Nine state senators are working on a proposal that would increase taxes for the state’s wealthiest individuals and corporations, similar to two measures passed this week in Oregon.
The group of lawmakers is considering higher taxes for "the people more able to pay,” says State senator Craig Pridemore (D-49). Citing the Oregon measures, he says, "there is no reason Washington cannot do the same." The state legislature is trying to shore up a $2.6 billion budget deficit. He says it’s too early to announce the specific proposals, but he was clear that the legislation, to be introduced soon, would impact residents and businesses "who have made out well during this current economic slowdown."
On Tuesday, Oregon voters passed Measure 66, which raises taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year, and Measure 67, which both raises the minimum taxes a business must pay and the tax rate on their largest profits. The revenue is expected to fill Oregon’s $727 million budget gap.
The lawmakers are overwhelmingly from the Seattle area, including state senator Karen Kaiser (D-33), a member of the senate’s Ways and Means Committee. They are bound by Washington tax rules, which differ from Oregon's.
Pridemore holds little stock in arguments from opponents of these measures in Oregon, who claimed businesses would flee to other states. “These are extremely modest proposals that were enacted in Oregon and they are not going to drive anyone away from the state,” he says.
“We have been focusing on supply-side economics for years now,” Pridemore argues. “You give more and more money to top wage earners and corporations, they then, according to Republicans, take that money and invest it in the economy and create new industry, employ more people and everybody is better off. In fact, in the past 20 years, what we have seen is that these people don’t invest the money in new production, they speculate with it. They speculated on high tech, they speculated on energy futures, and they speculate on mortgage-backed securities. That is why we are in the problems that we are in.”
More after the jump.
Before increasing taxes, lawmakers must suspend Initiative 960 (a Tim Eyman measure passed in 2007) that required a tax increase to be approved by both houses of the legislature and by popular public vote. Many lawmakers are considering suspending the measure for three years.
Andrew Villeneuve, director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, says he wants the legislature to replicate the Oregon measure that “jacked up the corporate minimum tax ... Right now, the biggest corporations are paying the least percentage of their wealth in taxes.” His group, a member Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition, also favors a handful of measures to eliminate corporate tax exemptions.
“We cannot complete this legislative session with an all-cuts budget,” says Pridemore, who is running for the soon-to-be-vacated Congressional seat in the state’s 3rd District. “The people who would bear the brunt of that are the people who would need our help most.”