Like "Rashomon", Olympia's budget truth depends on whom you ask

By John Stang
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Kurosawa's classic about four different versions of the same event. Sound familiar?

By John Stang

Olympia's state budget talks are like Rashomon.

The 1950 Japanese film has four people telling radically different stories about the same crime — the truth remains subjective, self-serving and murky.

Olympia's Rashomon finds Senate Republicans, House Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee with different takes on whether progress is being made on the sluggish budget talks, which appear on track to linger into June.

Inslee believes the talks are still slow. On Tuesday, he said the House Democrats need to trim some of their proposed tax increases and tax break closures, and that Republicans need to back off their hardcore no-new-taxes stance. "Both sides will have to compromise," he said.

The governor is still relatively bullish on a capital gains tax for the state's wealthiest earners and a tax on carbon emissions to cut pollution and help fund education. Reading between the lines, the Democratic governor's personal preference seems to be to give ground to Republicans on some of the proposed tax break closures, or on raising the business-and-occupation tax on service firms.

Inslee believes the Democrats can ease up on the tax issue because a new state government revenue forecast predicted $327 million in additional tax revenue for 2015-2017 and $79 million more for 2013-2015 than what was estimated in late March, when Republicans and Democrats first unveiled their 2015-2017 budget proposals. The state also expects more than $100 million extra in federal money to materialize for 2015-2017.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler (below), R-Ritzville, said Tuesday that budget "negotiations are going quite well." The state shows $1.1 billion in unexpected revenue for 2015-2017, according to Schoesler, GOP Caucus Chair Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, and GOP Floor Leader Sen. Joe Fain, R- Auburn. That figure comes from extra money in the 2013-2015 and 2015-2017 tax revenue forecasts that were unveiled in February and this month — and the $100 million in extra federal money and some other new funds.

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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8