UPDATED: Washington Legislature approves two Boeing-related bills on third day of special session

By | November 9, 2013 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Senate approved two bills Saturday that are part of a deal to convince Boeing to build its new 777X airplane in the state.

Senate Bill 5952 extends tax breaks worth nearly $9 billion to Boeing through 2040.

“It’s good for the state’s coffers,” said Sen. Andy Hill, the lead Republican budget writer in the Senate. The tax breaks are expected to generate more than $20 billion in tax revenue for the state, he said. “That’s a big deal,” Hill said. “And that’s doing it without raising taxes.”

Hill said it will also create 56,000 aerospace jobs, “guaranteeing jobs for kids that are in middle school now.”

Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, was the only Senator to speak out against the measure during the floor debate, saying the bill moved too quickly through the process. “We haven’t fully thought out the use of that $9 billion and what it could go toward,” he said.

Hasegawa also said that the deal to convince Boeing to stay in Washington was being “balanced on the backs of machinists.”

Many members of the International Association of Machinists are reportedly angry about Boeing’s labor proposal, which would raise health insurance costs and replace their pension plan with a 401(k)-style retirement plan. Union members will vote on the contract by Wednesday.

Hasegawa said it was “unconscionable” for the Legislature to ask Boeing works to “vote to cut their future.”

The tax incentives bill passed with a vote of 42-2. Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, voted against the measure along with Hasegawa.

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 5953, which creates 1,000 new training slots in aerospace programs at community and technical colleges. The bill uses $8 million in general fund money to increase enrollment in the aerospace programs, which currently enroll 8,500 students.

The House is expected to take up the measures on Saturday, the third day of special session. TVW will carry all proceedings live.

UPDATE 3 P.M.: The House of Representatives approved the Senate’s version of the tax incentive bill following two hours of debate with a vote of 75 to 11.

The House also approved its own version of the aerospace training bill, 77 to 9. It moved swiftly over to the Senate, which approved it unanimously.

With both bills passed, the legislation now heads to the governor to sign.

UPDATE 3:50 P.M.: The Washington State Legislature adjourned Sine Dine, ending the third special session of the year.

UPDATE: 4:30 P.M.: Gov. Jay Inslee held a press conference, saying that the Legislature is “fulfilling its end of the bargain” to keep Boeing production in Washington state.

The deal is also contingent on approval of the labor contract by the Boeing machinists union.

Inslee said the workers must make “individual decisions, private votes” on the contract. “I can’t think of a better thing for a person’s family than to win a job for 20 years,” he said.

The Legislature adjourned without taking action on a transportation package that would fund major road projects.

Inslee said there are ongoing bipartisan meetings about transportation. If leaders can come to an agreement by Nov. 21 — when lawmakers will be back in Olympia for committee days — Inslee said he would consider calling another special session to approve the package. “I think the cause demands it,” he said.

State Supreme Court rules on hazardous substances tax

By | October 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Washington Supreme Court unanimously upheld the hazardous substances tax, a law approved by voters more than 20 years ago that uses revenue from the tax to clean up toxic waste sites.

Washington voters approved Model Toxics Control Act in 1988, which taxes about 8,000 different hazardous substances, including petroleum products, pesticides and chemicals. The revenue from those taxes is set aside for environmental cleanup.

Tower Energy Group, a gas wholesaler, and Automotive United Trades Organization, a trade group representing the state’s gas station owners, sued to overturn the law. They argued that the tax was a gas tax that can’t be used for anything other than highways under the state Constitution.

Justice James Johnson, writing the majority opinion, agreed with King County Superior Court’s decision to uphold the law. The state Constitution doesn’t “preclude the enactment of an additional tax on motor vehicle fuel for hazardous substances cleanup,” Johnson wrote.

Washington Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant praised the decision in a news release.

“For more than 20 years, this tax has been doing exactly what the voters of our state intended – cleaned up old toxic messes and prevented many new ones in our air and water and land. This is good for families, communities and businesses,” Sturdevant said.

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Happy tax day: Round-up of new changes to the state’s tax policy

By | April 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

In honor of tax day, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look a few tax changes the Legislature adopted this year. Gov. Chris Gregoire floated the idea of a temporary half-cent sales tax as a solution to the budget shortfall last year. That idea failed to gain support, as did another proposal she suggested which would have streamlined B&O taxes, or business and occupation taxes.

