Washington state lawmakers will have a chance to crush the state’s regressive tax system during the new legislative session.
Gov. Booth Gardner has submitted a tax reform proposal calling for a 3.9 percent personal income tax and a reduction in the state sales tax from 6.5 percent to 3.9 percent.
This reform would create a progressive tax system. Those who could afford it would pay a higher rate than their poorer neighbors.
The current system is regressive in that everyone, regardless of economic standing, pays at a flat rate.
By eliminating the majority of the sales tax, the tax burden would be shifted off the lower middle class and on to the shoulders of the upper class and big corporations.
Small, privately owned businesses would also benefit. Business-and-occupation tax cuts would take 75,000 small and mid-size businesses off the B&O tax rolls and provide some level of relief to another 50,000.
And, despite the cuts, the overall result of the new tax structure would be a tax revenue increase for the state.
Opponents to the measure agree the reform would generate more money for the state. Yet, Senate Majority Leader Jeannette Hayner claims, “there has been no demonstrated need for more funds.”
This is an interesting statement considering that the governor’s budget allocated only 7.5 percent of the operating funds needed to keep WSU’s branch campuses running. And that is just one example. Few, if any, government agencies receive the level of funding they need.
The legislature will consider putting the reform proposal on next November’s general election ballot to be voted on by the people most affected by the change – the state’s residents.
But, the senators apparently think they know what the people want before they have had a chance to decide for themselves. Many expect the republican controlled senate to kill the proposal before it is put on the ballot.
If the proposal is stopped by the Upper House, an injustice will have been done to the state of Washington.
Despite the assurances of the conservative Republicans, an increase in the sales tax in the near future is inevitable if the reform dies.
And the wealthy, upper-class will continue to ride along as the lower and middle classes provide the lion’s share of the state’s revenue.
1989 Evergreen Staff