Op-Ed: Washington’s historic tax increase is Idaho’s economic stimulus act

“Welcome to Idaho!” That’s the sign Idaho’s Gov. Butch Otter expects more Washingtonians will see if Democrats in Olympia pass, and Gov. Chris Gregoire signs into law, the largest tax increase in the history of our state.

The Idaho Statesman recently printed an article saying Idaho is preparing to woo businesses from neighboring states that are increasing taxes. It discussed how Idaho is hoping to attract Nike from Portland because its founder, Phil Knight, is “hopping mad” at Oregon’s $727 million tax increase. “We’re going to call him,” said Idaho’s lieutenant governor.

If you think Idaho is interested only in Oregon businesses fed up with tax increases, think again. Washington’s Legislature is poised to adopt nearly a billion dollars in new taxes — larger than Oregon — before lawmakers adjourn Thursday. Most tax increases will be a heavy hit on Washington’s employers – many who have laid off workers, cut back hours, suffered through workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance increases, and are fighting to survive. With these new taxes, would Idaho be more attractive?

Here’s what the Boise newspaper said:

“Gov. Butch Otter is working on a legislative package to lure business. Otter said he seeks ‘incentives for folks to take flight from Oregon and come over here, because we’re getting a lot of phone calls about their tax increase.’”

Remember the last time a legislature worked on a package to lure business from another state? It was in October when the South Carolina Legislature met and provided tax incentives that led Boeing to choose that state over Washington for a second 787 plant. That was the direct loss of 3,000 Boeing jobs, not to mention the other employment that could have been created in our state.

Gregoire’s response was to repeatedly cite a Forbes Magazine article stating that Washington is a great place to do business. Most employers actually doing business in our state never believed that article was valid, but once she signs the tax package into law, any remaining credibility will evaporate.

Idaho’s Department of Commerce Director Don Dietrich is ready and has strategies for employers in the higher-taxed and business-regulated states of Washington, Oregon and California. “We’re swinging pretty hard, particularly in the Western states.”

Our Legislature had an opportunity this session to fix the state’s budget mess by seeking reforms that would help the private sector retain and create new jobs in Washington. House Republicans offered a “Made in Washington” private-sector jobs agenda full of solutions that would get people working again so they would be contributing to the state’s economy and the budget, and less reliant on government services. But our legislation was blocked as majority Democrats sought shortsighted Band-Aid approaches to plug the $2.7 billion budget deficit with tax increases and billions in one-time federal stimulus dollars to pay for ongoing programs.

When those federal stimulus dollars are no longer available in the 2011-13 budget cycle, and more people are unemployed because businesses have moved to neighboring states, how will we fix future deficits?

The solution is to grow jobs here in Washington, not send them to Idaho!

Two days remain of the legislative session and then the governor has 20 days to sign legislation. I urge you to pick up the phone. Call the governor, the House speaker and the Senate majority leader. Tell them no new taxes! Let’s keep our employers here in Washington! The toll-free number is: 1-800-562-6000.

EDITOR’S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him and sign up for his e-newsletter at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.

State Representative Dan Kristiansen, 39th Legislative District
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7967 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000