Here’s a look at some tax changes that did pass:

Local sales tax collections
This was the $238 million solution that helped break the logjam over the budget. It’s been widely called an “accounting maneuver,” but it basically works like this: The state collects sales tax revenue, which lands in the general fund. A share of that money belongs to local cities, counties and other agencies. Currently, their share is transferred to a separate account every day and then redistributed at the end of the month.

Under the new legislation, the money allotted for local governments will stay in the general fund about a month longer. They will still get their distributions at the usual time, but it gives the state a boost in its monthly cash flow. During floor debate on the issue, lead Democratic budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter said it is a way to “modernize” the way the state manages its money. It easily passed the House and Senate, and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Roll-your-own cigarettes
Washington state has the fifth highest cigarette tax in the nation, at $3.025 per pack. That means smokers in the state can expect to pay as much as $9 for a pack of cigarettes at the store, but some have found a way around that by using roll-your-own cigarette machines. Customers buy the tobacco and papers, then put it in a roll-your-own cigarette machine found in 65 stores statewide. In about 10 to 20 minutes, they’ve got rolled cigarettes for half the price.

New legislation expands the definition of cigarettes to include roll-your-own, and they will be taxed at the same rate as prepackaged cigarettes starting July 1st. The bill drew heavily debate in the Legislature, but ultimately passed. Opponents said it would put stores out of business and devastate small business owners, who paid about $30,000 apiece for the roll-your-own machines. Supporters say it will deter smoking, which improves public health while also bringing in an estimated $12 million in new revenue – a number that could change depending on how consumers react.

Eliminate tax deduction for big banks
Washington state doesn’t charge taxes on the interest that banks earn on loans for first mortgages. The Legislature voted to end that tax deduction starting July 1st for big banks that operate in more than 10 states. The change is expected to bring in about $15 million a year.

New tax breaks
While banks lost a tax deduction, other businesses got new or extended tax breaks. In an effort to attract more film and TV production companies to the state, the Legislature revived the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program, which expired last July. It gives filmmakers a 30 percent rebate off the money they spend in the state on hiring local crews and other expenses.

Also, craft distilleries that make and bottle their own spirits will get an exemption from paying a retail license fee of 17 percent on bottles they sell in tasting rooms. Businesses that operate processing facilities for fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood will get an extension of a B&O tax exemption until 2015.

Categories: tax

Roll Your Own cigarettes bill passed the House, now on to the Senate

By | March 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

The bill to add the state cigarette tax to “roll your own” cigarettes is getting a vote in the House now. Watch live on TVW.

Rep. Cary Condotta said the bill will close 65 to 70 businesses across the state. “There is no question here what they’re doing,” he said, for only about a million dollars in revenue. “No thank you, Mr. Speaker. Not for me.”

But Rep. Chris Hurst, a Democrat from Enumclaw, said the bill will protect jobs — not take them away. He said RYO businesses often advertise cigarettes at half price and that puts all the other businesses around them at risk. “They’re right on the margins right now, Mr. Speaker. They’re barely getting by. These grocery stores legally sell tobacco and that’s a big part of their business,” he said.

Rep. Matt Shea asked how many votes the bill would take to pass, since it increases revenue to the state. Rep. Jim Moeller, acting speaker, said that since roll-your-own cigarettes are already included in the definition of cigarettes under state law, there was no need for a two-thirds vote.

The bill passed 67 to 30 and now heads to the Senate.

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This week’s Inside Olympia — right here

By | January 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

This week: Senate Democrat Leader Lisa Brown and House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt share their views on the state budget, possible tax hikes, and other key issues facing the 2012 State Legislature. Enjoy.

Sen. Joe Zarelli: Gov. is right that budget is first priority, but short-term solutions not the answer

By | January 10, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sen. Joe Zarelli delivered the Republican response to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s State of the State address. You can watch it all here:

He started off by saying that he agrees with the governor on one point: The budget is the most important issue this session. But he disagrees on how to solve the $1.5 billion budget gap. He said temporary solutions — like the proposed half-cent sales tax increase — are not the way to go.

