The way around Inslee: voters

Democratic legislators are exploring how to raise more revenue despite the incoming governor's campaign pledges to oppose tax increases.
State Sen. Ed Murray

State Sen. Ed Murray Washington Legislature

Top Democratic legislators are looking for ways around incoming Gov. Jay Inslee's campaign promise to veto general any tax increases.

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle and Senate Democratic caucus leader, said Friday that tax bills in the upcoming legislative session will likely be written so they will go to public referendums.

At a CityClub preview of the legislative session, Murray and three other top legislators all indicated Friday that they believe Gov.-elect Jay Inslee will stick to his campaign promise not to raise taxes. The others were House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, House Republican Floor Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, and incoming Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue and leader of a Republican-oriented coalition that will assume control of the Senate on Monday.

After the CityClub session, Murray said the way to deal with Inslee's no-new-taxes promise is to design any tax bill so it will be sent to a public vote in the fall. "That's the hand that we've been dealt," he said.

Also afterward, Chopp said: "We're working on something" to deal with Inslee's stance. He declined to elaborate.

Inslee, House Republicans and Tom's 23-Republican-two-Democrat Senate alliance say they won't allow tax increases. Legislative Democrats argue that new taxes are needed if the state meets its education obligations without gutting health and human services programs. Wilcox said that House Republicans intend to help Inslee keep his campaign promise.

The Legislature faces a potential $2.5 to $3 billion revenue shortfall during the 2013-2015 biennium, which includes the additional funding needed to adequately pay for K-12 education, as ordered by a Washington Supreme Court ruling. Republicans say an extra $924 million in education spending is needed in 2013-2015 to meet the Supreme Court's ruling, while Democrats say it's likely to be $1.4 billion. Between 2011 and 2013 the state will have spent $13.65 billion of a $32 billion operations budget for K-12 education. Inslee puts the education shortfall at about $1 billion.

Republicans and Democrats pin some hope for tax revenues on Congress repealing parts of a 1998 federal law that prohibits states from collecting sales taxes from online businesses — which could provide an extra $384 million to $500 million to Washington in 2013-2015.

Democrats have already floated some trial balloons on potential new taxes that might be considered, including taxes on corporate carbon emissions, capital gains, wholesale fuel sales, gum, candy and soda. A 5 percent capital gains tax on more than the first $10,000 in earning could raise $650 million to $1.4 billion. Expiring taxes that could be renewed include a beer tax, a hospital beds tax and a 0.3 percent business and occupation services surcharge — measures that could raise $650 million to $912 million a year.

In a related matter, a trial balloon by Tom to trim the Guaranteed Education Tuition program — dubbed  "GET" — received a major setback Friday. At the CityClub forum, where a series of questions were answered via flash cards during a "lightning round," Murray and Wilcox held up cards to indicate they opposed Tom's proposal, while Chopp held up two cards to indicate opposition and waffling.

At a Thursday Associated Press forum, Tom proposed cutting the GET program to help tackle the overall budget shortfall without raising taxes. The GET program allows families to pay for state university tuitions in segments years in advance of a child actually attending college, with the program — not the child's parents — compensating for increased tuition.

John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Sun, Jan 13, 7:41 a.m. Inappropriate

"Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle and Senate Democratic caucus leader, said Friday that tax bills in the upcoming legislative session will likely be written so they will go to public referendums."

Which is yet another example of Murray's lack of leadership. If this is truely his strategy, why do his constituents need him? Perhaps he should resign and run for Mayor full time.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 1:50 p.m. Inappropriate

I am a Democrat. More to the point, I am a Democrat who lives in rural Snohomish County. Culturally, far, far away from the 43rd Legislative in Seattle.

In my precinct, Lake Howard, 1185 (Eyman) wins 324 to 155. This means you need a 2/3rd Majority to raise taxes.

Obama won my precinct 262 to 220. Gay marriage failed, 224 to 261, Pot passed 248 to 238, McKenna beat Inslee 260 to 228.

I admire Senator Murray and his leadership on R 74, which I supported,
but I DO NOT understand his continuing to seek more tax revenue.

Right now. he's wasting his time.

Write a budget. Realistically,, its probably going to be a down payment on McCleary. Develop some different scenarios, explore the tradeoffs. Consider the compromises: What you win, what you don't get.

It will be far from a perfect result, but if you've got 25 votes in the Senate, pass the damn thing.

It's up to Inslee to get you 50 votes in the House. Then you go home.

Ross Kane
Warm Beach

Ross

Posted Mon, Jan 14, 2:24 p.m. Inappropriate

[Revenue] != [Taxes]


Why is it that the Democrats in power in DC as well as Olympia are wedded to the concept of the economy as a zero-sum game? This mindset is what keeps the economy bouncing along the bottom both at home and nationally. A prosperous economy generates wealth. Wealth created generates revenue for government. When the government tries to take more out of the economy than the economy can accommodate (nationally, the government's take of GDP is the highest since WWII) capital goes on strike and the economy founders. If government at both the state and national level will just learn the discipline the leave the hell well enough alone, the economy will start recover and revenue will as a result increase. Beyond that, government can keep raising taxes, but it will gain very little more revenue, because more and more economic activity will retreat to the safety of black and gray markets. The government cannot pummel the economy into recovery, and more government is a luxury we cannot now afford.

dbreneman

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »