Op-Ed: I-960 suspension means tax increases are next
Several days ago, I had a conversation with a small business owner who has done everything possible to avoid layoffs. Between the increases in workers' compensation insurance premiums and unemployment insurance rates, he's paying 1,600 percent more in taxes. That's equivalent to two employees' salaries.
“Guess what I'm forced to do?” he asked. “I have to lay off one person, maybe two, to pay for tax increases so that someone else not affiliated with my company gets extended unemployment benefits.”
That's the reality of many employers across the state. Increased taxes are slowing economic recovery and contributing to the highest unemployment rate in two decades.
It's a reality being ignored at the state Capitol. Halfway through our scheduled 60-day session, the Legislature has done NOTHING to regenerate our economy and get people working again. Of the many job-creation bills my Republican colleagues and I proposed through our “Made in Washington” plan, only one was given a hearing and passed the committee – a measure that would give employers 48 hours to correct mistakes before an agency could issue a fine or penalty. The bill has yet to pass the Legislature.
Instead, powerful unions are lobbying for extended benefits, no state government cutbacks, and higher taxes to protect their interests. It's an election year – and Democrats in the Legislature are listening to them and responding.
Last week, the Senate Democrat majority voted not once, but TWICE, to suspend Initiative 960. That's the measure voters approved two years ago that requires a two-thirds majority approval of the Legislature to increase taxes. Legislative Democrats knew they would not get the required amount of Republican votes to reach the two-thirds threshold. Instead, they're suspending I-960 so that they can increase taxes using only their simple majority votes.
So what's next? Tax increases.
House Democrats have introduced 74 tax bills. Combined, the measures would shake from taxpayers' pockets an additional $1.56 billion in increased and new state or local taxes and fees. Never mind that many people have tapped into their savings and retirement accounts just to keep food on the table and prevent home foreclosure. No, legislative Democrats feel they must protect state government at all costs (taxpayer costs). And that's why, despite vehement protests by House and Senate Republicans, the Democrat majority (with the support of the governor) has voted to subvert the will of the people.
Am I angry about this? You bet!
I know the votes coming in the remaining three weeks of the session to increase taxes while bottling up jobs-creation legislation will deeply hurt struggling families and employers in the 39th District and throughout Washington. It will mean more jobs lost, more foreclosures, and a deeper, longer recession, just so state government can make up for its bad overspending practices.
I will vote against it. But my one vote cannot stop this runaway tax-and-spend train. Neither will the votes of my Republican colleagues. That's why the Democrat majority suspended I-960 – to clear us from the tracks so they can increase taxes. The only way to stop this is for citizens to act NOW!
I urge you – call the numbers below. Flood the lines and tell our state leaders, “We need private sector jobs – NOT tax increases!”
- Governor – (360) 902-4111
- Senate majority leader – (360) 786-7604
- House speaker – (360) 786-7920
- Toll-free legislative hotline – 1-800-562-6000
- My office – (360) 786-7967
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.