On Tuesday afternoon Gov. Jay Inslee announced his proposal to tweak last year's budget.
The TL;DR is: he wants to skim over $300 million from the state's $2.5 billion rainy day fund to pay for homeless shelters and services, pause a bunch of transit projects due to Tim Eyman's potentially budget-busting initiative (though most of those projects were already paused), spend over $33 million to save the orcas and clean up toxic waste, begin work on a centralized firearm background check system, and create an office to help state agencies contract with more women and minority-owned businesses. He proposes no new taxes because it's an election year, for him and for the legislature, or, as he put it: "I recognize this is a short session in the legislature, they have a certain bandwidth, and this is within their bandwidth."
During an interview with reporters after the announcement, Inslee briefly praised the Cosmic Crisp apple (a product of Washington State University’s "apple breeding program"), reasserted his romantic attachment to ferries (the state has to send one to ferry heaven this year, and he's sad about it), and said he's "open to ideas" about reining in rents across the state, but added that he hadn't proposed any measure to do that.
House Rep. Nicole Macri, who's leading the charge on statewide just cause evictions legislation and a potential anti-rent gouging bill, said she had a brief conversation about the policy with Inslee a few months ago. "My sense is he's genuinely open to debating the pros and cons of various policy solutions," she said.
Inslee's pitch to cut in half the state's unsheltered population, which today stands at 10,000 according to the state's conservative estimate, would "end the current shelter penalty and help 2,300 more people with disabilities through the Housing and Essential Needs program," which are "both major for folks in King County," says Alison Eisinger, executive director of Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. The proposal also aims to expand permanent supportive housing assistance for 1,080 people and to construct new "enhanced" shelters.
Given "decades of disinvestment in basic care for people" at the state and federal level, Eisinger called Inslee's proposal a "smart" step, but "not the whole path towards home."
Drawing from the rainy day fund to pay for these services would require approval from 3/5 of the legislature, which means Republicans would have to get on board with this plan, which is..........doubtful.
"I'm not totally opposed to using [the fund] if you're going to solve a problem once and for all with those dollars," House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox told KONA radio yesterday. "I am absolutely sure no one is going to come back in a couple of years and say okay we solved it, we don't need those dollars anymore," he added.
Of course, that state wouldn't have to draw from the rainy day fund if they would tax the rich—either through capital gains, an excess compensation tax, or through any other means of progressive taxation. Inslee and Democrats are unlikely to do that this year for fear of endangering "vulnerable" Democrats in purple districts, which is politically shrewd only if you have so little faith in your members. If a state rep can't stand up at a town hall and tell constituents that taxing the wealthy to help the dispossessed is, in fact, a good thing that will improve their lives while not at all affecting the lives of the wealthy, then that person deserves to replaced with someone who can. Seattle is ready to tax the rich and big corporations. A majority of Americans support taxing the wealthy. There's no good reason Democrats can't use their large majorities in both houses to get this done either.
INBOX: @GovInslee announcing new climate policies, to hit ~zero carbon emissions by 2050, roughly 2x as ambitious as the policies of his first 7 years in office. New goal aligns more with @IPCC_CH science (and Inslee's 2019 presidential platform). pic.twitter.com/52slAj973G
— John Ryan (@heyjohnryan) December 19, 2019
To achieve that goal, Inslee plans to keep pushing for a clean fuel program that reduces auto emissions (the bill failed last year thanks to opposition from Democrats and Republicans worried about the potential for higher gas prices). He's also continuing his effort to require ride-share companies to reduce their emissions, install electric vehicle charging stations at state facilities, give tax breaks to companies who create solar energy for low-income communities, and fund studies to figure out how to reduce more emissions. You can watch Jay point at graphs and explain all this here.