Fuse members tell legislators to end the Groundhog Day cycle budget deficits by closing tax loopholes.
After four months, three rogue senators, two special legislative sessions, and one all-nighter, we finally have a state budget!
We knew we had our work cut out for us from the beginning. Our state faced another $1.5 billion deficit after three straight years of cutting billions from services for working families. Making matters worse, Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 - bankrolled by oil companies and big banks - requires a 2/3 supermajority vote to pass any new revenue or close tax loopholes.
Despite these challenges, we were able to avoid deep cuts to essential services and made progress closing unjustified tax loopholes. While we’re never satisfied just playing defense, the truth is that we helped prevent things from being much worse.
Here’s our rundown of what happened in Olympia:
The biggest accomplishment of 2012 was passing a historic marriage equality law. Washington was only the seventh state in the country to end discrimination against couples based on who they love. This victory was the product of years of organizing by many of our partners, and Fuse members joined in a big way by taking more than 6,000 actions in support of equality. Unfortunately, far-right groups are collecting signatures to put our marriage equality law on the ballot. If they are successful, we will be working hard to uphold this historic law by approving Referendum 74.
It may not exactly qualify as historic, but we’re very proud that legislators finally closed the infamous tax loophole for Wall Street Banks. This has been one of our top legislative priorities over the last two years. Fuse members’ emails, calls, and lobby visits were critical to making this reform possible.
In the final few hours of negotiations, legislators were also able to pass Rep. Hans Dunshee’s public infrastructure bill that will create 18,000 construction jobs. These investments will help put Washington families back to work and fund long-overdue toxic cleanup, school modernization, and infrastructure improvements.
We also helped advance several other progressive reforms this year and built a foundation for strong reforms next year. Freshman Rep. Laurie Jinkins introduced a bill that would tax capital gains for the wealthiest few in Washington. In addition, Rep. Reuven Carlyle’s bill to sunset all exemptions received a hearing and was widely covered in the media. These bills changed the debate in Olympia about tax loopholes and increased our opportunities for success next year.
It’s hard to get terribly excited about preventing bad things from happening. But after the devastating budget cuts of the last three years, we feel like working families fared as well as we could have hoped for in this budget. The final budget prevented cuts to education, family planning, food assistance, and Disability Lifeline. As the budget and our overall economy continue to improve, we look forward to going on the offensive to pass stronger progressive reforms.
We also helped block efforts to expand coal exports in Washington. Fuse members pitched in to oppose a bill that would have made it easier for developers and big coal companies to start building projects like coal export facilities before public appeals have been reviewed.
The historically bad:
Three Democratic senators joined Republicans to take over the Senate late on a Friday night at the end of session. Their budget cut deeply into education, disability lifeline, childcare for working families, and other essential services. Conservatives’ secret ploy broke trust between legislators, destroyed efforts to forge a true compromise, and drove us into a costly special session. Fuse members sent more than 3,700 emails to legislators in opposition to the conservative budget. Thankfully, progressives were able to defeat the far-right budget in special session and achieve a more acceptable compromise.
While this legislative session was frustrating at times, we were ultimately successful in defeating the conservative senate budget. It also helped make the stakes of the November elections more clear than ever.
When given the opportunity, conservatives passed a budget that showed their true priorities: cutting funding for teachers, kids, health care for working families, and other essential services. At the same time, they prioritized tax loopholes Wall Street Banks and wealthy special interests.
We have an incredible opportunity over the next six months to define what kind of future we want for our state. Do we strengthen working families and create a better future for our kids, or do we let special interests use their deep pockets to rig the system?
This election is an opportunity to hold wealthy special interests accountable and create a better future for our kids. We need to be out there advocating for working families, now through Election Day. Will you join us? Click below to sign up for our 2012 election volunteer team: