April 15, 2019
Fast Facts
Bringing Business Up to Speed
Legislation of Note « All Categories

HB 1403: Local B&O tax apportionment passes out of the Legislature

An AWB-supported bill on local business and occupation tax apportionment unanimously passed the Senate on Friday, and now awaits a signature from Gov. Jay Inslee. House Bill 1403 would simplify the administration of municipal B&O tax. AWB members worked with other stakeholders to collaborate on crafting this bill through the work of the Local B&O Apportionment Task Force. The solutions in the bill are supported by both AWB and the Association of Washington Cities. Contact Clay Hill, AWB government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, to learn more.

SB 5961, 5998, 5997 and 5996: AWB testifies against tax increases

AWB's Clay Hill testified last week in opposition to several tax increase/modification measures during a Senate Ways & Means Committee hearing. He testified against a proposed substitute of SB 5961, which includes an 8.9 percent capital gains income tax; SB 5998, which would set up a graduated real estate excise tax; SB 5997, which would eliminate or narrow tax preferences for nonresident sales tax exemption by converting it to a remittance program, and would eliminate the preferential B&O tax rate for travel agents and tour operators; and SB 5996, which would fund fire prevention and suppression activities through an increase in property and casualty insurance premiums to 2.52 percent from the current 2.0 percent. Contact Hill to learn more.

HB 1344: Child care access bill passes the Senate with amendments

The Senate has passed House Bill 1344, a child care access bill supported by AWB that would continue the Child Care Collaborative Task Force and study the industry, providing necessary data and information to develop a well-thought-out and strategic plan for addressing child care access and cost in Washington. The bill passed the Senate 25-20 Friday evening. Significant changes have been made to the legislation, specifically in the number of official task force members, which was reduced from 40 to 23. "Unfortunately, there was a significant reduction in the number of business representatives on the official task force, but the bill would not have moved forward without these reductions," said Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for workforce. "The business partners who were cut from the task force can continue to participate in the discussion, but they will not be official members of the task force. This was the best compromise given the initial desire to completely take business out of the conversation." Contact Anderson to learn more.

SB 5526: House passes bill to create a 'public option' health insurance plan

The House passed an amended version of Senate Bill 5526, the public option health care bill, last week, by a vote of 54-38. This version of the bill provides reimbursement rates at 150% of Medicare rates, the ability for the state’s plans to continue to offer non-standardized plans, and a B&O tax exemption for health care providers. This version of the bill has also been supported by Community Health Plan of Washington, Premera Blue Cross and Regence. You can read their letter of support. AWB's health care committee voted to oppose this bill at the beginning of session, and continues to oppose the bill because of concerns that premiums for employer-provided health care would increase and that access to health care would not be expanded. Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for health care, to learn more.

HB 1696: AWB moves to neutral position on amended wage and salary information bill

After amendments on the Senate floor, House Bill 1696, concerning wage and salary information, passed 37-10. The bill limits what prior wage and salary information an employer may request of an employee. As originally proposed, the bill would have also required employers to provide salary ranges for each position. AWB opposed the bill as originally written. After a striking amendment on the Senate floor, AWB moved to a neutral position on the bill. Contact Bob Battles, AWB government affairs director for workplace law, to learn more.

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Spring Meeting
State Funding

Lifting levy lid violates spirit of McCleary deal

By The Columbian Editorial Board

Efforts in the Legislature to remove a lid on local school levies represent a step backward for school funding in Washington. Rather than invite a return to inequitable funding and open the door for lawsuits, lawmakers should provide state funding where necessary and adhere to a hard-fought agreement.

Following the 2012 state Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. Washington, lawmakers took five years to hammer out a compromise in which the state would fully fund public K-12 education. That compromise limited local levies to $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value or $1,500 per student, whichever is less.

That was the promise lawmakers gave to taxpayers in 2017 -- state property taxes would increase in order for the Legislature to live up to its "paramount duty" of funding basic education. In exchange, local levies would decrease. The adjustments would prevent inequalities between districts that were at the heart of the McCleary decision; local levies had been used to fund basic expenses such as teacher salaries, creating disparities between wealthy districts and poor districts.

Now, school districts want the Legislature to keep both state and local property taxes high. Senate Bill 5313 would allow districts to tax up to $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed value -- a 67 percent increase from the current law -- or $2,500 per student, depending on a district's enrollment.

Passage of such a plan would put the state on the road to McCleary 2.0. It would invite the return of an unfair funding system that triggered the lawsuit in the first place and that had the amenities of a public education determined by a student's ZIP code.

Read the full editorial in The Columbian
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