Washington State House Democrats


Could closing oil company tax loophole fuel education funding?

In the wake of the McCleary decision and in the shadow of legislative cutoff, some lawmakers are championing new legislation to meet the demands of our state’s education budget and fund education right.

The operative word in the plan is right—to meet our education needs in a constructive way that doesn’t create undue burden in other areas or strip precious state services that benefit our communities and our citizens. In other words, not giving with one hand while taking with the other.

The House Finance Committee heard public hearing on a bill last week that would meet our needs while recognizing our mission, and public support was overwhelming. House Bill 2465, sponsored by Rep. Reuven Carlyle would narrow the unnecessary tax exemption on oil used by oil companies in the process of extracting or manufacturing, redirecting the revenue to the Education Legacy Trust account.

This bill doesn’t take away from any company nor cause any financial damage; it simply narrows an unnecessary bonus given to an industry that needs it least—an industry in which the top five companies made $23.1 billion in profit during three months last year. According to the Shell annual report, that company alone made more than $467 billion in revenue in 2012.

That doesn’t sound like an industry that relies on Washington state tax preferences to stay afloat.

As Pete Beaupain, a retired engineer testified Friday morning, “I like to try to find both sides of these arguments … I didn’t find anything in support of keeping this tax preference. There was no argument that the oil industry is a struggling startup and needs this to survive. This is just sheer lobbying muscle.”

Mr. Beaupain was right—almost half of the “testimonies” against HB 2465 came from Shell, Tesoro, and the Western States Petroleum Association.

So, who needs the money more – big oil companies or our school children?

That’s a question Washington legislators will be discussing in the coming weeks.