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Carlyle argues that researching effective revenue sources — examining new taxes, studying existing taxes plus analyzing granting and closing exemptions — has received token attention in Olympia. As a legislator, Carlyle said, "My biggest shock and frustration and discomfort is on the lack of intellectual rigor on the tax and income side."
For example, Carlyle sees very little information on whether specific tax exemptions actually help the economy. He wants to install automatic expiration dates on all tax exemptions with return-on-investment studies done on each before it can be renewed.
That raises big-picture questions on what Washingtonians want their government to provide. "Do we want the lowest tax rates and the lowest [level of] services ... or moderate taxes with premiere services?" Carlyle said.
At the Dec.13 conference, Hunter said: "Building an economy is not just based on low taxes. If that is so, then Uzbekistan would win."
On his blog, Carlyle recently wrote: "Washington state ranks 28th in the nation in combined local and state tax obligations. At 9.3 percent of income, according to the generally conservative, but well-respected Tax Foundation, it is easy to make a policy case that this is not a wildly unreasonable burden. In 1977, Washington ranked 31st in the nation with a 9.6 percent of income level of taxation. A never-ending, parallel political question, of course, is where citizens are receiving value for their precious tax dollar."
Carlyle does not have any specific tax increases or tax exemptions in mind to send to the full House, but wants all options examined. He said, "I don't have an intended outcome in mind. ... My mission is to present a robust menu" of revenue options to the House.
Politically, Washingtonians have sent mixed signals — wanting state government to tackle a lot, but not to spend lots of money to do so. "We like to elect liberals on [fiscally conservative] leashes," Davis said.
Matt Barretto, a University of Washington associate professor of political science, said at the December conference that a UW poll of voters in October found that 13 percent of the respondents wanted the budget holes fixed with only tax increases, 40 percent wanted it fixed with only tax cuts, and 37 percent wanted a mix of tax increases and budget cuts.
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