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Thursday, December 4, 2008

NPI calls on Governor Gregoire to include repeal of tax exemptions in 2009 budget

This afternoon, the Northwest Progressive Institute team sent the following letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, urging that repeal of unneeded tax exemptions be a key part of the budget proposal for 2009-2010.

Dear Governor Gregoire:

The projected budget deficit that our state must grapple with in the upcoming legislative session represents one of the toughest challenges that Washington has ever faced. State revenue is declining, leaving fewer dollars available to fund basic public services, and strengthening calls for big cutbacks in government spending.

Deep cuts may appear to be necessary to get us out of financial trouble in the near future, but the impact on our neighborhoods and our quality of life would be disastrous long term – and we would be hurting our own chances of escaping this recession. It would be a mistake to gut our investments in education, environmental protection, community safety, and healthcare during these tough economic times.

Your office recently asked Washingtonians, "What government programs should we sacrifice to ensure that we can continue to provide the essentials to the people of our state?

We believe a better question is, "What tax exemptions should we sacrifice to ensure that we can continue to provide the essentials to the people of our state?"

Every biennium, the State of Washington loses hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars in revenue through tax loopholes or outright exemptions that do not benefit the people of our great state.

Many of these exemptions are outdated; others made no sense to begin with and were enacted as a favor to a particular industry or special interest.

Repeal of such exemptions ought to be a key part of your budget proposal for the upcoming biennium. Just to illustrate where savings may be found, here is a small sample of some of the oddest exemptions:
  • RCW 82.04.062, which excludes the sale of precious metal bullion and monetized bullion from the sales tax,
  • RCW 82.04.255, the real estate commissions loophole,
  • RCW 82.26.040, the tobacco production loophole,
  • RCW 82.04.50(9), which excludes the sale of chemical sprays and fertilizer from the sales tax,
  • RCW 82.42.020, the crop dusting loophole,
  • RCW 82.08.0272, the bull semen insemination exemption
Several of the loopholes cited above are even more harmful than they might appear at first – particularly those that encourage the use and sale of pesticides, which are detrimental both to our state’s wondrous ecosystems and to human health.

Cutting back healthcare to children without insurance, or asking teachers to take a pay cut, or putting the cleanup of Puget Sound on hold (which all seem like possibilities your office might be considering given the dire straits we’re in) while leaving these exemptions on the books would be an outrage and an injustice to the people of the State of Washington.

We urge you to think creatively and push the Legislature to think of the single mother who is working two jobs and can’t afford to take her children to the doctor, or the family farmer who grows organic food, or the entrepreneur who is trying to keep that shop going on Main Street.

These are the people whose voices are rarely heard in Olympia.

Washingtonians deserve courageous leadership that doesn’t cower to lobbyists who want laws that are favorable to their employers.

Your budget for 2009 and 2010 must be concerned with the greater good and the strength of our common wealth above all else.


The Northwest Progressive Institute Team


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