February 8, 2018

State revenues are strong, but more tax bills are underway, Republican leaders say (w/video)

By: Andrew Lenderman   Comments: 0
Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick gives an update on legislative issues to a full house at the Feb. 8, 2018, AWB Lobby Lunch. (Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB)

Washington’s tax collections continue to grow, and yet lawmakers continue to propose new tax bills that would hurt small businesses, Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler said at AWB’s second 2018 Lobby Lunch.

Schoesler and other Republican leaders from the state House and Senate gave AWB members and lobbyists a legislative update Thursday, just after the current session’s halfway mark. Schoesler told a packed conference room that state tax revenue has grown every single quarter for about eight years, and more tax collections are on the way. Still, there are new tax proposals floating in the capitol, including a carbon tax bill.

An energy tax, Schoesler said, “is the most devastating thing that we could do to the state of Washington. Hardworking middle-class people, small businesses, pay the price so that somebody can feel good about unmeasurable improvements in the environment. That simply is not acceptable.”

A version of Gov. Jay Inslee's carbon tax passed the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee last week, moving on to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Senate Bill 6203 would place a price on carbon emissions, increasing the cost of electricity, as well as prices for gasoline, diesel and other transportation fuels.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, the Senate Minority Leader, talks with a full house at the Feb. 8, 2018, AWB Lobby Lunch.

“We will continue that fight to protect the taxpayers, the job creators from that energy tax,” Schoesler said. “It is just the right thing to do. And I believe that people are with us in pursuit of that.”

House Republican Floor Leader J.T. Wilcox told business leaders that even though Republicans are in the minority in both houses, there are great opportunities for the GOP to influence things. Wilcox mentioned the recent legislative fix to the Hirst water rights court ruling that limited development in rural areas.

And sometimes it’s just necessary to stop bad ideas before they become law.

“When we put together a coordinated case, and we have allies on the outside among the voters and the business community and sometimes just as importantly the commissions and trade associations that motivate their members, we can stop stuff,” Wilcox said. “It’s not as satisfying as passing things, but sometimes it’s a heck of a lot more necessary.”

Wilcox also said that when the business community stays together, it’s a strong group. He encouraged people to stay involved.

“And with your help we can stop things like excessive regulation,” Wilcox said. “We can stop things like higher and discriminatory taxes and hopefully we can stop the social issues that turn into highly expensive and disruptive business practices.”

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, the Senate Minority Leader; Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick; and Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, the Republican Floor Leader, speak to a full house at the Feb. 8, 2018, AWB Lobby Lunch. At left, Sandi Swarthout, of the AWB Government Affairs Council, joins them. 
Wilcox also said it’s quite possible that lawmakers will end the session on time, and that the Legislature does not have the traditional budget problem.

“And by that, I mean we have so much money coming in that no one with a straight face can tell you that we’ve got a shortage of dollars,” he said.

Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, also spoke at Thursday’s event. Brown sits on the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee, where the carbon tax recently passed.

The bill, she said, included 57 exemptions and will negatively impact lower-income families.

“That’s not a bill that’s going to go and help the state of Washington,” she said.

Stay tuned to www.awb.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest business news on the 2018 Legislature. For more information on specific issues, AWB’s government affairs team can be reached here.

AWB’s third and final Lobby Lunch is scheduled next Thursday at noon and will feature Democratic legislative leaders.

2018 Lobby Lunch Series: February 8th - Republican Leadership from Association of WA Business Vimeo page.