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Vick: Why I Back 2/3s Vote Rule

In an op-ed article, Idaho Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, defends his unsuccessful legislation that would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raises taxes & fees: “When considering taxes and our liberty, I think of a quote from Daniel Webster, during the famous Supreme Court case McCullough v. Maryland, stating “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy.” I believe there is an important relationship between taxes and individual freedom: any time you raise taxes, you take a little bit of freedom away from those you are taxing. Therefore, it is important that the Legislature puts this in place to ensure that proposals which have a deep impact on our liberties are deliberative and have widespread support from our elected representatives.” More here.

DFO: I believe this bill would hamstring the already tight-fisted Legislature from reacting responsibly to growing revenue needs for education, social services, corrections, and sundry other budget items.

Question: Do you think the Republican dominated Idaho Legislature already does a good job keeping the state budget in check?

Gregoire’s other tax proposals

Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed half-penny sales tax increase got plenty of attention Monday, but she also rolled out more than $340 million in additional tax plans she wants lawmakers to consider.

Among them are increased business and occupation tax rates on windfall profits earned in the oil and financial industries to a new luxury tax on automobiles with pricetags over $50,000. Gregoire also suggests imposing additional reporting requirements on local building permits to help crack down on tax-evading subcontractors. Most of the proposals would require an almost-impossible-to-achieve two-thirds supermajority in each legislative chamber, but about $59 million in new revenue could be achieved by simple majority because Gregoire contends it would involve fees and slight policy adjustments.

Gregoire submitted an all-cuts spending plan to balance the state's current budget, which is suffering from an estimated $2 billion shortfall that's forcing lawmakers back to Olympia next week for a special session. But she's also hoping the Legislature and taxpayers will agree to ease the deep cuts in in education and other services by increasing taxes.

A look at the sales tax plan is in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review and can be found at the above link or here.

Click here for the full descriptions of the additional tax proposals that Gregoire supplied lawmakers. Here's a summary, including the amount of projected revenue each would raise during the 2013 fiscal year:

Section One involves proposals Gregoire believes could be approved by simple majority of the Legislature.

  • Convert securities reported as unclaimed property immediately upon receipt ($50.6 million).
  • Require local governments that issue building permits to supply subcontractor
    information to the Department of Revenue ($2.6 million).
  • Reduce the time to claim an excise tax refund to four years ($2.1 million).
  • Increase the interest rate on excise tax assessments by 2% to equal the federal shortterm
    rate plus 4% ($1.2 million).
  • Prohibit delinquent taxpayers from renewing liquor licenses ($1 million).
  • Impose a $10 fee per invoice issued to a taxpayer for unpaid taxes such as balance due
    notices, assessments, warrants, etc. ($900,000).
  • Impose a $25 fee for the issuance and renewal of reseller permits ($700,000).

Section Two involves proposals Gregoire believe would require a two-thirds supermajority.

  • Increase business and occupation (B&O) tax rate on oil companies with windfall
    profits ($131 million).
  • Increase B&O tax rate on financial institutions with windfall profits ($53.8 million).
  • Repeal sales tax exemption for purchases made by nonresidents from states with
    a sales tax of less than 3% ($23.4 million).
  • Limit the B&O tax deduction for first mortgage interest to community banks, defined as those with branches in 10 or fewer states ($18.1 million).
  • Impose 5% luxury tax on passenger motor vehicles with pricetags over $50,000 ($14.2 million).
  • Impose 1.5% gross receipts tax on gambling and lottery winnings ($13.1 million).
  • Increase the cigarette tax 25 cents from $3.025 to $3.275 ($12.4 million).
  • Impose public utility taxes (PUT) on developmental disabilities supported living
    services at 5.029% to help leverage more federal money ($11.6 million).
  • Close B&O tax loophole that allows companies to create shell corporations outside
    the state to reduce their Washington tax liability ($3.5 million).
  • Limit B&O tax preferences for meat processors, fruit and vegetable processors (900,000).
  • Close B&O tax loophole that allows out-of-state printers to sell into Washington
    without paying B&O tax (114,000).

Special Session Day 2: Senate passes electric car fees (again)

OLYMPIA — The Senate approved a $100 per year fee on electric cars, a move supporters say will help those vehicles share the cost of road repairs covered by gasoline taxes.

SB 5251 didn't pass both chambers in the same version during the regular session, so it went back to the Senate during the special session “reset”. Senators tinkered with it again, passing an amendment that takes out the $100 fee when the car is purchased, and only required the money be paid when the license tabs are renewed.

It passed 26-15, and heads to the House.

Open house about swim fees tonight

Share your thoughts about next year’s proposed fees at city aquatic centers, the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex and the Franklin Park Sports Complex tonight.
The Spokane Parks and Recreation Department is hosting an open forum at 6 p.m. at the Woodland Center (3404 W. Woodland Boulevard, off the Sunset Highway) at the Finch Aboretum.
Here’s a link to the proposed user fees. Tonight’s comments will be provided to the Parks Board for review before the 2011 budget can be finalized.
“The six new aquatic centers and the Merkel Complex were constructed with funding from the 2007 Parks Improvement Bond. The bond funded construction but not maintenance and operation costs, so it’s crucial that user fees or other funding cover maintenance and operation. Likewise, user fees must cover maintenance and operation at that facility,” reads a press release from the parks department.

Fair Adds Fees, Beer Walkabouts

In the Coeur d’Alene Press today, Maureen Dolan reports that the North Idaho Fair & Rodeo has made two significant changes to raise more money. For the first time, the fair will charge a $5 admission fee to the grandstands for the rodeo, motocross and demolition derby events. Also, the fair will allow visitors to walk about the grounds carrying beer. More here.

Question: Do you approve of the change by North Idaho Fair officials to charge $5 for admission to the grandstands for events — and to allow visitors to walk around the fairgrounds w/beer?

Fees going up for students, most businesses, and yes, Christmas tree growers…

From my weekly print column

The state budget, slated to be signed into law early next week, includes no new state tax increases. Lawmakers were unable to get a two-thirds vote, even a for a 25-cent increase on your phone bill to pay for better emergency-call-handling.

Fees, however, are a different thing. State law doesn’t require a two-thirds vote for those. And up they went.

Lawmakers approved increases in 48 different fees, totaling $87 million this year and $186 million next year.

Who will pay more? Lots of people. Electricians and plumbers will pay more for their licenses, as will doctors, dentists and Christmas-tree growers. So will most businesses, nurseries, Realtors, funeral homes and architects.

The vast majority of the increases, however, involve higher education. These include tens of millions of dollars in higher tuition, operating fees and a long list of other college-related charges: student and activities fees, a building fee, and lab and class fees.

The Seattle Times has posted a list of the fee increases in the budget this year. Click here.

Fees, tuition and enabling bills for local taxes starting to add up…

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.