OLYMPIA -- Democrats on the House Finance Committee approved a $900 million package of tax increases this morning designed to pay for increases in public school programs. Republicans voted no, saying the state should increase money for schools without raising taxes.
On an 8-5 vote, the committee approved House Bill 2038, which ends some business tax exemptions, shrinks others and extends some taxes passed in 2010 as temporary.But first they pared back some of the increases they originally proposed, dropping new or extended taxes on beer, insurance agents, stevedores and janitors.
Money raised from those tax changes would go into a trust fund to pay for changes in the state's public education system, which the state Supreme Court has said must be improved.
"We have tough, difficult choices," Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said. "We're asking everyone to contribute to our quality of life."
But Rep. Terry Nealy, R-Dayton, said the committee was "taking a butcher knife to these businesses, rather than a scalpel. We're picking winners and losers among our businesses."
He and other Republicans also noted the Senate budget spends an extra $1 billion on public schools without raising taxes.
"We don't need new taxes to balance our budget," Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said. "It's the courage to fund education first and say no to some other people that we need."
Republicans also tried unsuccessfully to add a clause requiring the tax increases to be sent to voters in November. Carlyle argued it was the role of the Legislature to close tax exemptions it has approved over the years that may no longer be working as they were initially intended.
The bill now goes to the House for a vote sometime later this week.