Last week alone, 20 bills were heard in the legislature on tax breaks that would cost the state budget more than $91 million in the 2009-11 biennium and more than $114 million in 2011-13 if they all passed.
Bargaining for tax breaks has become a routine part of doing business. Fearful of losing jobs, Washington, like other states, is giving away public revenue while under-funding the services necessary for a vibrant economy and a healthy democracy.
In the three legislative sessions from 2004 through 2006, the Washington legislature passed at least 61 measures either granting new tax preferences or extending old ones. These new tax breaks will cost the state nearly half a billion dollars in the 2007-09 biennium.
Fortunately, several key members have pledged to hold the line on tax breaks, so it is likely that most will not pass.
Washington definitely needs to revamp its tax structure – but not by eliminating taxes willy-nilly. Our state must still provide the public services essential for a robust private sector economy in the 21st century.
To do so, we need to take a careful look at the whole system of taxation, plug the holes that let some businesses and individuals off scot-free, and come back to the people with a proposal for fair and equitable tax reform that funds our democracy.