Same-sex marriage will boost the State of Washington’s budget by $3.9 million to $5.7 million annually, according to a study released today by the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law. Savings in means-tested public benefits programs and an increase in tax revenue from same-sex weddings and wedding-related expenditures account for the windfall for Washington’s budget.
“Policymakers sometimes worry that the state will take a budget hit if same-sex couples can marry,” noted Dr. M. V. Lee Badgett, study co-author and research director of the Williams Institute. “We found just the opposite—the state gains dramatically if same-sex couples have access to marriage. Any increases in state spending on state employee benefits or on tax breaks for married couples will have only a tiny impact.”
The study predicts that Washington’s wedding-related businesses will see a $63 million annual increase in demand. Almost 8,000 same-sex couples in Washington are likely to marry, and many other same-sex couples will travel to Washington to marry. Each year the state will see an extra $4 million in retail sales tax revenues from these new weddings. This finding echoes Forbes Magazine’s estimate that if same-sex marriage were legalized across the U.S., gay and lesbian weddings would generate $16.8 billion in spending during the first several years.
The other major budgetary benefit for Washington will result from the State treating same-sex and different-sex married couples equally under public assistance programs such as Medicaid and TANF. Extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples will mean that the income of a person’s same-sex married partner will be included when determining eligibility for such programs. Even if only a small percentage of individuals living with partners marry and become ineligible for benefits, the State will save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, noted Badgett.
“This study comes to the same conclusion as at least ten other studies conducted over the last decade,” said Brad Sears, co-author of the study and executive director of UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute. In addition to a series of studies by the Williams Institute, similar analyses have been performed by the Congressional Budget Office, the Comptroller of New York, the Office of Legislative Research of the Connecticut General Assembly, and the Vermont Civil Union Review Commission. “All of these studies have shown that recognizing the rights of same-sex couples will have a positive impact on federal or state budgets,” said Sears.
The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers other policy makers and the public.
This study can be accessed at the Williams Institute website.
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