“We can go for a short-term fix that is based on new – and in some cases, temporary – revenue. Or we can seize opportunities that will help make state government more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable now and for years to come.”


Senate Majority Leader: Budget writers are close on a package of cuts

By | December 9, 2011 | 0 Comments

House and Senate budget writers are close to a compromise on several hundred million dollars in cuts, according to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. Brown held a press availability this morning.

She said that budget writers are neither ready to adopt Gov. Chris Gregoire’s full package of cuts to bridge the $2 billion spending gap in the budget nor to pass a tax package. But, she said, after hearing from hundreds of citizens on the proposed cuts and negotiating, she’s optimistic that a package of cuts will be announced on Monday.

Brown did not provide details on the cuts: She said she’d leave that to budget negotiators, including sens. Ed Murray and Joe Zarelli.

“We still have a long way to go after that’s over,” she said, referring to more than a billion more in cuts — and possibly a tax package — that would need to be handled during regular session, which starts in January.

Lawmakers are also planning to pass a resolution urging Congress to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would require internet retailers to collect sales tax on their sales. The bill could net the state $400 million in additional revenue if passed, Brown said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s take on taxes, the budget, protests and more — exclusive interview from The Impact

By | November 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

On tonight’s edition of The Impact, I talk with Gov. Chris Gregoire about her tax proposal, the state budget, special session, her thoughts on the Occupy protests at the capitol – and much more. We didn’t have time to air the entire interview on the show, so I’m posting the full, unedited version here.

But don’t miss tonigh’ts show: We’ve also got more on the protests, an on-set interview and news from the first week of this 30-day special session. You can watch at 7 and 10 p.m. on TVW.

Updated: More than 150 people sign up to testify on Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget

By | November 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget is up for hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Ross Hunter said there are about 160 people signed up to testify — each will get 2 minutes to give their perspective on the cuts proposed last week. I’ll be updating this post with some of the testimony, so stay tuned.

First up, Ingrid McDonald with the AARP. “More than 1,000 people in our state will lose their home care,” she said. “The only solution is revenue. We commend the governor,” for coming up with the half cent sales tax plan to save some services from further cuts, she said.

Lynn Treat said she and her husband are both disabled and have lost their jobs — and with those, their insurance. “We may not be able to afford long-term care or any of the aging services,” she said. “We should be looking at maximizing revenues,” she said, even through a “marginal” sales tax increase like the governor has proposed.

Jen Estroff with Childrens Alliance asked legislators to raise revenue. “Do whatever it takes,” she said. “This is a moment of choice, not just for our state’s budget but for our children’s future,” she said.

Update at 8 p.m.: The Ways and Means Committee continues — you can watch live on TVW. And The Associated Press is reporting that hundreds of protesters are camped out in the capitol building, where the state police have locked the doors to prevent more people from coming in.

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Election results so far….

By | November 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

So far, every initiative is passing — except Tim Eyman’s initiative 1125, which is behind by about 2 points right now.

There will be more batches of returns in the coming days and more updates, but for tonight it looks like the state will have privatized liquor stores, more training for home healthcare workers, a budget stabilization account and no residency requirement to vote for president.

This week’s Q&A: Sen. Joe Zarelli on the budget, taxes and more

By | November 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

Last Q&A, I spoke with Sen. Ed Murray, Democrat and head of the budget writing committee, about the budget and his support for taxes. This week, I spoke with Sen. Joe Zarelli, the Republican who takes the lead on budget issues in the Senate, about the same. Here’s what he had to say.

zarelli Q: The magnitude of the budget crisis is hard to comprehend. Do you have any way to characterize it that might help people understand what you’re dealing with as legislators?

Zarelli: Generally, when you make reductions in government spending it’s those who obviously are dependent on government spending that feel the reduction. So it’s hard to express. For those people, obviously it’s a very real scenario. For us, regardless of the fact that one could say we actually have more money projected for this biennium than last biennium, that’s only because we went from a very high projected revenue to a very low projected revenue.

It gets harder as you make those reductions, it’s no different than people sitting around their kitchen table. It gets harder every time as you have to make more cuts. For us, the faces (of those affected by the cuts) are real.

Q: Is there a way to get to the $2 billion in reductions simply through cuts? Or would that be going too far?

