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WSNLA - Legislative Update

Monday, April 8, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Breanne Chavez
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WSNLA eNews – March 29, 2019

by Heather Hansen, WSNLA Lobbyist

When the Washington State Revenue Forecast Council released its recent forecast for the next four years, the prediction was for an additional $860 million available to spend for the next state budget, on top of the billions that were already available when this year’s legislative session began.  Budget writers will have a total of $50.6 billion in revenue for the 2019-21 budget cycle. To put that in perspective, in March 2017, budget writers had $41.6 billion to work with. 


In spite of the rosy revenue forecast, more new tax bills have been introduced.  (The Governor’s budget release in December proposed $3.7 billion in new taxes.)  Here are a few of the new tax proposals likely to affect you.


Property tax

HB 2145 would do away with the 1% annual limit on property-tax growth (approved by the voters through Initiative 747 in 2001) so property taxes can increase at a more rapid rate.


Real estate excise tax

SB 5991 would increase the tax on real-estate transactions. The revenue it generates would supposedly go toward education, but once revenue is in the general fund, it can be used for anything.


Low carbon fuel standard – Just like California
HB 1110 would direct the Department of Ecology to adopt standards to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions per unit of fuel energy in transportation fuels. This is something California implemented years ago, and after decades of litigation it has finally gone into effect. As a result, California's gas prices have gone up 16 cents per gallon and will continue to rise. As this program increases the cost of fuel, it results in an increase in the cost of anything that needs to be transported, which is nearly everything you purchase for your business or home.  Washington already has some of the highest gas prices in the nation.


Transportation funding

SB 5971 would impose a carbon tax of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide on gasoline, $10 per metric ton on electricity and home heating, and add a six-cent-per-gallon gas tax. The tax is structured this way because gas taxes are protected by the 18th Amendment of the state constitution and can be used “exclusively for highway purposes.” Carbon taxes, however, would go into the general fund and could be used for anything the legislature chooses.


Cap and Trade – also like California

SB 5981 would create a cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Washington. If it passes, the program would be overseen by the Department of Ecology. The state would set limits on carbon dioxide emission and then sell permits to companies covered by the limits. This is the system used in California and the cost is about $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide reduced, the same price as the carbon tax proposed by Initiative 1631 which failed on the November ballot. The cost of the permits would be passed on to consumers, just like a carbon tax.


Do farmers pay taxes?

Of course, if you are one, you know you do, but that’s not what some Senators think.  During a debate over a senate bill, Senator John McCoy, who represents the 38th legislative district from Everett north, said, “Ag producers in this state do not pay any taxes, none what so ever, now, they do pay some fees I give you that, but they are not being double taxed.”  McCoy makes the fourth Democratic senator to make a similar statement during this legislative session.  In earlier debates, Senators Saldana, Carlyle and Palumbo have made similar comments.

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