As you may recall from past alerts, FCWPP determined in 2001 that the revenue side of our commitment to peace and justice issues deserved attention, particularly in a time of budget crises, when programs that benefited the most vulnerable in our society were under attack, and in last year’s budget, cut. As a result we were involved in the Washington State Tax Structure Committee Study and continue to be involved with the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition.
We have discerned that this issue is not about business versus the individual, but about the process of determining the impacts of our tax policies, including the need for fair disclosure of data that enables the public to evaluate the costs/benefits of such legislation.
Several important revenue related bills have been introduced by Representative Santos (D-Seattle) that merit FCWPP’s attention. Although there are issues that need to be ironed out in implementation of these bills, we are in support of their intent, and they have been scheduled or heard in hearings in the House Finance Committee.
One of these bills is HB 3076 that has been scheduled for a hearing before the Finance Committee on Thursday, February 5, 2004. HB 3076 targets property tax relief to middle- and low-income homeowners, while remaining revenue neutral. This is in start contrast to Tim Eyman’s across-the-board 25% property tax cut initiative, which would slash $550 million from local governments.
Rep. Santos was joined by Rep. Toby Nixon (R-Kirkland) in priming the bill, which garnered sixteen co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. This bipartisan support shows an encouraging willingness on the part of legislators to raise the issues at the heart of the tax fairness debate.
We ask that you review the bill and send your legislator an email or make a call indicating your support for such measures.
Three other bills crossed our screen and the following testimony was prepared and a copy given to members of the House Finance Committee, however, time limits did not allow for oral testimony.
Testimony before the House Finance Committee on January 29, 2004 on House Bill 2654 relating to tax expenditure reports and House Bill 2762 relating to private business entities supported by state tax preferences.
Good morning Mr. Chair and members of the committee. My name is Deric Young and I am a volunteer and Legislative Committee Clerk with the Friends Committee on Washington State Public Policy, a Quaker Organization.
There is no question that our State tax structure is unfair and inefficient. It’s unfair to many types of business, lower income working people, and even homeowners. The State Tax Structure Committee made recommendations that would reduce a substantial portion of this inequity, recommendations we urge you to seriously consider.
You are daily faced with the challenge of shifting tax burdens and authorizing state expenditures. Our democratic process requires a majority of you to review and approve every dollar the State spends. Tax exemptions circumvent this check, despite the fact that they have the same budgetary impact as expenditures. Unfortunately, there is insufficient information on the revenue side available to you to make good decisions.
That is what these bills are about. Are we creating jobs and improving the lives of our citizens or are we throwing money away that could be invested in bettering our schools and health care?
Some claim these measures will create an additional bureaucracy, but after watching the Department of Revenue in action as part of the advisory committee for the Tax Structure Study, I am very confident that they are able to provide the information in an efficient manner. As for the burden on companies, just as they are able to provide you the data on why these measures should not be enacted in terms of cost, I expect they will be able to provide the data these bills call for almost as easily.
When I was part of the management team of an eleven million dollar a year company, we were constantly analyzing the cost/benefit of all our expenditures, including our sources of revenue. I still do it today as part of a two-person law firm. We should be able to expect our government to do the same.
A tax exemption is an expenditure. Absent comprehensive meaningful tax reform, we must be vigilant with what we do with all taxes. These bills will help give you the tools you need to evaluate whether they achieve public purposes in a cost effective way.
Deric N. Young
How to Contact Your Legislators:
Call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or
Write your Senator and representatives at:
PO Box 4048
Olympia , WA 98504-0482
PO Box 40600
Olympia , WA 98504-0600
On the web at: http://www.leg.wa.gov/ follow the link to the Senate or House, and click on your member’s name to get their e-mail address.
Friends: This Alert is in follow-up to the Tax Preferences Alert sent yesterday. Please see that message from Deric Young, “Tax Preferences Alert,” for additional background and our testimony.
Call your Representatives, identify yourself as a constituent and urge their support on House Bills 3076 (homestead property tax exemption), as well as 2654, 2762 and 2930 (together known as the “tax preferences” bills), all sponsored by Rep. Santos. Stress that you are concerned about tax fairness and accountability.
If you can, identify yourself as a Friend (Quaker) when contacting legislators in response to these Alerts. It helps us in our work in Olympia.