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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Chris Cargill: 1.5 billion more reasons to provide Washington families tax relief

Chris Cargill

By Chris Cargill

Washington state is sticking out like a sore Northwest thumb. While public leaders in states across the country are cutting taxes for working families struggling with inflation, politicians in Olympia seem hell-bent on keeping all the money for themselves.

On most issues, our state leaders are eager to follow the lead of left-leaning states like California and New York. Usually, that path results in higher costs and more regulations for everyone. This time around, however, doing so would help families weather an economic storm.

Now, Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democratic majority in the Legislature have learned they are getting an extra $1.5 billion in tax revenue. This revenue increase creates a chance for them to provide the people of Washington with meaningful tax relief, to help make daily living more affordable.

They’ve had this opportunity before. Despite a then $10.5 billion increase in revenue, Inslee and the majority party in the Legislature refused to provide broad-based tax relief during the 2022 session, opting instead to massively increase state spending.

The unwillingness by Washington’s leaders to provide broad tax relief was not shared by other Democratic trifecta states (where one party controls the House, Senate and governor’s office). The vast majority of the 13 states where Democrats have total control have enacted substantial tax relief for their citizens this year (along with many mixed and Republican-controlled states).

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said when announcing tax relief: “Fuel prices have surged in recent months, hurting working families and small businesses the most, and it is crucial that we provide New Yorkers relief.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is also asking his Legislature to approve tax rebates saying: “My interest is to get the money out as quickly as possible. People are feeling deep stress, deep anxiety.”

Minnesota’s governor says it is “absolutely unconscionable” not to provide tax relief to help families deal with crushing inflation, especially when government officials are sitting on even more taxpayer money than they expected when they passed the current budget.

But Washington is different. As the Seattle Times wrote on March 23, “the absence of taxpayer relief in a year of a $15 billion budget surplus – and inflation at 40-year highs – strongly indicates that the current power players simply don’t care to cut. Ever.”

It’s not as if they didn’t have the chance.

A Democratic senator introduced a proposal this past session to lower the state sales tax by a full percentage point. The senate leadership and the governor flatly rejected the idea.

Inslee was asked at a recent news conference whether he supports any form of tax relief, including President Biden’s idea of temporarily suspending the gas tax. Instead of saying yes, no or maybe, Inslee lectured the reporter about Washington’s lack of an income tax, and then he blamed oil companies.

Let’s hope the latest $1.5 billion increase in revenue will lead to a change of heart by the governor. His record to date, though, is not encouraging.

State officials now have 1.5 billion more reasons to finally pass tax relief to help Washingtonians manage the harmful impacts of inflation. Failing to do so will make it clear that politicians view taxpayers merely as an ATM for higher spending. Instead, let’s hope they let us keep more of our own money to help us meet daily needs in the face of rapidly rising prices.

Chris Cargill is the Eastern Washington director for Washington Policy Center, an independent research organization based in Seattle. Online at Members of the Cowles family, owners of The Spokesman-Review, have previously hosted fundraisers for the Washington Policy Center and sit on the organization’s board.