Minority caucus tax proposals underscore need for higher bar for approval of tax hikes

Taxes proposed by members of the Senate’s minority caucus underscore the need for a constitutional amendment cementing a two-thirds legislative-vote threshold for approval of tax increases.

Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Ways and Means Committee will feature public hearings on six tax proposals brought forward by minority-caucus members (a full agenda can be found here). The bills receiving hearings on that day alone would raise taxes by $38 billion over the next ten years.

The tax proposals include:

  • Senate Bill 5166 – Would create a state income tax, raising taxes over $32 billion in the next 10 years
  • SB 5039 – Would extend expiring sales tax on beer and B&O tax on      services, as well as create a new excise tax on the distribution of gasoline. The gas tax would begin at 1.85 percent and rise to 4.62 percent by 2017. The total package would raise taxes almost $5 billion in the next 10 years
  • SB 5042 – Would modify the business and occupations to raise taxes over $400 million in the next 10 years
  • SB 5248 – Would create a tax on plastic bags, raising taxes $134 million in the next 10 years

These proposals are coming forward at a time our state expects to collect more in tax revenues than at any time in history. That underscores the value of a two-thirds approval threshold for tax increases, which in many years has been the only thing standing between the Legislature and taxes our citizens do not want and our state doesn’t need. Rather than talk about new taxes, we should be working on cementing the threshold in our state’s constitution.

From day one, the bipartisan coalition in the Senate has been clear that our priority is moving Washington towards a sustainable budget – without raising taxes. The fact is that the votes don’t exist in the Senate for these types of tax increases and even if they did, the new governor has vowed repeatedly to veto new taxes.

These sorts of tax proposals are actually detrimental to the budget negotiation process because as long as new taxes are on the table, many members of the Legislature refuse to discuss reforming state government.

In September, I produced a newsletter with additional information on taxes and the need for constitutional protection of a two-thirds threshold and prohibition of an income tax. That document is available by clicking here.