Lawmakers should abandon tax talks and work for a sustainable budget
It's April 15, tax day, the deadline to file your federal income tax returns and give the federal government a substantial portion of your income. Tomorrow, however, is also a significant day. April 16 is Washington's “Tax Freedom Day.”
Congratulations! The money you earn after tomorrow is yours to keep for the rest of the year.
According to the Tax Foundation research group, Washington citizens will work three and a half months of the year (106 days) from Jan. 1 to April 16, before they have earned enough money to pay this year's federal, state and local tax obligations.
Tax Freedom Day comes nine days earlier than last year. Time to celebrate right? Not really. Washington citizens are not paying less taxes. The earlier date is because of the recession. More than 330,000 Washingtonians are unemployed. People's incomes are reduced. Citizens have tightened their belts, resulting in fewer tax collections, which accelerated Tax Freedom Day.
If anything, we should be concerned about Washington's high taxes — and proposals that would further increase your tax burden. The Tax Foundation ranks Washington the eighth highest-taxed state in the nation. Out of all the states west of the Mississippi River, only California ranks higher.
Forbes Magazine also ranked Washington eighth, noting our average tax burden per person is $2,553. It said Washington is “the leading Western state for taxes. There are low property taxes in the state, and no personal income tax, but just try and buy something. Sales taxes–which come out to $2,181 per person–account for 85 percent of personal taxes paid.”
The state's budget crisis is not due to lack of tax revenue. Revenues have steadily increased in recent years. Two years ago, Washington had a $2 billion surplus. Instead, it's a spending problem. The majority party increased spending by 33 percent over the last four years – far beyond the revenue increases.
These reports should serve as an alert that Washingtonians are taxed enough. Instead, majority lawmakers are considering additional ways to take more money out of your pocket.
There's a Senate proposal to add an income tax for those making over $500,000. Soon after that was proposed, the Senate majority leader suggested the threshold be dropped to $250,000. How long will it take before this is expanded to people with lower incomes? As the Wall Street Journal noted, “The new fashion is to take advantage of hard times to target a class of people that few politicians are willing to defend — and then expand that class.”
Another idea would raise the sales tax to fund health care services. Supporters have begun a major TV campaign and say it would be a temporary two-year tax. When was the last time you saw a “temporary tax?”
The governor wants to raise tuition by as much as 30 percent. KOMO TV's Ken Schram says this tax increase would “financially flail working-class families with the absurd notion that their kids would someday go to college.”
Enough! Lawmakers shouldn't be seeking ways to push Tax Freedom Day further into the future. You're already working too long to pay government.
Columnist Richard S. Davis summed it up best: If we want to help our state get back on the road to economic prosperity, “lawmakers should abandon talks of present and future tax increases and concentrate on creating a sustainable budget.”
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 from his Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.