Chris Cargill: Washington state stubbornly refuses to cut family taxes
By Chris Cargil
Most politicians could only dream of a scenario in which a flood of extra tax revenue would suddenly allow them to cut taxes in an election year. But clearly Washington state leaders think differently.
As other states decide to cut taxes during these trying times, hardliners in the Washington State Legislature have decided to keep the extra money for their own spending priorities and not offer no general relief.
It’s not that they don’t have the money. The state expects to receive more than $10 billion in additional revenue. Returning the surplus to families was simply not a top priority for the majority party.
It wasn’t like they didn’t have bipartisan ideas – Olympia just wanted to spend it elsewhere.
State tax revenues have reached record levels in recent years. That, coupled with an influx of COVID-related money from the federal government, provided the perfect conditions for a tax cut. Lawmakers simply couldn’t find the will to pull the trigger.
Idaho lawmakers gave citizen rebates last year and cut income taxes this year.
The Governor of California has proposed some $9 billion in tax cuts.
New York State will refund $2.2 billion in one-time property tax refunds to low- and middle-income homeowners. The state also plans to cut tax rates by $162 million.
In Mississippi, lawmakers have cut the state income tax and may repeal it altogether.
Maryland decided the extra revenue and soaring gas prices were enough to give the state’s drivers a break. Governor Larry Hogan has signed a temporary suspension of Maryland’s gasoline tax.
Hawaii is considering a tax rebate of $300 for those earning less than $100,000 a year and $100 for those earning more.
In Indiana, taxpayers are getting checks for about $125 each this month. It may not be much, but it is the main financial aid that counts.
Across the country, regardless of political control, lawmakers are moving forward with tax reduction.
Instead of giving back even a chunk to working families, Washington state lawmakers decided they’d be better off spending the money themselves on a slew of new government programs and offerings.
Many options are available. They could provide temporary state gasoline tax relief of nearly 50 cents per gallon. They could reduce property taxes. They could reduce the state sales tax, providing direct inflation relief.
The state sales tax rate of 6.5% has not been touched for 40 years. Reducing the sales tax would help working families the most. Lawmakers again said no, despite bipartisan proposals.
If ever Washington were to provide substantial, widespread tax relief, it is this year. Surprisingly, the Senate Majority leadership couldn’t find the time (or the will) to hold even a single public hearing on the bipartisan sales tax cut bill.
For about five minutes, lawmakers considered a three-day sales tax holiday and handing out free parking passes at state parks, but even those tight ideas were scrapped.
There is always resistance to tax relief, including the laughable claim that giving people back their own money is a “cost” to the government. Let’s be very clear: the money does not belong to the government. Tax refunds or reductions cost the government nothing. It’s your money.
Due to the lack of action on any large-scale tax cut, even a liberal Seattle Times columnist proclaimed, “Washington Democrats, you prove your tax critics right.
Hopefully, when the Legislative Assembly reconvenes in January, MPs from both parties will unite in support of returning at least some of the tax surplus to those who own it and those who need it. – the citizens.
Chris Cargill is the Eastern Washington Director for the Washington Policy Center, an independent research organization with offices in Spokane and Seattle. Online at washingtonpolicy.org. Members of the Cowles family, owners of The Spokesman-Review, have previously organized fundraisers for the Washington Policy Center and serve on the organization’s board of directors.