Posts tagged: taxes
The House will hold its first hearing Friday morning on a proposal to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for health care by boosting the sales tax about a third of a cent for three years. But as Olympia struggles to agree on a major tax plan to send to voters in November, they’re also talking about a lot of small things that will never appear on any ballot — but that are still likely to cost you.
Click the link below to read the story.
In a scene replicated throughout the state today, a small group of state workers held a rally on the muddy capitol lawn today, calling on lawmakers to look at raising taxes to offset some deep budget cuts.
“Hey hey, ho ho, an all-cuts budget’s got to go,” they chanted.
Given Washington’s $8.5 billion budget shortfall, state workers have virtually no hope of getting the 2 percent cost of living increases they’d expected for this year and next. At this point, they’re more trying to protect state jobs, programs and services.
“The only thing we’re concerned about is what is quality of life going to look like under an all-cuts budget,” said the Washington Federation of State Employees’ Carol Dotlich.
Instead of a much bigger capitol rally, the union slated more than 60 similar events Tuesday across the state. Executive director Greg Devereux said the federation felt it was more important to relay the message from as many lawmakers’ districts as possible.
Apparently getting the message were local Rep. Sam Hunt and Sen. Karen Fraser.
Hunt, who noted that state lawmakers are state employees too, said the upcoming budget plan will be “drastic,” and that he’s lobbying to layoff to start at the top, with supervisors. This drew a cheer.
“And as a last resort, we reduce line workers,” he said. “…because that is the guts and glory of state service.”
Fraser told the workers that it’s important to get out the message of how critical state services are.
“It’s very important that people understand this,” she said. “…Once these horrible cuts come out, you’re going to hear people talking about how important you are.”
A few hundred yards away, a smaller group of anti-tax advocates held a “Push back, no tax” rally of their own. With families across the state struggling with their budgets, people can’t afford more taxes, said the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Amber Gunn.
“It’s not an ideal world. This is reality,” she said. State revenue over the next two years is still forecast to increase — albeit barely — she said. And her side argues that the term “all-cuts” is misleading when the state will actually collect slightly more money than in the last two years.
“A reduction in an increase is not the same thing as a real decrease,” said Gunn.
Both sides plan more — and bigger — rallies in the coming weeks.
A group of health- and education groups have each kicked in $20,000 each to pay for polls and focus groups to figure out which tax increases would have the best chance with voters. The group has no name, but contributors include the state hospital association, community clinics, Group Health, the Washington Education Association and SEIU, according to Cassie Sauer, spokeswoman for the hospital association.
“All of us felt that the (state budget) cuts, without revenue, are so devastating, especially to health care and education, that it would be irreponsible, immoral and unconscionable to not consider whether we could raise revenues,” Sauer said.
She wouldn’t share the polling data, but said that the results, gathered over the past month, suggest that the public has no idea how deep state budget cuts could go. When told, she said, voters seem willing to pay for some taxes to offset those cuts.
The groups have aimed for about $2 billion in new money, asking people how they feel about certain cuts and certain taxes. Sin taxes — cigarettes, alcohol, candy, gum — seem acceptable, Sauer said.
They didn’t even try asking about a property tax hike, she said. “I don’t think that’s going to be on the table at all,” Sauer said. People are too concerned about losing their homes, she said.
Voters were somewhat willing to consider a sales tax increase, she said.
Interestingly, when the focus groups were asked what might be cut, the only thing most could cite was the recent decision to close some driver-licensing offices.
“People have no clue what the cuts are that are being considered,” she said. “They’re aware that there’s a huge budget shortfall, but they don’t know what’s at risk. When they hear what’s at risk, they’re stunned.”
Sauer said that lawmakers were briefed on the results over the weekend.
“They are definitely interested,” she said.
Lawmakers have repeatedly said that if they decide to try to offset deep budget cuts with a tax hike, they’ll put the proposal before voters. Sauer said the coalition is also preparing for a campaign to convince voters to back such a measure.
Worried about “fly-by-night roofers, unlicensed movers and fake mortgage brokers,” among others, the state Department of Revenue has set up a website where you can quickly check to see if a business is licensed, has paid its taxes, and find out where to get help if you’ve been defrauded.
In a press release, Gov. Chris Gregoire said the idea is to get people to “check with the state before it’s too late. We don’t want your pain to be their gain.”
State officials estimate that the underground economy costs the state treasury $457 million a year, with more than a third of that loss from contractors. Much of the loss comes from businesses that are happy to charge their customers sales tax — and then keep the money. (That’s a felony.)
The new website’s called www.suspectfraud.com.