I was planning to report in detail on the House Finance Committee hearing I attended yesterday, including my private exchanges with several of the committee members… but my better judgment has gotten the better of me. Needless to say, it wasn’t particularly exciting, but the turnout in support of these worthy bills was very encouraging.
HB 1069, HB 1094, and HB 1096 all concern greater accountability for the over 500 tax exemptions, deductions, credits and other breaks scattered throughout our state tax code. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new exemptions have been added over the past few years, and that doesn’t even include the $3 billion package for Boeing. It only makes sense, particularly in these tight budgetary times, that the Legislature periodically review these tax “expenditures” to assure that they are producing the social and economic benefits intended.
In testifying, I referred to these as tax “loopholes”, a turn of phrase strongly objected to by Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Angryville). While my choice of words was admittedly pejorative, I sincerely doubt that most voters would understand what I was talking about if I adopted the Legislature’s happy euphemism of “tax preference.” (I suspect that most voters’ tax “preference” would be not to pay any.)
From his line of questioning, Rep. Orcutt seemed awfully concerned that these bills were just a sneaky way of eliminating some of his cherished
loopholes preferences… and I have no doubt that many of those in the room supporting the measures assume that this will surely be the end result. But if these incentive-exemption-thingies can’t survive a little public scrutiny, they deserve to die.
I’m not going to bore you with details. For those who are interested in a more wonkish debate, I suggest reading the bills, and downloading the excellent report from the Economic Opportunity Institute: “Lost Revenue, Lost Opportunities: Tax Exemptions in Washington State.”
Anyway… today is the first hearing in the election contest lawsuit. I don’t expect anything dramatic, but I’m sure there will be loads to discuss.