2021 Operating budget - you name it, they taxed it!

Legislative update from Olympia

banner new background
floor with braun

Dear Neighbor,

As we enter the final month of the 2021 legislative session, our attention shifts to passing state budgets. In odd years, the legislature creates three separate two-year budgets: An operating, transportation and capital budget. Today I’m going to address the operating budget.


2021 Operating budget - you name it, they taxed it!

Before I address the details of this year’s Senate Democrats’ operating budget proposal, I want to share how much it spends: $59.5 billion. That’s a $7 billion increase from just two years ago. In just six years (2015-17 to 2021-23), our state budget has grown by over $20 billion and over 50%! The Democrats said they wanted to, “Go big” with this budget and they certainly achieved that, but it’s easy to do when you give with one hand and take with the other by adding and increasing taxes required to support this bloated monster. 

Introducing new taxes is completely unnecessary; we know we can balance the budget with the funds we already have. Senate Republicans proposed an operating budget eight weeks ago that didn’t raise taxes and didn’t cut services; ($55.5 billion or $4 billion less) and this was before we received our March revenue projections which added an additional $3.3 billion to this budget. This is money we should have used to save our small businesses by replenishing the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.  Additionally, Senate Democrats spend ALL of our state’s Rainy-Day Fund – that’s another $1.8 billion dollars!

While I could not support the final version of the Senate operating proposal due to the increased taxes it relies on, I do not deny that there were many shared priorities. Here are the effects of a few local wins included in this budget:

  • Restores elk fencing to provide safety for students of the Concrete School District. This was included in the operating budget last year but was vetoed by the governor due to budget cuts brought on by the COVID-19 shutdowns.
  • Funds the Forest Health and Resiliency Program, which puts money towards prevention and control of the catastrophic wildfires; a wise and long-overdue investment in one of our most important natural resources.
  • Extends broadband internet to our underserved, rural communities. Instituting broadband throughout rural Washington will help students learning at home and improve productivity for small businesses wanting to engage in e-commerce.
  • Restores funding for two body scanners (based on a bill I introduced last year) which were vetoed in last year’s budget due to COVID; for the Monroe Correctional Facility and the Women’s Correctional Facility at Purdy. These scanners increase safety and respect the human dignity of both correctional officers and offenders.
  • Increases funding and services to help those with developmental disabilities, and continues historic bipartisan investments in behavioral health.
  • Funds a two-year pilot for Mobile Integrated Health Services in the City of Arlington and provides grants for other cities wishing to participate in the Safe Fire Stations model (based on a bill I prime sponsored) to provide services for those suffering from substance abuse.

Unfortunately, there are some areas where this budget completely misses the mark. Under current circumstances, Senate Democrats could have eliminated the B&O tax on manufacturing, moved the sales tax on cars to the transportation budget and provided historic homeowner property tax relief. Instead, they are continuing to support a capital gains income tax – because they say our tax code is regressive. If they truly believed that, then there are things we can do to address that. Here is a list of ACTUAL regressive taxes in Washington state and where we rank in the nation:

  • 1st highest tax on liquor at $33.22 per gallon. That is 50% higher than the next state.
  • 3rd highest tax on cell phones at 19.83%.
  • 4th highest tax on gas at 49.4 cents per gallon - and that will likely go up after this session!
  • 10th highest tax on cigarettes at $3.03 per pack.

It is clear that a capital gains income tax has been introduced with the hope that our Supreme Court overturns 85 years of precedent, paving way to impose a full-fledged graduated income tax.

Please remember that I am here to serve you. Although we may not be able to meet face to face, I encourage you to reach out to my office and to share your thoughts, ideas and concerns on matters of importance to you. And please, if you don’t already, follow me on Facebook. My contact information can be found on the right sidebar.

Have a wonderful Easter weekend.




WA Supreme Court's Blake decision -- is drug possession legal?


See my most recent video update where I share what’s being done in response to the State Supreme Court’s recently ruling that simple drug possession violates due process protections and is invalid.


April 2, 2021



Let's Be Social! 

Follow me on Facebook to stay updated on the latest news from Olympia


Email: Keith.Wagoner@leg.wa.gov

Phone: 360-786-7676