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Activists: Proposed tax breaks total $97 million

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
February 16, 2011 4:50 pm

State lawmakers have proposed some $97 million-per-year worth of tax breaks, say activists who are pushing for closure of loopholes in Washington’s tax code.

I’ve written about some of the tax exemptions lawmakers have proposed this year for baseball stadiums, zoos, Goodwill, government and nonprofit sports leagues, film and TV companies, restaurant employees and other people and interests despite the $4.6 billion two-year budget shortfall.

Now 34 of the proposals have been tallied up by analysts at the liberal Washington State Budget and Policy Center, and their assessment of the total impact on fiscal 2013 is being touted by the anti-budget-cuts Economic Future Coalition as a sign that tax exemptions are “out of control and in serious need of systemic reform.”

The total that is still under serious consideration is much less, because a single tax-exemption bill that accounts for most of the budget center’s $97 million has already been gutted of its major provisions. The original version of HB 1165 would have cost a whopping $60 million a year, much of it not really exemptions but relaxed treatment for delinquent taxpayers.

Other caveats: The center only counted bills with fiscal notes, or legislative projections of cost, so there are more going uncounted. And it included the added costs to the state as well as the decline in revenues to state and local governments.

The reform being called for by the budget center and the coalition of social-service advocates, unions and liberal groups includes putting tax exemptions into the budget process and setting sunset dates that would force them to be reviewed at a later date.

There are 567 tax breaks on the books, the group says, 116 of them created in the last decade.

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