Posts tagged: taxes
OLYMPIA – There is so much talk in legislative debates of the need to level the playing field that one wonders if an army of bulldozers should be dispatched to sporting facilities around the state.
Such leveling is almost always a major part of any call for tax breaks, whether it's for server farms or border-community retail stores. But the playing fields for alcohol sales are apparently the most cattywampus, judging from efforts to “tweak” Initiative 1183.
You remember I-1183, the initiative that was going to lower the price of hooch and make everyone happy by getting government out of the liquor business and letting the marketplace take control?. . .
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OLYMPIA — A unanimous Senate voted to bar tax breaks for the state's fledgling marijuana businesses.
On a 47-0 vote, it passed SB 6505, which says the state's new marijuana entrepreneurs who have filed for licenses to grow, process and sell recreational marijuana won't be eligible for various tax preferences that other businesses might enjoy.
Marijuana is not an agricultural commodity, and growers won't get certain tax breaks farmers who grow other crops receive. The bill excludes marijuana and marijuana-infused products from which eliminates the ability for persons in that industry to take advantage of tax breaks for agriculture. Marijuana businesses will also be ineligible for eight B&O tax preferences; 16 sales and use tax preferences; four additional excise tax preferences; and four property tax preferences, two for real property and two for personal property.
The bill was sent to the House.
OLYMPIA — A bill to give all businesses in Washington the same low Business and Occupation Tax rate, cutting some $1.8 billion out of state coffers next year, is a bad idea several people told the House Finance Committee.
Including the bill's sponsor, Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland.
Haler said he proposed HB 2110 after last fall's special session to extend tax preferences to Boeing in an effort to land the production facilities for a new jetliner. “A lot of people are saying 'Why can't we have the Boeing deal?'” Haler told the committee.
Among those wondering most were farmers, who Haler said were “just scraping by” and who some members of the Legislature “are trying to get at” because they think farmers are wealthy.
Haler's bill would make almost every business's B&O tax rate .29 percent of gross receipts. The state currently has 12 different rates across 51 business classifications with many paying between .47 percent and 1.5 percent.
But Haler's bill would more than double the rate of .13 percent that farmers currently pay, Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said.
Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, asked if Haler had any ideas on how the state would replace an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue in fiscal 2015 and $4.1 billion in the following two years.
No, said Haler. “I Would never advocate an income tax. There are probably other options out there.”
The proposal also doesn't address all the tax exemptions and breaks the state has written into its tax code, Rep. Gerry Pollet, R-Seattle, said.
Haler agreed: “The state shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers.”
Such a major change in tax policy probably can't be done in a short 60-day session, he said, but the Legislature should at least consider a special study of equalizing the B&O tax rate.
Washington state has the sixth best structure for business taxes in the country, the Tax Foundation said.
In its annual report on state tax “climates”, the foundation gave Washington high marks…as it usually does.
This may surprise people who have heard the business community complain about the state’s tax structure or notice that pro-business groups often give campaign money to candidates who vow to change it. . .
What legislators do with that knowledge is pretty much up to them, because the taxes are already law, and the election itself won’t change that. . .
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A new survey suggests Washington voters would rather the Legislature cut spending than raise taxes, the folks at Moore Information say.
Wow. Bet you didn't see that coming. (Next week, Moore will poll people on whether they'd rather have rain or sunshine tomorrow.)
As with most polls, it's not just the overall results that matter, but what questions were asked, and how strongly people feel about them. . .
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Washington beer drinkers pay a higher tax than any state west of the Mississippi in the continental U.S.
So says the Tax Foundation in its weekly map feature that shows various tax rates.
The rate in Washington is 76 cents per gallon, which is eighth highest in the nation. Alaska and Hawaii are higher, but all the states around Washington are significantly lower.
The listed rate includes the temporary tax set to expire on June 30. Some folks in the Legislature were considering making that tax permanent, but the beer tax extension was pulled from the most recent tax proposal in the House of Representatives.
If that tax goes away, the beer tax will go down to about 26 cents per gallon, which would still make Washington the highest in the region, but bring it down to about 25th in the nation.
OLYMPIA — Democrats in the House pushed through a $900 million package of tax changes they say is designed to improve public schools, but Republicans insisted were job-killers.
