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Washington State News

Washington GOP and Democrats Focus on Economy Ahead of State Primaries

Photo by Tim Gruver/The Center Square

(The Center Square) – With Washington state’s primary election less than a week away, Thursday’s news that the U.S. economy shrank for a second consecutive quarter – the traditional definition of a recession – increased the intensity of the spotlight already on the Evergreen State’s economy.

The U.S. economy contracted 0.9% from April through June. During the previous quarter – January through March – the national economy contracted 1.6%.

Not surprisingly, the state Republican and Democratic parties had differing interpretations of what that means.

The Washington State Republican Party punched up in its response, putting out a statement critical of President Joe Biden for the high gas prices and record-breaking inflation Washingtonians and Americans are enduring.

“The Biden Administration has, for political reasons, decided to declare that we are not in a recession,” the statement reads. “This kind of gaslighting and lying has become a common feature of the Biden administration.”

The Biden administration has been saying the country is in a “transition” period, not a recession. Officials have been arguing that there are more factors to consider beyond gross domestic product, like the country’s high job growth and low unemployment rate, which are typically indications of a strong economy.

“This administration is incredibly dishonest,” Washington State Republican Party Chair Caleb Heimlich said in the statement. “When the price of gas goes down, President Biden and the Democrats all take a victory lap, but when the prices go up, they tell you that the President doesn’t control the price of gas – and then go on to blame gas and oil CEOs for the rising prices; despite canceling the Keystone XL Pipeline, holding back new drilling permits, and halting lease sales on Federal lands. The Biden administration and their Democrat allies in Congress including [U.S. Rep.] Kim Schrier and [U.S. Sen.] Patty Murray will be held accountable by the voters in November.”

The statement goes on to note, “Republicans repeatedly warned Democrats and this Administration that unbridled spending would lead to runaway inflation.”

The Center Square reached out to several Washington Democrats – and even the Democratic National Committee – for comment on the Washington State Republican Party’s statement.

The only response received was from state Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, whose current term ends in January 2025. She said Washington’s economy was doing well, given the circumstances.

“The most recent economic forecasts for Washington State are not doom and gloom,” Rolfes, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, said via email. “Here’s a link to the economic report and forecasts for our state’s economy from June.”

The link to last month’s revenue review from the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council details a nearly $1.5 billion increase in revenue for the current biennium.

The positive revenue forecast stems in large part from an increase of 60,100 jobs in Washington since the February revenue forecast, as well as an apparent slowdown in COVID-19 cases.

The forecast also notes the state’s 3.9% unemployment rate for May was down from April’s 4.1% unemployment rate.

Rolfes also pointed out some good economic news for Washington from a prominent basic cable business news channel.

“Our state was ranked #2 in the country for doing business last week by CNBC,” she noted.

(The study came out on July 13.)

That’s not to say Rolfes is indifferent to the state of the economy.

“Certainly we have challenges ahead,” she said.

Washington’s primary election is on Aug. 2.

The top-two primary format means the two candidates, regardless of party, who receive the most votes will move on to the general election on Nov. 8.

This election cycle, all 98 House seats are up for election, as are 23 of 49 Senate seats.