OLYMPIA – With most legislators away from the Capitol and any budget negotiations behind closed doors, Democrats invited people from around the state to a hearing to support a capital gains tax and several other budget items they’d like to get in the current special session.
The “People’s Hearing” – which had the feel of an official legislative committee hearing but none of the authority – was an indictment of the state’s tax system and a plea for more money for schools and state services. One speaker from each of the state’s 49 legislative districts got two minutes to explain something he or she thought lawmakers should do. The most common theme was to ease the tax burden on the poor and increase it on the wealthy through a capital gains tax. The Legislature has two different proposals for taxing investment income, a House proposal for 5 percent on gains above $5,000 for an individual taxpayer, and a Senate proposal for 7 percent on gains above $50,000.
“We are united in the call for a fair solution to unfair taxes,” Janie Hauff, a home health care worker from the Spokane Valley, told legislators.
Cheryl Steele, of Spokane, said central Spokane’s 3rd District is the poorest in the state and needs the state’s social programs for children, seniors and other vulnerable citizens. State workers also deserve a raise after years in which their wages were frozen or reduced in the recession.
“I stood proud by the state during tough times and I would appreciate the allegiance in return,” said Steele, who drove to Olympia with fellow Airway Heights Corrections Center worker Connie Kanehailua on their day off. They made several trips to the Capitol to lobby during the regular session and think tax changes will gain some traction in the current special session called to finish work on state budgets.
“I feel confident because they’re running out of options,” Steele said.
But while the speakers at the hearing included Democrats, Republicans and independents, their suggestions were mostly an exercise in preaching to a choir of Democratic representatives and senators.
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