OLYMPIA -- Some large companies would have to reveal how much their tax preferences are worth under a bill the House approved Tuesday.
On a mostly partisan 52-45 vote, the House approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring publicly traded companies in 32 different tax preferences to reveal to the public how much they pay in state taxes.
Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle and chairman of the House Finance Committee, said the public can go on the internet and find out how the state spends its money but "the other side of the ledger is dark" because it doesn't know where the money comes from.
"We have the right to know the value of a tax preference," Carlyle said.
Washington's unusual tax system, which relies heavily on the business and occupation tax on a company's gross receipts, is different from many states that tax profits. The system has some 650 different exemptions, exclusions and credits for the B&O, sales or use taxes, approved over the years by the Legislature.
"This tax code is nothing more than 100 years of random acts of kindness," Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Olympia said.
But Republicans argued the bill could discourage new businesses from coming to the state or convince existing businesses to leave rather than reveal confidential information that could be used by their competitors.
"Sometimes information can be used as a weapon," Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said arguing the bill didn't have enough safeguards to protect small businesses.