Freshmen push for long-term solutions and tax reform

OLYMPIA — They may be the new kids in town, but these lawmakers haven’t wasted any time getting down to business.

Beginning early last session the freshmen House Democrats have organized and advocated on behalf of a new approach to budget writing.

“We came to Olympia from different regions and with different backgrounds,” said Rep. Andy Billig (D-Spokane). “What unites us is our desire for long-term solutions that will keep Washington as a great place to live and do business.”

Last year the freshmen introduced a bill to close a tax loophole on out-of-state banks that received a majority vote on the House floor, but failed to garner the 2/3rds majority necessary as stipulated by Initiative 1053.

In a continuation of the work they began last year, the lawmakers held a press conference this morning where they rolled out their ideas to ensure Washington’s long term fiscal health and bring fairness to the state tax code.

Rep. Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes) wrote legislation to benefit the youngest of our citizens. Washington is currently the only state in the nation that exempts out-of-state residents from paying the sales tax. Rep. Lytton’s measure would close this loophole, and redirect the estimated $52 million/biennium to fully funding all-day kindergarten.

“Study after study shows us that early learning is instrumental to a child’s success later in life,” Rep. Lytton said. “All-day kindergarten is just one way we can ensure that each student in Washington gets the head start they need.”

Reminding folks that budget cuts have been equally painful to rural communities, Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Dungeness) stressed the need for close analysis of the tax giveaways the state issues each year.

“Some tax exemptions have been on the state’s books since the 1930’s, and at the time were specifically created to benefit rural communities.  But almost 80 years later, the state’s demographics have changed.  We need to look at whether there are better ways to invest in and support our rural communities.”

Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) has a proposal to re-balance the tax burden in Washington. Rep. Jinkins’ bill would apply a five percent excise tax on capital gains over $10,000/year, generating at least $1.4 billion to safeguard education and health care from devastating cuts. 42 other states have a similar tax on capital gains.

“We should join 42 other states in making sure everyone pays their fair share for public schools and universities, prisons and parks,” Rep. Jinkins said. “Capital gains is a big step toward tax reform and fairness.”

The group also discussed closing an outdated tax exemption with no opposition from the industry, as well as a proposal to provide universal first year college access by Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater). Some of these bills are being heard in the House Ways and Means Committee today, while Rep. Lytton’s bill received a hearing last week.

The freshmen legislators acknowledge that these reforms aren’t a solution to the state’s current shortfall, but rather a new approach to funding our state’s most critical of services and ensure long-term stability.

In addition to their work in Olympia, the legislators are planning a summer ‘listening tour’ in their home and neighboring districts to discuss these proposals with citizens across the state.

You can watch the entire press conference on TVW’s website.

The freshmen lawmakers include:

  • Rep. Andy Billig (Spokane)
  • Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (West Seattle)
  • Rep. Drew Hansen (Bainbridge Island)
  • Rep. Laurie Jinkins (Tacoma)
  • Rep. Connie Ladenburg (Tacoma)
  • Rep. Kris Lytton (Anacortes)
  • Rep. Luis Moscoso (Mountlake Terrace)
  • Rep. Gerry Pollet (North Seattle)
  • Rep. Chris Reykdal (Tumwater)
  • Rep. Cindy Ryu (Shoreline)
  • Rep. Derek Stanford (Bothell)
  • Rep. Steve Tharinger (Dungeness)
  • Rep. Sharon Wylie (Vancouver)