This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
Because a two-thirds vote of legislators is needed to raise taxes but only a simple majority to raise user fees, guess which is more likely to happen this session?
With a state budget deficit of more than $5 billion, a combination of cuts and user fee increases throughout state government is inevitable. Those protesting increases in fees should point to the deeper cuts in services they would prefer.
Legislators do need to take care in what they term a “fee,” otherwise it could face legal challenge. A bona fide fee should – in general, at least – pay for the service it’s attached to. For instance, proposed increases for forest practice permits should go toward the state Department of Natural Resources’ administration of the state’s timber lands.
Fee increases that could be controversial – and thus warrant close scrutiny by lawmakers – are largely in transportation. Legislative Democrats are proposing to raise fees on driver’s license renewals by 60 percent, to more than double the fees paid when a car changes ownership and to put a new $20 fee on a driver’s first Washington license plates. Read more »