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Posts tagged: taxes

Elway Poll: Voters might support some tax hikes

Washington voters might be willing to approve higher taxes for some public projects, a new survey by The Elway Poll suggests.

Asked whether they would support or oppose a tax increase for seven different things local governments spend money on, a majority of the 501 voters surveyed to six of them.

75 percent would support tax increase for fire
74 percent for roads
73 percent for schools
64 percent for libraries
61 percent for parks and recreation
60 percent for public transportation.

Only 39 percent said they's support higher taxes for jails.

Elway pollsters were quick to point out that voters were differentiated between the different services, and on average only support tax increases for four of the seven. And, they said, “it's easier to tell a pollster you favor a tax increase than it is to raise your own taxes.” So local governments should be careful about loading up a ballot with a pile of tax plans.

Lege to pot businesses: No tax breaks for you

OLYMPIA — Legal marijuana growers in Washington will not get any of the tax breaks other farmers get, under a bill passed today by the Legislature.

The House gave final passage to a bill that makes marijuana farming different from any other agricultural product, and not eligible for various exemptions or credits for business and occupation, sales or utility taxes. 

Thousands of would-be pot growers have applied for licenses and the Liquor Control Board, which regulates recreational marijuana under Initiative 502, began awarding licenses last week. They'll have to make their new operations work without the kind of tax help the state gives many other new industries.

House Finance Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said other agricultural producers get help to keep them competitive with farmers in other states, which also offer tax breaks. But marijuana farmers won't have that kind of competition, because growing marijuana remains illegal in most other states, he said.

If the marijuana industry needs help down the road, the Legislature can always consider tax breaks in a future session, Carlyle said.

But legal marijuana growers do have competition, Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, said, from illegal growers who pay no taxes or fees to the state. Without tax breaks, legal recreational marijuana  might be so expensive that people won't switch from the black market, and the system the state sets up will be “destined for failure.”

Legal growers will get no breaks from the state or federal government and pay a 25 percent excise tax on sales to processors, who will pay a 25 percent tax on sales to retail stores. The stores will add another 25 percent excise tax, plus a sales tax, to consumers.

An estimate by the Office of Financial Management said will collect some $25 million over 10 years on the taxes that marijuana businesses will pay, that many other businesses don't.

The bill passed on a 55-42 vote, Speaker Pro Tem Jim Moeller ruled it didn't need a two-thirds supermajority because it didn't change any provision of I-502.

Sunday Spin: Shouldn’t all fields be level by now?

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?. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Senate: No tax breaks for pot

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.

WA Lege Day 9: B&O tax bill panned even by sponsor

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. 

WA No. 6 for good biz tax structure

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. . . 

5 tax advisory votes this fall

OLYMPIAWashington voters will be asked in November what they think about five tax increases.

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. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: When public notice isn’t much help to the public

Transparency in government is a great ideal, but like so many things it can be somewhat less than ideal in practice.

Take, for example, the edict of Initiative 960 that the Office of Financial Management let the public know the cost of legislation that could tap the state treasury. Excellent idea, because one never knows what the Legislature will dream up when all that brainpower is assembled in Olympia. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Washington: We’re No. 2…in cell phone taxes

From this morning's paper:

    The next time you change the ring tone on your cellphone, consider choosing the sound of a cash register ringing. Or maybe The Beatles’ song “Taxman.”
   Washington cellphone users have the dubious distinction of paying the second-highest taxes in the country. Nebraska has the highest cellphone taxes.
   It’s something you may have suspected the last time you checked your cellphone bill – if you were able to decipher it.. . 

To read the rest of this story click here.

Poll: ‘Cut spending’ beats ‘Raise taxes’

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. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Mapping the beer tax: WA is No. 8 from top

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.

House passes tax bill

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.

House takes up tax bill

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.

House panel revises, passes tax hikes

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.

So many taxes, so many comments

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. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog

Showing up for the protest

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.

WA Lege Day 96: Taxes, transportation and beer

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.

Inslee: Extend temporary taxes, close loopholes to spend more on schools

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. . .

 To continue reading about the budget propsal, and reaction, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Inslee: No panacea for gun violence

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 . . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click to go inside the blog

Spokane shrinks tax subsidy area

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.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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