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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 8, 2009 at 4:00 PM

State budget woes and tax proposals

Taxing the rich has a groundswell of support

I just read Andrew Garber’s article “Obstacles challenge proposals to tax rich” [page one, April 3].

The obstacles are overblown, such as his assertion that advocating taxing millionaires to pay for public services is “risky” for the Democrats. Taxing the rich wouldn’t even be on the table unless there was a groundswell of popular support for it. Elected officials should be eager to get that kind of support.

But maybe what Garber means is the risk that the rich might withhold campaign contributions from politicians who want to tax them. Well, good riddance! We would all be better off without the undue influence that their money buys in legislative chambers. We need public funding of elections instead.

In hard times like this, legislators need to worry less about re-election and more about funding education and other vital public services. A steeply graduated, high-threshold tax on income of the 130,000 Washington households earning more than $1 million a year would go a long way toward solving the state’s budget crisis and growing humanitarian problems.

The alternative — imposing more regressive taxes on the cash-strapped working-class majority — presents a genuine risk to legislators. It will spark a righteous, grass-roots political backlash from those who already face layoffs, social-service cuts, wage freezes and the loss of health-care coverage.

— Fred Hyde, Seattle

Tax will inevitably increase

No, no, no. Never, never, never to an income tax! There is no way the people of this state should vote in an income tax.

The current proposals floated in the Legislature are only an attempt to get the camel’s nose under the tent. Once the Legislature got a small-percentage income tax voted in, very soon afterward the percentage would increase forever and none of the taxes we currently pay would ever be rescinded or reduced. If you want a fair system of taxation, change the current system and don’t even think of adding on an income tax. A tax on consumption would be fairer system, if crafted correctly.

No income tax will ever stay low; it will inevitably rise with the whim of the Legislature or governor. No tax on the books now will be removed, only increased.

— Bill Davis, Kingston

The best option under a cloud of budget cuts

Good to see a few legislators dare to mention that novel concept, tax the rich. This is just what state workers demanded on Presidents Day when they rallied in Olympia.

Most everyone is living under a cloud of threatened budget cuts. Millions of people in Washington state will lose health care, schooling, public transportation, child care, even a roof over their heads.

The Seattle Times editorial board rejects taxing the wealthy to avoid this suffering. Instead, it advocates eliminating the General Assistance Unemployable program for the sick and disabled [“State should shift cuts in education to less-urgent programs,” editorial, April 6].

The Times’ response to 8,000 state employees losing their jobs is equally coldhearted: Hit those who remain employed with increased medical-insurance premiums and co-pays, on top of the pay freezes and furloughs they already face.

Legislators have got to grab hold of a little courage and stop thinking about all the obstacles to taxing the rich — those 130,000 millionaire households in the state, and who knows how many billionaire corporations. The next step is simple.

Hey, lawmakers! Make some laws to tax the income of the really rich, the top 5 percent. Cancel the budget cuts that affect the welfare and health of everyone else.

— Monica Hill, Seattle

A fair way to redistribute tax burden

Letter writer Erik Cullen is concerned that an income tax would cause entrepreneurs to choose cities in Texas, Arizona or Florida over Washington state [“State income tax: will deter entrepreneurs,” Northwest Voices, April 5]. Two of these states, Arizona and Florida, tax income. Arizona taxes both personal and corporate income. Florida has a corporate net-income tax.

And Cullen apparently didn’t check Washington’s treatment of corporate income before choosing Seattle and starting a business. Although Washington doesn’t have a net corporate tax, it does have a business and occupation tax. He will pay a tax on gross income even if his business should not be profitable.

It’s commendable that Cullen has contributed his time and expertise to Habitat for Humanity. But he might give some consideration to the tax burden of the people who will live in the homes he helps construct, as well as to his own. They are presumably low-income families who, under our tax system, will pay a sales tax on all of the articles they buy to furnish their new home, as well as their kids’ clothes and other personal necessities.

Our high sales tax, now almost 10 percent, and the gross business tax are two important reasons to reform our tax structure in order to redistribute the tax burden more fairly.

— Dick Nelson, Seattle

Cannot balance budget on the backs of the highly vulnerable

An editorial Monday [“State should shift cuts in education to less-urgent programs,” Opinion, April 6] argues that General Assistance Unemployable (GAU) funding should be eliminated and shifted to education. United Way of King County is acutely aware of the importance of investing in education — early learning is one of our top priorities — but we challenge the assertion that money for education must come from a program that serves many of our communities’ most vulnerable adults.

GAU provides medical benefits and monthly grants of $339 to 16,000 people in Washington who have become unable to work due to long-term mental or physical impairments. These small grants are often a sole source of income. Many recipients share rooms, live part-time in shelters, are in public housing or already live on the streets. GAU represents the final thread of an already frayed safety net.

While eliminating GAU represents a cost savings on paper, in reality it transfers costs to more expensive remedial efforts.

If GAU is eliminated, already-tenuous housing arrangements will fall apart, the need for shelter beds will increase, health issues will become more acute and take more emergency care, and more people, now desperate, will find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Cutting GAU — like neglecting education — will ultimately cost far more than it saves.

Hard choices face the Legislature, to be certain, but neither balancing the budget on the backs of school-aged children nor on highly vulnerable adults is acceptable.

— Vince Matulionis, director, Homelessness Initiative, United Way of King County

Comments | More in Recession, Taxes, Washington Legislature


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