‘Freedom Fund’ stimulus plan puts emphasis on people, not government
- Freedom Caucus lays out priorities for spending federal funds
- One-time money should be used for one-time purposes
- Investments should benefit people, not bureaucracy or special interests
OLYMPIA – Federal COVID-19 stimulus money ought to go where it will do the most good for the people of the state of Washington – not to prop up bureaucracy or reward political special-interest groups, say members of the Senate Freedom Caucus.
Freedom Caucus members held a news conference Tuesday morning to announce spending priorities for money Washington will receive as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package approved by Congress last week. The Freedom Caucus laid out principles and offered specific suggestions.
“Make no mistake, this bill was packed with pork,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. “But if we’re going to get this money, we need to make sure it is used wisely. We can’t use it to reduce taxes. If we have to spend it, we should reserve it for one-time investments for the people, not for bureaucracy or for politically powerful special interests. We need to start this discussion now, because if we don’t, we can be sure this money will disappear into the mud of the Olympia swamp – and the people won’t have anything to show for it.”
Ericksen was joined at Tuesday’s news conference by fellow Freedom Caucus members Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, and Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn.
The ‘Freedom Fund’ stimulus plan follows these basic principles:
1. COVID needs take top priority. These include state programs designed to assist with vaccinations and other medical needs.
2. One-time expenses should be the emphasis, rather than launching or expanding programs that would burden the state year after year. Possible spending areas include a big investment in transportation – road construction and maintenance – reducing the need for a new gas-tax increase.
3. Washington should invest in people, not government. Spending priorities include:
- Eliminating day-use fees in state parks for 10 years.
- Cutting state camping fees by 50 percent.
- Cutting hunting and fishing license fees by 50 percent.
- Programs to promote school choice – including home schooling and remote learning.
4. The needs of the most vulnerable should be addressed. One-time funding gaps in state programs for the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled should be a priority.
Freedom Caucus members voiced support for the plan.
“As of late, Olympia’s spending habits are out of control and the infusion of billions of dollars from the latest federal stimulus must not be squandered,” Fortunato said. “Our plan calls for targeted use of the unexpected resources for COVID-related expenses that will benefit the people of Washington. We can’t allow these funds to be spent on growing an already bloated state government, creating new programs or make commitments we won’t be able to pay for down the road. Whether it’s state or federal money, it all comes out of the same wallet.”
Padden described the Freedom Caucus proposal as a blueprint and statement of principles and priorities, not simply a list of budget items.
“One of the biggest disappointments of this pandemic was the failure of Governor Jay Inslee to involve the Legislature, as an equal branch of government, when making vital decisions about the priorities of Washingtonians,” explained Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “These are not just the priorities of the Freedom Caucus; this plan represents the priorities of Washington families, employers, workers, and communities. Parents want the opportunity to send their children to the best possible school that works for their family – regardless of their zip code. They want one-time money wisely invested in one-time uses that won’t set them up for huge tax increases in the future. And there is no desire to grow government on the backs of the next generation.
“This is a blueprint for moving forward, and we welcome continuing this conversation and hearing from other legislators on behalf of the taxpayers they have been elected to represent.”