Zarelli: Well, I don’t think we have much of an option. To generally raise taxes – the desire of some – I’m more of the mind that we have to make cuts first of all and if someone wants to generally look at the idea of taxes, then they’ll have to take it to the public. And that’s going to be a real hard sell because the basis for our declining revenue is based on the inability of consumers to spend money because they don’t have money. To generally raise the price of goods through taxes, I don’’t know how that helps us get out of our funk.

The answer is, how do we get people working so that people can take care of themselves and not have as great a need for the government. So to me, we should focus rather on the folks and how do we get them employed and make it so that the private sector can create employment strategies.

Q: What are your thoughts on eliminating tax exemptions? There’s been some talk of getting rid of a tax exemption that doesn’t demonstrably boost the economy.

Zarelli: Yeah, I think that’s our job (more…)

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This week’s Q&A: Senate budget writing chair Ed Murray

By | October 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

This week’s Q&A is with Sen. Ed Murray, the Seattle Democrat who chairs the Senate budget writing committee. Murray talked about the budget hearing earlier this week, where lawmakers got a sense of the cuts agencies are proposing. We also talked about taxes, same-sex marriage and more. Next week, I’ll speak with a Republican budget writer about the impending cuts.

murrayQ: Earlier this week, you heard some of the plans from state agencies for cutting 10 percent of their budgets. What are some of the elements that stood out the most?
Murray: Well, we have reached the point of — the cuts we’ve already made are fairly severe. But now we’re moving to the point of eliminating some pretty basic services that people depend on because they’re ill, because they’re disabled or because they’re old. So there are no sort of halfway measures left. This leaves only draconian choices.

Q: Are there any potential cuts you heard about that were particularly troubling?
Murray: You worry about some of the decisions we would make around the mentally ill. There are so many that stand out it’s hard just to pick one.
We’re looking at basic health care coverage, those sorts of things, assistance to immigrants, things like language interpreters for medical procedures. That pretty much cuts off the ability to someone to treat or someone who needs treatment.
Q: There has been talk about taxes. After what you heard earlier this week, are you convinced of the need of a revenue package?
Murray: I personally think we need to put revenue on the ballot and give voters a choice, but I don’t know if the votes are there in the Senate.

Q: Is that something you’re working on — getting support lined up for a potential package?
Murray: It certainly will be. To some extent, unless you’re actually in session it’s difficult to work some of these issues.

Q: At the hearing this week, you heard about the proposals to cut 10 percent — and yet, for many agencies, those cuts still don’t get you to $2 billion. How do you characterize the magnitude of this problem?
Murray: You know, it’s hard. When you ask voters, Should we have the services that state government provides like school, college, hep for families who have someone in their family who is disabled? They support it. (more…)

Budget cuts, taxes, meth and more

By | October 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

This week, the blog’s been slow because I was filling in for Jessica Gao on The Impact. But now, in just about 30 minutes, you can catch up on the week’s news. Enjoy.

This week’s Q&A: Sen. Joe Zarelli on the Rainy Day Fund expansion

By | August 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

zarelliThis week’s Q&A is with Sen. Joe Zarelli. I spoke with him about SJR 8206, a Constitutional Amendment that will bolster the Rainy Day Fund by requiring the state to put “extraordinary revenue growth” in the bank.

Q: First, tell me what this would do in your own words.

Zarelli: Well, it builds upon what we put out a couple of years back establishing the Rainy Day Fund. For me, it’s one of those long-term lessons learned from the current revenue scenario we’re in, where we saw revenue grow way outside a typical scenario (earlier in the decade).  What this does is this sets up a process in the future where if this ever happens again, we’d be required to capture a percent of extraordinary revenues and move it to the Rainy Day Fund. That does two things: First, it makes us save some of that money and second, we don’t spend it — so it has a double effect of making the budget more sustainable over time.

Q: You mentioned that it saves money in two ways — the second being that you don’t create new programs with extraordinary revenue. Can you say more about that?

Zarelli: Well, the biggest problem is that when you have a spike in revenue that you know isn’t going to continue and then you spend that spike, it creates a bow wave — you have no way to support that spending. When revenue comes back down to its historical growth pattern and then spending is way out of balance, that creates problems like we’re in now. The idea is to harmonize the spending pattern so it stays consistent with what is long-term growth instead of the ebbs and flows.

