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August 28, 2013 at 4:48 PM
Consumers in Washington state pay the fourth highest sales taxes in the country, according to a new data from the Tax Foundation.
The report on combined state and local sales taxes put Washington’s average rate at 8.87 percent — a 6.5 percent state tax plus an average 2.37 percent local tax rate. In Seattle, the standard local rate is 3.0 percent, including 0.4 percent to the regional transit authority.
Washington’s combined average rate placed behind only Tennessee (9.44 percent), Arkansas (9.18 percent) and Louisiana (8.89 percent), according to the nonpartisan national think tank.
The outcome is no surprise, given that Washington is one of nine states without an individual income tax (Tennessee is another). But local Republicans still seized on the study as evidence that the sales tax should be lowered.
“We should continue to find opportunities to provide relief and create some incentives to our businesses to promote good economic growth and jobs,” said state Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, the ranking Republican on the state House Budget Committee. “This continued push to increase that sales tax would just do more to discourage economic growth in our state.”
Democratic state Rep. Reuven Carlyle disagreed, citing recent state Department of Revenue information that ranked Washington 36th for overall state and local tax burden when compared to income.
“Because we’re one of the only states in the country without an income tax, of course we have a high reliance on sales taxes, so this is hardly an intellectually interesting sliver of news,” Carlyle, D-Seattle, the chairman of the state House Finance Committee, wrote in an email. “The more substantive question is whether we are on the path toward being a low tax, low service, low quality of life state because of our reluctance to invest adequate resources in public education, transportation, universities, parks, Puget Sound cleanup and more. We’re among the most educated, engaged, progressive and courageous 21st Century states, yet our tax policy is frozen in a 20th Century patchwork of inefficiency.”
Three states do not have any state or local sales taxes, according to the Tax Foundation: Oregon, Delaware and New Hampshire. Alaska and Montana do not have a state sales tax but do have local sales taxes.
June 27, 2013 at 2:04 PM
A plan to increase gas taxes 10.5 cents over the next year just passed the Washington state House of Representatives in a 51-41 vote, a day after the same bill failed.
The increase, along with boosts in car and truck weight fees, would support most of a 10-year, $10.04 billion package of highway expansions, ferry funding, maintenance, and bicycle-pedestrian projects.
House Bill 1954 would also allow King County to send to the ballot a car-tab tax increase of up to $150 per $10,000 of vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for Metro Transit, and 40 percent for city and county roads.
However, the bill will face turbulence in the Senate, where several Republicans either oppose the taxes, or oppose a $433 million payment toward the $3.5 billion I-5 Columbia River Crossing, between Vancouver and Portland. The CRC bridge plan includes light rail, leading some southwest Washington officials to warn about their constituents being yoked to future operating taxes for Portland-based Tri-Met.
The leading argument Thursday was that highway improvements are needed to sustain trade in Washington state. The largest single item is a $1.45 billion payment toward the “Puget Sound Gateway,” which would build extensions of Highway 167 to the Port of Tacoma, and Highway 509 passing through SeaTac between Seattle and south King County.
“This is a singular moment. This is a time when inaction is a loss of competitiveness,” argued Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo.
Gasoline taxes would increase 6 cents a gallon on Aug. 1, and another 4.5 cents July 1, 2014, if the bill is signed into law.
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, opposed the bill, which would bring state’s total gas tax to 48 cents, compared to 26 cents currently in Idaho. “All this, and all the fees in this bill, are going to make it harder to do business in Washington, and they might as well move 20 miles across the border in Idaho,” he said.
May 6, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Democratic State Rep. Reuven Carlyle released a new state analysis showing King County is a large net exporter of tax dollars to the rest of the state.
Carlyle, of Seattle, contends there’s a misconception in the Legislature and elsewhere “that tax dollars are consumed by city living, whether that’s social programs or subsidizing various services more common in the city. The cold hard reality is that the numbers are the complete opposite of that.”
For example, the analysis indicates Yakima County received $649 million in state expenditures in fiscal year 2011, but generated only $346 million in tax revenue. By comparison, King County received $3.4 billion in state general fund expenditures but generated $5.9 billion in tax revenue, according to the report prepared by the state Office of Financial Management.
Those numbers comes from a composite analysis on page 4 of the report. Carlyle has broached this topic before, but says it’s worth reminding people.
“Here we go into the final budget negotiations and there are these vociferous demands for no new taxes, closing exemptions or anything and yet some of those loudest voices are from those who represent communities who … enjoy a level of spending that they value greatly,” said Carlyle who chairs the House Finance Committee.
The Legislature will go into special session on May 13 to tackle the state budget, among other issues. The key question lawmakers are fighting over is whether to raise additional tax revenue by closing tax breaks or extending existing taxes due to expire this summer.
House and Senate Republicans have argued against any additional tax revenue. The GOP controls the state Senate. Democrats control the House and governor’s office.
Carlyle says that not only have Republicans opposed raising new tax revenue statewide, they’re also arguing against allowing King County to increase taxes locally.
GOP state Rep. Gary Alexander, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee said there’s a hole in Carlyle’s argument, namely that “in terms of the ability of individuals to pay increased taxes the more rural districts are the ones which have the highest unemployment rate … so the imposition of more taxes on … marginal income levels is what I consider to be the more difficult situation.”
Alexander said he understands Carlyle’s point about local option taxes, but voters still view allowing local option taxes as a tax increase, adding “many times we’ve authorized those taxes and they never have done it.”
