the basic-education program endorsed by the state Supreme Court in its McCleary v. Washington decision. It also reflects local needs, providing $150,000 to Mason County for extraordinary legal costs associated with murder trials..

The Senate proposal is a sharp contrast to the budget approved by the state House last week. The $39 billion proposal from the House Democratic Caucus spends $1.3 billion more than the Senate version and requires passage of $1.5 billion in new taxes. Although the House has not yet taken a vote to increase taxes, House Democratic leaders say they favor a new tax on capital gains and an increase in business and occupations taxes on service businesses. Monday’s 26-23 vote in the Senate sets the stage for negotiations with the House.

Democrat Sheldon, a member of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, said the sharp-penciled Senate plan reflects the interests of the region beyond Seattle, which has not shared in the area’s tech boom. “By imposing new taxes, we run the risk that we will slam the brakes on economic recovery,” he said. “This is a budget that does what we really need to do – boost education, preserve the safety net, and do no harm to those of us who live outside King County.”