Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Feb. 28, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down a requirement for a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to increase taxes. The requirement had been challenged by a coalition of House Democrats and education groups who had grown increasingly frustrated by the inability to “raise revenue.” It didn’t matter to them that the two-thirds rule had been approved five times by voters in a series of initiatives over the past 20 years. The latest was in November when 64 percent of the voters statewide approved Initiative 1185, including 72 percent in the 39th District.
Clearly, the court ruling has bolstered new ideas among Democrats to dig deeper in your pockets. Gov. Jay Inslee says he will soon announce plans to “close obsolete tax loopholes.” In other words, raise taxes.
In the House Transportation Committee, Democrats have proposed a lengthy list of tax increases, including House Bill 1954, which would increase the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon, making Washington the highest in the nation for state gas taxes.
Remember the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) in which you paid hundreds of dollars to purchase car tabs? Voters killed that tax in 1999 through passage of Initiative 695, which created the $30 car tabs. But now the much hated MVET is being resurrected. House Bill 1959 would allow the King, Pierce and Snohomish county councils to charge a motor vehicle excise tax of 1.5 percent of the value of a vehicle. This equates to $150 on a $10,000 vehicle. It would also allow a transportation benefit district to impose an annual $40 vehicle fee.
In addition, House Bill 1953 would allow Community Transit in Snohomish County to seek voter approval of a sales tax increase of up to three-tenths of a penny to pay for Sunday bus service. That would add three cents to a $10 purchase.
I voted against these measures and hope if they pass the House with a simple majority, they can be stopped by the new Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.
I realize money is needed to keep up with the demands of transportation, but I think we should fix it before we fund it! Before asking voters for higher taxes, we need to reform our state’s transportation system. We have bridges with leaky pontoons, a faulty ferry, and money wasted because the Washington State Department of Transportation built a freeway ramp in the wrong place and had to tear it out. There is plenty of room for reforms.
I fear raising taxes in this fragile economy would damage Washington’s slim progress of economic recovery, kill jobs, and create larger long-term budget deficits as more unemployed people turn to the government for assistance. Just because the state Supreme Court tossed the two-thirds requirement should not automatically signal the Legislature to impose difficult and higher taxes on the struggling citizens of our state. Voters have repeatedly rejected new taxes. Regardless of the court ruling, it’s time to uphold the will of the people.
In your service,