February 11, 2013 at 7:35 AM
This week, the state House and Senate will discuss a wide variety of bills, ranging from the ever-present topic of education reform to the hot-button issue of gun control.
Monday,, the House Finance Committee will begin to tackle the financial implications of the McCleary decision made last year by the Washington Supreme Court. The Joint Task Force on Education Funding will present its findings and members of the public are invited to comment.
The education reform debate will continue Friday in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. Senators will hear testimony on Senate Bill 5278, which would provide salary bonuses for teachers in high-demand subjects. Math, science and special education teachers would be eligible.
On Tuesday, the House Technology & Economic Development Committee will conduct a public hearing on House Bill 1693 providing tax relief to certain new businesses. Under the bill introduced by Rep. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, the businesses would be able to deduct up to $2 million in business-and-occupation taxes each calendar year.
Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee meeting will feature a hearing on House Bill 1588 requiring background checks for all firearm sales in the state. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and has the support of 37 other lawmakers, including Lake Stevens Republican Mike Hope.
January 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM
Gov. Jay Inslee, during his first news conference as governor, said he’s open to extending temporary taxes due to expire next year as a way to pay for education or help balance the state budget.
Inslee while campaigning for governor vowed not to increase taxes if elected. On Thursday, he said that extending a business and occupation tax and a beer tax would not break his promise.
“I do not believe we would be increasing taxes if we extend the existing tax rates in that regard,” he told reporters. “The reason I believe that is it’s true.
“We would not be increasing taxes for consumers in that regard. That’s something that as an economics major at the University of Washington is pretty clear to me and I think people will come to understand that over time.”
Inslee stressed he’s not advocating for the taxes to be extended, but wants to leave it on the table for lawmakers to consider.
Gov. Chris Gregoire in her final budget released in December advocated extending a 0.3 percent increase to the business and occupation tax paid by doctors, lawyers, accountants and others and a 50-cent-per-gallon tax on beer. The taxes are due to expire next summer.
Gregoire proposed extending both taxes by three and a half years. Keeping in place certain exemptions, the tax extensions would yield $636 million 2013–15 and $565 million in 2015–17.
October 25, 2012 at 3:34 PM
Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday dismissed claims by both gubernatorial candidates that they can put more money into education without increasing taxes.
The governor said in the past that new taxes would be needed, but took time Thursday to dismantle proposals that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee and his Republican opponent Rob McKenna have made.
For example, Gregoire said, streamlining government using the “lean management” principles Inslee has discussed will not free up enough money for education. The governor said she’s already gone that route as a way for state agencies to meet growing demand.
She notes state budget cuts have already eliminated thousands of state jobs, yet the population and need for services keeps growing. Lean management, she said, is a way of “coping with the dramatic cuts” and will not be a way to pay for education.
Gregoire, who has endorsed Inslee, also said the next governor is unlikely to close significant tax breaks, which both candidates have talked about as a way to raise money.
The governor noted she talked about closing tax breaks when she first ran for governor and got almost nowhere. Closing tax breaks requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, which is nearly impossible, she said. Plus, “You will always find a constituency that will say … you’re going to eliminate jobs” if a tax break is eliminated.
She took aim at McKenna’s proposal to fund education by limiting non-education spending to 6 percent increases per biennium. McKenna has said capping non-education spending will shift a growing share of the state budget to schools.
Gregoire said the next governor can’t simply shut the doors to prisons or health care services if they reach their budget cap. “That’s a nice hypothetical. You need to understand as governor you don’t have that much discretion over the budget. When your caseload is what it is, you must fill it,” she said.
The governor said she will have some kind of proposal to raise money in her budget that will be released later this year. The state Department of Revenue is working on several proposals, she said, and no decision has been made.
“I would be remiss to sit here and do nothing about education. I have to, as part of my budget, put forward how I am going to solve what is approximately $1 billion (in additional funding) for the next biennium in K-12 education,” she said.
When asked how she felt about both gubernatorial candidates making budget claims that she considers unworkable, Gregoire noted the date and time she will leave office. “On Jan. 16 at 12:01, welcome to my world.”
October 12, 2012 at 12:16 PM
One of the most newsworthy moments of Thursday night’s gubernatorial debate came after the debate was over.
In a post-debate news conference, Democrat Jay Inslee was pressed on whether he’d veto any tax increases sent to him by the Legislature. It was a logical follow-up for Inslee, who has repeatedly said he does not favor tax increases, but has been challenged on that by Republican Rob McKenna, who predicts Inslee would sign tax increases passed by his Democratic allies in Olympia.
But at the news conference, after dancing around the question for a while, Inslee made a pretty clear promise to veto tax increases.
“I would veto anything that heads the wrong direction and the wrong direction is new taxes in the state of Washington,” Inslee said.
Inslee could be putting himself in a box with that statement, as some top Democrats and education groups have insisted that new taxes are the only realistic way to raise enough money to adequately fund public schools and universities. And Republicans will no doubt remind voters that Democratic candidates for governor have a history of opposing tax increases during their campaigns, only to have a change of heart once in office. (Of course, the last governor to raise the state’s biggest tax source, the sales tax, was a Republican, John Spellman, in the 1980s.)
It’s also worth remembering that Inslee has said he’s against the voter-approved requirement that two-thirds of the Legislature approve any tax increases (that’s up for a vote again this year in Initiative 1185.) He favors a simple majority requirement for taxes.
But after last night, Inslee is solidly on the record. If elected, he’ll have to keep his tax-veto promise or take the heat if he busts it.
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