Q: There hasn’t been much opposition to this Constitutional amendment. Does that reflect bipartisan support across the state?

Zarelli: Well, there are some of those in the social services arena who think that we can’t commit to saving money, we have to spend it because there’s a huge need. There is a small group, but my message to them is that it does us no good if we commit to spending that we then have to withdraw from. (more…)

This week’s Q&A: Doug MacDonald on the problems with Initiative 1125

By | August 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

macdonaldLast week, I spoke to Tim Eyman about his latest initiative and how it would affect tolling across the state. This week, I spoke with Doug MacDonald, former secretary of transportation. He retired in 2007, just after the Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened. He’s an opponent of the initiative. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: First, what does this initiative do from your perspective?
MacDonald: Well, the worst part of the initiative is that it’s going to stop a whole lot of progress that’s been made on roadway improvements. I’m not sure that Tim Eyman, when he drafted this initiative, understood what some of its effects would be. But the kind of bomb that it dropped that’s most significant is on the 520 bridge project, because that’s structured to be financed by tolls to pay back bonds that would pay for some of its cost. That’s a good thing because it means that costs get paid in part by the users and not fall on taxpayers across the state. That’s a plan that’s been very attractive.

But the initiative says that tolls have to be set by the Legislature, which is absolutely not consistent with tolls being used to pay back that kind of a bond. And the confirmation of that isn’t coming from people like me, it’s coming from our state treasurer, Jim McIntire. McIntire has analyzed all this and he has put out a statement, reflected in the OFM fiscal analysis, that says that investors won’t buy bonds at as favorable a rate if there’s the political uncertainty of having tolls being set by the Legislature. (more…)

Group of lawmakers, education groups challenging two-thirds vote requirement

By | July 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

At the end of session, House Democrats voted on a bill to close tax loopholes to fund education. The bill got the majority of votes, but because it didn’t get a two-thirds supermajority, the bill failed. That raised plenty of speculation that the vote was the foundation of a lawsuit challenging the legality of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053, which requires any tax increase — even the closure of a tax exemption — to pass with a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate or a vote of the public.

Today, we learned that 12 House Democrats, along with education advocates and one former Supreme Court justice, are going ahead with that lawsuit. (Check out the link for more on the case and a copy of the legal complaint.)

Tuesday Q&A: Rep. Andy Billig on the tax package to fund schools

By | April 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

This week’s Q&A is with Rep. Andy Billig, one of 11 House Democrat freshmen who introduced a bill yesterday to close certain tax exemptions to fund smaller class sizes for Kindergarten-3rd grade classes. Here’s what Billig had to say this morning about the bill, its prospects and what message voters really sent in the last election.

billigQ: First, tell me about the proposal you unveiled yesterday to cut tax exemptions to fund education.

Billig: Well, we — the 11 freshmen Democrats along with the support of a total of 48 colleagues — really feel that we need a balanced approach to solving our revenue crisis and that’s what this bill is about. It’s about making the investments in kids that we need over special interest tax breaks.

Q: It would take a two-thirds vote to get this through, and I think for that reason some people have written it off. Was this just a statement?

Billig: No, we think that this has a good chance to pass. I think most of our colleagues will agree that we should put the interest of young children first and invest in their academic achievement and invest in their future over special interest tax breaks.

Q: Tell me more about what specific tax breaks you’re targeting. There’s the end to the out-of-state sales tax exemption …

Billig: Yes, out of state shoppers, and then the other one – it’s not closing the bank tax exemption but limiting the mortgage B&O tax exemption for banks to $100 million. We’re the only state in the country that has this tax exemption so we want to limit that to $100 million so that most of the in-state banks wouldn’t be affected.

Q: I think that’s one exemption you hear about but it’s very confusing. Can you explain it further?

Billig: Banks have revenue from different sources. One of the sources is from mortgage interest. So when you pay your mortgage, part of what you’re paying is interest and that is revenue. So all businesses – I have a business, and I pay B&O tax on all of our income, and the banks don’t. They don’t pay B&O tax on the interest that they get on first mortgages. So this would basically cap that exemption so that they would be paying B&O tax just like any other business. (more…)

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At the Referendum 52 debate: Dunshee vs. Alexander on the issues

By | August 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

I’m at the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce meeting, listening to Reps. Hans Dunshee and Gary Alexander debate Referendum 52, which would weatherize schools and use a bottled water tax to service the bond debt.

