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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

It is time to share another legislative update with you from Olympia. First, I want to thank those of you who were able to attend the town hall Sen. Don Benton and I held on March 16. We had approximately 100 people in attendance and we were able to discuss a variety of issues. Of course the Columbia River Crossing remains a very volatile issue for our region and many questions and comments were related to that issue. In case you missed it, The Columbian did a story on the town halls and specifically the CRC discussion which you can read here: “Lawmakers use town halls to talk CRC.” You may also want to view “Your Voice, Your Vote:” The Columbia River Crossing debate which aired on KATU. The program featured legislators from the 49th Legislative District, Sen. Annette Cleveland and Rep. Jim Moeller speaking in favor of the CRC and Sen. Benton and I speaking against it. The video is about 22 minutes long, but if you are looking for contrasting opinions on this issue, it will be worth your time. I am adamantly opposed to the current bridge plan and will be until I see significant changes in the proposal – no tolling, no light rail and a bridge height that will accommodate our current employers utilizing the Columbia River.

Governor’s proposed tax increases

After a year of listening to Gov. Jay Inslee pledge higher taxes would not be needed to address our state’s budget situation, he apparently has changed his mind. The governor came out with a budget outline that proposes a variety of tax increases to raise $1.2 billion. I am very concerned as I believe our economy is still very fragile. Yet, he is raising taxes on families, individuals and small businesses which could adversely impact our economic recovery. Here is a summary of the governor’s tax plan: Rep. Harris speaks on House floor

MAKING ‘TEMPORARY’ TAXES PERMANENT

  • 50-cent beer tax, and expanding it to microbreweries ($127 million)
  • 0.3 percent Business and Occupation (B&O) tax on service businesses ($534 million), including:
    • architects
    • barbers and beauty shop owners
    • chiropractors
    • dentists
    • janitors
    • music teachers
    • physicians
    • real estate agents
    • school bus operators
    • veterinarians

ENDING TAX INCENTIVES = TAX INCREASES ON:

  • vehicle trade-ins when purchasing a new car: $94.8 million
  • non-residents who shop in Washington stores: $63.7 million (this will have a large impact on Clark County)
  • local residential phone service: $83.2 million
  • computer software: $78.5 million
  • most state businesses that were given lower rates in order to locate or expand in Washington: $66.2 million
  • bottled water: $51.5 million
  • recycled fuel environmental programs at Washington’s oil refineries: $40.8 million
  • resellers of prescription drugs: $29 million
  • long-term rental of commercial land/buildings: $27.8 million
  • import commerce: $24.1 million
  • farm equipment: $5.6 million

Keep in mind, Washington is expected to take in $2 billion more in the coming budget cycle. We should be able to prioritize spending in the budget – fund education first, protect our most vulnerable citizens and keep our communities safe by funding public safety. There are a few ideas on the governor’s list of priorities that certainly have merit. His proposed investments in education are very similar to what our caucus introduced with our Fund Education First budget a couple weeks ago. Class-size reductions, full-day kindergarten and investments in early learning are all things in K-12 education that I support. However, these issues should be a priority to meet the expectations of our state constitution and the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision – not tied to tax increases on our job creators and working families.

It is noteworthy that our State Treasurer Jim McIntire recently said our tax system over-taxes working families and was quoted:

You don’t often hear a Democrat say we over-tax business, but we do,” McIntire said. “I want to be really clear that it’s a problem in the state.”

You can read the article by clicking “Democratic state treasurer says Wash. business taxes are too high.

Many of us understand this, but apparently our governor does not. I can tell you our budget writers are working diligently with the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate to reach a budget solution that would not tax our hardworking citizens and employers. We need to show the citizens of Washington we can prioritize our spending without asking them for more of their hard-earned money when we are expecting a six percent increase in tax revenue.

Sincerely,


Paul Harris

State Representative Paul Harris, 17th Legislative District
RepresentativePaulHarris.com
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
paul.harris@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7976 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000