Washington State’s budget expenditures are incredibly transparent. Even individual checks are searchable online. That same sort of open, ubiquitous, analytical integrity is absent from the other side of the ledger. Our tax breaks are almost entirely opaque. Less than 5 percent of Washington’s 650-plus tax exemptions disclose both the recipients and the financial value claimed.
To be truly philosophically consistent, we need to apply the same rigorous, transparent analysis we use for expenditures to tax exemptions. If an exemption is working — and you can make the business case to the public with solid data, facts and evidence as well as political support — we should keep it working to build our economy and quality job growth.
The fundamental systems issue we face is how to reconcile both sides of the budget and have a more rigorous conversation about the tax side of the ledger. As chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am working with colleagues to tackle complex policy issues and improve the level of analytical, financial and intellectual rigor around our state’s tax and budget policies.
Truly reconciling the cognitive dissonance between our transparent expenditures and complete denial about tax preferences can only be achieved by elevating the public conversation.
And that’s where Crosscut comes in.
Crosscut is absolutely essential in driving the public dialogue around tax preferences and so many other issues. It provides valuable, thoughtful context in near real time. The prolific, original, on-the-ground reporting is an incredible resource, and one that I use on a regular basis — both as a citizen and a policymaker.
Our democratic republic can only flourish with an engaged, informed citizenry. And that level of engagement is only possible with a thriving fourth estate. The people of Washington State are incredibly fortunate to be served by such an outstanding publication like Crosscut, particularly when the Olympia press corps has been decimated in recent years.
Thank you for your exceptional reporting, Crosscut!