Rep. Larry Seaquist is in the audience, and asked why the referendum is important — and worth a tax increase.

“Dan Evans went out to the people in ’72 with what would be the equivalent of $2 billion today to stimulate jobs,” he said. “I think that every kid in the school, in the state, ought to have a healthy building …. I think that’s our paramount duty,” he said. “There’s nothing in this room that if we increased (the cost) by 1.5 percent, you would be able to tell the difference.”

Rep. Alexander: “In the same four years, the previous four years, the capitol budget grew by almost 43 percent,” he said. “Now, all the sudden, when we hit the debt service limit we have to look at other types of debt service” opportunities. Alexander said he’s against R52 not because he doesn’t want healthy schools, but because he does want fiscal responsibility.

Another guest asked why not take a bit of lottery money to pay for the improvements. Alexander said the lottery brings in about $150 million a year, and some of that easily could have been diverted. Dunshee said that’s a policy call, “you can stop construction to do this,” he said, which would pit maintenance against construction.

Another asked how the increased debt would affect the state’s bond rating. Dunshee said that the state treasurer said this debt would not affect the bond rating, and that Washington is already in a better position than many states. “This recession is the biggest thing that any of us have ever seen in our lives,” he said. “We are cutting,” he said, but this is a good investment.

Alexander, however, said the state treasurer also has told the Legislature that they may not have enough in the bank to pay bills. “I am concerned about the bond rating.” “We are at our constitutional debt limit,” he said — 9 percent. “Our debt service costs are somewhere in the top third” of other states, he said.

Now, time for closing statements.

Alexander said it’s been a good debate. “I just want to sum up by saying it’s always enjoyable to discuss issues with my comrade over here,” he said, referring to Rep. Dunshee. “I just believe that at this point in time, Ref 52 is not in taxpayers’ best interests,” he said. He also said there are many important issues on the ballot this year and encouraged voters to learn about them all.

Dunshee: “We may disagree, but it’s how you disagree that matters in Democracy,” he said, of the debate. He said this referendum would save money, “I would offer to you to go to the web site — healthyschoolsforwa.org — you can see examples, you can see testimonials, you can see financing,” he said.

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The budget’s impact on higher education — and more

By | May 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

Watch this week’s edition of The Impact right here. Host Jessica Gao goes over the budget, which Gov. Chris Gregoire just signed, and what it will mean for higher education.

Q&A: DOR’s Janetta Taylor on the 68 tax changes coming to Washington

By | April 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

This week’s Q&A is with Janetta Taylor with the Department of Revenue. I was interested in finding out how the department is dealing with nearly 70 changes to the tax code worth $800 million that go into effect on a handful of different dates — including tomorrow, when cigarettes will cost $1 more per pack.

Taylor told me about some big changes to the tax code that could help local businesses, what it would take to implement an income tax, and much more.

Q: How many changes did the Legislature make, and what does the DOR have to do to implement those changes?

Taylor: With this session we have 68 changes that came through, which is quite a few. It will be a challenge for the department to make sure that we contact all the businesses that are affected. That really is our focus: educate, educate, educate.

We have a wide variety of mechanisms to do that. In Washington, most businesses and household are connected to the Web. The first thing we did is post the information on our Web page. There’s a link to all the information with the write-ups. Of course, also some of Mike’s (Mike Gowrylow, communications director at DOR) media releases. And we also try to target mailings to the specific businesses that are impacted. We have about 450,000 registered businesses. Not all of these changes affect all businesses. We look at businesses by their activity and we tailor specific mailings to them and try to get them all the information they need.

We also have special things going on with electronic filing. A large number of our tax payers actually file electronically so we can send them e-mails or send them alerts in the system.

Q: The $1 per pack addition to the cigarette tax goes into effect tomorrow (May 1). What did you have to do to implement something like that?

Taylor: The ones that start tomorrow were quite challenging because we did have a short time frame. We actually started planning before the bill was signed. (more…)