On a 50-47 vote, it passed and sent to the Senate a bill that repeals or narrows nine tax preferences and extends a business tax increase on some professional services. The Senate has already passed a general operating budget with no new taxes, so this sets the stage for full-blown budget negotiations over the next four days, and possibly longer.
The 105-day legislative session ends Sunday. If a budget compromise is not reached and passed in both houses by then, a special session will be needed.
Under orders from the state Supreme Court to improve the public schools, House Democrats said they should expand education programs in part by closing or shrinking some tax preferences, credits or exemptions.
“I don't like the business and occupation tax, but what I like even less is is an uneducated work force,” Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, said.
But the state expects to collect some $2 billion more in revenue from existing taxes in 2013-15 than it did over the last two years, Republicans said. It doesn't need new taxes to spend more on schools. But some businesses that rely on those tax breaks are existing on thin margins and may close.
“The best thing we can do for children who are at risk… is make sure their parents have jobs that support them,” Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, said.
The money raised by the changes in tax exemptions and an extension of what was instituted in 2010 as a temporary tax would go into a trust fund for education programs. The Legislature should have the courage to vote yes for the state's children, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said.
“We could have solved this entire thing if we had funded education first… or if we live within our means,” Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley said.
OLYMPIA — The House is debating a package of tax changes that would raise about $900 million over the next two years by closing or reducing some tax exemptions, credits and preferences.
There are only a few amendments. The first, by Democrats, to give non-residents a change to file for a refund of the sales taxes they pay when shopping in Washington, passed on a voice vote.
The second, by Republicans, to place any taxes on the November ballot through a referendum and remove the emergency clause failed on a 46-51 vote.
The third, also by Republicans, would just remove the emergency clause so that the taxes wouldn't kick in on July 1, when the new budget starts, but 90 days after the session ends (whenever that might be). It failed 47-50.
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.
Joe Korbuszewski addresses the group protesting a new tax on microbreweries Friday on the Capitol steps.
OLYMPIA – The Legislature looked at raising a wide array of taxes Friday — on beer, gasoline or bottled water, on doctors, lawyers or janitors or on nonresidents who come to Washington to shop.
Some people told legislators it was the right thing to do, either to help schools or protect jobs. Others told them it was the wrong thing to do, because it will hurt businesses and destroy jobs.
Legislators didn't vote Friday on any of the proposals to close exemptions, end special rates, extend surcharges or make temporary taxes permanent. Their fate hinges on upcoming budget negotiations between the House, where the tax increase bills now reside, and the Senate, where a coalition that controls the chamber has vowed not to raise taxes. . .
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The Rainier bottles “graze” in front of the Capitol during a protest against the extension of the state's temporary beer surcharge.
OLYMPIA — There's never a giant opener around when I need one.
A pair of the Rainier bottles made famous in the beer's off-beat commercials, with their “wrangler” in tow, showed up at the Capitol for the protest against continuing the temporary beer surtax and extending it to microbreweries.
A couple of things you may not know about the iconic beer-creatures. In their costumes, they are blind as bats, and were not allowed to go up and down the Capitol steps in costume. The costumes don't handle the rain well — making one wonder what would happen to them in a giant ice chest.
OLYMPIA — The House omnibus tax bill gets a hearing this morning in the Finance Committee, playing to a full room of folks explaining why a tax increase on their particular industry is a bad idea, and folks explaining why more taxes in general is a good idea.
One of the industries in the tax bill, the beer industry, will sponsor a Defend Washington Beer rally on the North Capitol steps at noon. Large breweries are facing an extension of what was supposed to be a temporary tax, albeit at a smaller rate while microbreweries, which were exempted from the surtax in 2011, would have one levied on them.
A children's steel drum Calypso band will be playing just inside in the Capitol Rotunda, so it should be a festive time.
This afternoon the House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on an $8 billion-plus tax package for new road projects and improved maintenance. It would raise the gasoline tax as well as give local governments the ability to raise license tabs.
Gov. Jay Inslee explains his budget as students from Seattle's Cleveland High School look on.
OLYMPIA — The state should make temporary tax increases on beer and some business services permanent, cancel a variety of other tax breaks and spend an extra $1.2 billion on public schools, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.
