April 14, 2011

Group of 14 Senate Democrats proposes legislation closing tax loopholes

Wisconsin 14, meet the Washington 14.

A group of 14 gutsy Washington state Senate Democrats on Thursday appeared to have heard you. They unveiled a package of five bills to end or modify tax loopholes enjoyed by corporations.

“We’re in tough times and we need to share the hurt,” said Sen. Tracey Eide of the 30th District, who is Senate majority floor leader.

Sen. Phil Rockefeller of the 23rd District, spokesman for the 14 Democrats, said the proposals have the “goal of shared sacrifice.”

It’s heartening that these 14 apparently have listened to you all session long and during last week’s rallies to close tax loopholes to save the safety net. In fact, they use many of the terms we’ve used for so long about the need for shared sacrifices.

Rockefeller said while the proposed Senate budget is realistic given the need for a balanced budget, it’s “not sufficient.”

The package of bills includes Senate Ways and Means Chair Sen. Ed Murray’s SB 5944 to ask voters whether they meant to include tax loopholes when they passed Initiative 1053 this past November. I-1053 requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes, but are loopholes taxes or an expenditure?

The other bills would: cut the B&O tax loophole by 25 percent (SB 5945); cut the B&O tax exemption on initiation dues or fees for most businesses; (SB 5932); and make corporate officers accountable for their business’s tax liabilities (SB 5946); end certain livestock tax exemptions, including for heating chicken coops (SB 5947).

The strategy appears for the future – the Democrats admitted there probably aren’t the votes to get them passed this session. But if voters get the I-1053 clarification measure, then the package of loophole-closing bills might have a chance when the same Legislature returns in 2012.

Besides Rockefeller, Eide and Murray, the other Senate Democrats at the Thursday press conference were: Sen. Adam Kline (37th Dist.); Sen. Scott White (46th Dist.); Sen. Steve Conway (29th Dist.); Sen. Kevin Ranker (40th Dist.); Sen. Sharon Nelson (34th Dist.); Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th Dist.); Sen. Karen Keiser (33rd Dist.); Sen. Karen Fraser (22nd Dist.); Sen. Debbie Regala (27th Dist.); Sen. Maralyn Chase (32nd Dist.); and Sen. Nick Harper (38th Dist.).

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