Taxes the real issue of the 2020 legislative session

This is the first article in Sen. Doug Ericksen’s Fixing Washington series, a periodic series of reports from Olympia about the issues that face Washington lawmakers today.

By Sen. Doug Ericksen

Fixing Washington

Let me make a prediction about this year’s legislative session, probably the safest prediction ever made. We’re going to hear plenty of talk about raising taxes.

But what we really ought to be doing is cutting them.

Liberal urban majorities in the House and Senate are convinced state government isn’t big enough or powerful enough, and the people aren’t paying enough. Meanwhile, Washington voters are trying to send them a message — enough!

Taxes are the real issue of the 2020 legislative session. That, and Olympia’s hearing problem. Last year, Washington voted for Initiative 976, cutting license-tab renewals to $30. Rather than looking for ways to implement the people’s will, majority Democrats are sitting on their hands and hoping the courts will overturn it.

This session they’ll be pushing low-carbon fuel standards, a carbon tax by a different name. Most of it has nothing to do with fuel content, but with big new taxes on gasoline and diesel – just like the carbon taxes Washington voters rejected in 2016 and 2018.

And we can count on them to promote an income tax – never mind the fact that Washington voters have rejected the idea 10 straight times since 1935.

Voters are fed up with taxes, and who can blame them? We have seen recent tax increases on property, motor fuel, vehicle license tabs, and home sales. Meanwhile, state coffers are bursting with money. Since 2013 a booming state economy has increased state tax collections $20.6 billion, a 66 percent increase in just seven years. We’ve never seen anything like it in the history of our state.

Yet Washington’s big spenders complain the cupboard is bare – because they keep spending every penny we have. They want to fool you with the words they use. They talk about “revenue” instead of tax collections. “Investments” instead of spending. “Clean fuels” instead of higher gas taxes. They’re even calling their income-tax proposal an “excise tax,” as if that makes it smell any better.

Olympia’s big-government advocates just can’t get enough of your money.

Frankly, holding the line on taxes is only part of the solution. We have more than enough to meet the state’s most important needs. We ought to be giving some of that money back to the people who paid it. Over the last few sessions, I have proposed reductions in property and sales taxes, and tough new spending limits to keep government growth within bounds.

I think the people of Washington ought to keep their own money and spend it as they see fit. That’s how our economy grows. The dollars that remain in the private sector create new business opportunities and jobs for working families.

The sad truth is, when the state gets its hands on the people’s money, it disappears into the black hole of state government – and often is spent unwisely.

Here’s one for you: Legislators and state employees who drive electric cars don’t have to pay when they plug into a stall at a state parking lot. You pay the bill with your taxes. I call it a waste of taxpayer money.

Last November’s vote shows the people have had it. Watch for a showdown this year. To address Seattle’s rampant homeless problem, urban legislators want to tap the state’s rainy-day fund – a fund that is supposed to cover unanticipated financial emergencies, not a problem created by years of misguided local-government policy. Rainy-day spending would require Republican votes, and my colleagues and I are drawing the line. We’re with the people on this one. Enough.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, represents Whatcom County’s 42nd Legislative District.