Standing in front of a group of Seattle high school students involved in a program to boost science and math skills, the governor released his first budget proposal. It’s a plan for expanded programs from pre-kindergarten to high school, designed to satisfy a state Supreme Court order to adequately fund public schools.
“We must do hard things. It’s the right thing to choose education over these tax breaks,” he said at a press conference to announce his spending plan for the 2013-15 budget cycle.
The proposal met quick resistance from Senate Republicans, who will likely release the first full budget in the Legislature next week. It will not propose tax increases or ending the tax exemptions Inslee proposed, Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, the Senate Republican leader, said. . .
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Govenor-elect Inslee addresses a legislative preview session.
OLYMPIA – The Legislature should consider a wide range of options in a search to increase gun safety and reduce the threat of violence, Governor-elect Jay Inslee said Thursday.
“There is no panacea, no one solution,” Inslee said at a press conference during a preview of the upcoming legislative session sponsored by the Associated Press. “But that’s not a reason for inaction.”
On other topics, Inslee – who takes the oath of office Wednesday – repeated campaign promises to try closing the state’s budget gap through government efficiencies and an improved economy but without new taxes. He called for a thorough review of plans to increase coal train traffic in the state, and said immediate changes to the new state law on legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use were unlikely.
As a congressman, Inslee voted for a ban . . .
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It will be harder next year to qualify for tax subsidies to build apartments and condos in Spokane.
The Spokane City Council on Monday reauthorized Spokane’s multifamily tax exemption for another five years. The decision significantly reduced the areas that will qualify for the subsidy and set lower limits to qualify for bonus exemptions when building affordable housing for rent.
Owners participating in the program paid $1.4 million less in property taxes this year because of the exemptions.
Under the program - first approved in 2000 and updated in 2007 - condo and apartment developers pay property taxes only on their land and the value of improvements before starting construction.
OLYMPIA — The state Supreme Court agreed to fast-track an appeal of a case involving the two-thirds majority for tax increases that voters have imposed through initiatives.
The high court said today it will hear the appeal of a challenge to the law by the League of Education Voters, the Washington Education Association and several legislators who filed suit after a bill to end a tax break for large banks received a simple majority, but not the required supermajority. It will take up the case on “an expedited basis” suggesting it could be heard and decided by the time the next regular session of the Legislature convenes in January.
But possibly not before voters go to the polls in November, with a new initiative that asks them to extend supermajority for another two years.
The court also refused to grant Attorney General Rob McKenna's request a stay of the judgment issued by King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller in May, meaning the supermajority requirement is not in effect now. But because the Legislature isn't in session, that has little practical effect.
Heller ruled the state constitution calls for a simple majority, not a supermajority, to raise taxes. The constitution does require supermajorities for some other things, so if the writers wanted it for taxes, they could have put it in at that time, he said.
Requiring a higher standard through an initiative is unconstitutional, Heller said. So is the requirement that a tax passed with a simple majority go to voters, which isn't in the constitution.
Tim Eyman, the sponsor of several voter-approved initiatives to enact or re-enact the super-majority and this year's measure to extend it for two years, said he's confident the Supreme Court will uphold the requirement because it has done so in the past.
But opponents of I-1185 counter that the court has never ruled directly on the issue of the supermajority. Instead it has let the provision stand by refusing to rule on cases because they didn't provide a “justiciable issue”, or something which the court had the authority to decide.
Heller's ruling gives the court a justiciable issue. The case involves a bill that would have removed a tax break large out-of-state banks receive for some first mortgages, while leaving that incentive in place for smaller banks. Money collected from the change in tax policy would have been used to reduce public school class sizes in kindergarten through grade 3. The three legislators who later became plaintiffs in the lawsuit, specifically asked if the change could be passed by a simple majority, or if the House could override that requirement, and were told no by House Speaker Frank Chopp in a dialog that foreshadowed the challenge.
Another potential challenge to the supermajority, which involved taxes on roll-your-own cigarette machines, was dismissed this month when both sides agreed to drop the case.
OLYMPIA — Between the courts and Congress, operators of roll-your-own cigarette machines in Washington are essentially out of business for the foreseeable future. Read the story on the main website by clicking here.