Opinion editorial by Bruce Chandler: The not-so-special session: to increase taxes or not increase taxes?

Special to the Yakima Valley Business Times

The 2013 session marks the fourth time in as many years the Legislature has had to extend the session. As a result, the governor has a called a special session to begin May 13, which may last up to 30 days according to the state constitution. The major sticking point is the budget, and the differences between the House and Senate on how to spend taxpayers' money for the priorities of the state.

In past years, the struggle was between Democrat majorities in both chambers. This year, the struggle is between a Democrat majority in the House and a bipartisan coalition in the Senate. The state's $33 billion operating budget is expected to bring in $2 billion more in the next two-year budget cycle than it did in this current budget cycle which ends June 30. This growth is due to our stabilizing economy. Consumers are gradually spending more and employers are gradually earning more, resulting in an increase in tax collections. However, the current level of government spending is still greater than what taxpayers are paying. In addition, a Supreme Court ruling mandates additional spending on education to meet our constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education.

The House majority's answer is to increase taxes by $879 million (their original proposal was $1.2 billion but public outcry forced them to remove some components). The package includes making a temporary tax increase on small businesses permanent. These are not major corporations who will pay more – it is beauty shop owners, chiropractors, dentists, janitors, landscapers, real estate agents, veterinarians and many others. Many of these self-employed people testified in a public hearing that they chose to absorb the increased cost since the taxes were temporary, but if the taxes are made permanent, they will have to pass the costs on to their customers. This means not only will our smallest employers continue to struggle to keep their doors open, but also the cost of services could increase for all of us.

The Senate bipartisan coalition's solution is to prioritize spending and increase targeted education funding within existing revenues. When two Democrats joined 23 Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus, their focus was on responsible spending, education reform and jobs. Their budget proposal accomplished all three by balancing the budget without new taxes, targeting education funding and not putting additional costs on job creators.

The question is: will the Legislature choose to cut costs, or pass costs on to taxpayers? As a representative, I have heard from my constituents that we must not increase costs on hardworking families. A vibrant economic future requires difficult decisions now, and that means we must live within our means.

Rep. Bruce Chandler serves as the assistant ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. He lives in Granger and represents the 15th Legislative District, which includes eastern Yakima County.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov