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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Spec Sess Day 17: Signs of life?

OLYMPIA -- The House Finance Committee holds one of its first hearings of the special session this morning on a proposal to revamp the estate and transfer tax on some property sales.

You remember the special session. The one that started 17 days ago and has so far produced...well, it's not really clear what it has produced because all discussions on the state's 2013-15 operating budget have taken place outside of public view while most legislators have stayed away from Olympia. Hearings on other topics, with the exception of tougher DUI laws, have been all but non-existent.

But not to worry. Although the Legislature only has 13 days left in the special session, it has a full 32 days before the state's new fiscal year starts, and the authority to spend money on most things the state does expires.

The Finance Committee's hearing is an attempt to fix what some refer to a tax loophole that stems from the "Bracken Decision", one of those pesky state Supreme Court decisions that say something the state is doing isn't legal, and the amount of taxes it collects goes down. It involves some fairly complicated estate tax law involving QTIP Trusts, which have nothing to do with the little sticks with cotton on each end. Instead, they're a system used by married couples that protect money in the estate when one spouse dies and passes the money to the surviving spouse.

Fixing problems the court found with the way the state was applying the estate tax could generate as much as $150 million in the next biennium, if it is applied as retroactively as the bill suggests. . . and survives another court challenge that would likely arise.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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