Democratic Gov. Mike Lowry on Wednesday criticized Republicans’ plans to cut state spending by $400 million to provide tax relief, saying kids, higher education and social programs could be hurt.
House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, dismissed the governor’s concerns, but conceded some of the tax-relief funds may have to come from the state’s $500 million one-time surplus.
“We’re going to give it a 110 percent effort” to downsize government enough to pay for tax breaks for property owners and businesses, the speaker said.
In a wide-ranging, first-ever working breakfast at the governor’s mansion with reporters, Lowry was generally conciliatory about the Republicans and their “Contract With Washington State.” But he said he’s troubled by some early bills to flesh out the contract, such as regulatory reform, health-care, crime and tax cuts.
Lowry has proposed a $147 million tax break for manufacturing construction and a $15 million business tax break for companies that train and hire welfare recipients. But he says that would come out of the $500 million surplus, not through further spending cuts.
The Republicans want a $420 million tax-relief package that includes the governor’s manufacturing tax break, plus property tax relief and a business tax rollback. On the opening day of session, House Finance Chairman Brian Thomas, R-Renton, said they’ll do that by cutting the size of government, not by spending the surplus.
The speaker backtracked on Thomas’ point Wednesday, however, saying the GOP caucus had not committed to paying for its entire tax-relief plan by cutting government.
Thomas was unbowed, saying: “I am absolutely committed to it. That’s the only way to make long-term tax cuts.”
Lowry said if Republicans go along with his plan for a cost-of-living raise for state workers and teachers, the only way they can cut the budget is to attack the most vulnerable programs. That, he said, would most likely mean cuts in social programs.