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Friday, October 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Lisa Brown: Walking the Walk: Creating budgets and tax policies that help Eastern Washington

Lisa Brown

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Congress and the president have blown up the national deficit in a series of spending bills and tax cuts that no credible economist calls fiscally responsible. We are projected to have over $1 trillion more going out the door in a year, rather than coming in.

Combined with reckless tariff policies of the administration and the trade war with China, Eastern Washington is facing the biggest threat to our regional economy since I moved here and began teaching economics at Eastern Washington University in the 1980s.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, look at the most recent cover of The Economist, a notably conservative publication. The issue is titled “The Next Recession, How Bad Will it Be?” The tax bill touted by my opponent is benefiting Wall Street and a handful of major metropolitan areas much more than Main Street in Spokane, Colville or Walla Walla. To add insult to injury, in order to make the long-term impact on the deficit look smaller, the personal tax cuts were made “temporary.” Loopholes on the business side, which cost billions in revenue, like the carried interest deduction, were allowed to continue, but on the personal side, the middle class lost small but meaningful work expense and other deductions.

Eastern Washington would have benefited much more from an infrastructure package, and you’ll no doubt hear promises that one is coming next. But how will that be paid for now that the piggy bank is empty?

As an economist, I enjoy talking about my beliefs in balanced budgeting, and investing “upstream” in early education and in prevention and treatment of addiction in order to save money down the road in remedial education and criminal justice.

And now that we’re on the campaign trail, my opponent would have you believe that she is also a big supporter of fiscal responsibility, cutting wasteful government programs and supporting a balanced budget amendment.

But talk is cheap. On Election Day, you have the opportunity to go beyond the talking points, the desperate attack ads, and the proposals that sound great but haven’t been enacted, and look at our records.

My opponent talks the talk of fiscal responsibility. I’ve walked the walk.

I’ve led on balanced operating budgets in Olympia, made tough decisions to cut spending during recessions, and worked to successfully create bipartisan transportation and construction budgets that have delivered hundreds of millions of dollars of projects and thousands of jobs to this region.

When I was budget chair, Sen. Bob McCaslin of Spokane Valley and Sen. Alex Deccio of Yakima, two conservative Republican legislators, voted for the operating budget I authored, because budgets should be about our values and priorities for our districts, not our parties.

I’ve always supported more fairness in our tax structure and voted for targeted tax cuts for seniors and businesses, and for agriculture. Before I left Olympia, I led on the creation of the Working Families Tax Credit, which when implemented will complement the federal earned income tax credit and return state tax benefits to thousands of families in Eastern Washington.

I am proud of the bipartisan work I did with former Sen. Joe Zarelli, a Republican from southwest Washington, to create our state’s Rainy Day Fund. My party and many stakeholder groups were not originally supportive of it. But it was the right thing to do to bring more stability to our state budget.

What would I advocate for in Congress? Anticipating another recession may begin soon, I might be playing defense for Eastern Washington, protecting Social Security, Medicare and the Veterans Administration from privatization schemes. Given the significance of health care to our economy, getting health care policy right – instead of dismantling the current system without a replacement – will be very important.

Agriculture is also critical to our economy. Especially with the current Congress failing to pass a farm bill, and no one serving on the House Agriculture committee from Washington, Oregon, Idaho or Montana, I will seek to serve there, defend farm safety net and conservation programs, and fight to regain export markets lost to tariffs.

Restoring responsibility to our national budgeting process can happen if special interests’ costly budget provisions are rejected and partisan budgets are replaced with old-fashioned, bipartisan hard work.

I’m not running for Congress to climb the ladder, and I’m not taking corporate PAC money, so I can be a independent advocate for Eastern Washington families, farms and businesses.

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