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Freshmen House Democrats: Might take longer to persuade on taxes

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 29, 2012 at 11:50 am with No Comments »
February 29, 2012 2:00 pm

Freshman House Democrats would rather seek unlikely two-thirds supermajorities in the Legislature for their tax-increase proposals than put them to a public vote.

If that means they need more time to persuade their fellow lawmakers, they said, so be it.

The group held a news conference today as some of their proposals start to get attention, 52 days into a 60-day session. A public hearing just wrapped up on a state tax on capital gains, offered by Tacoma Rep. Laurie Jinkins. Other proposals they support include adding expiration dates to tax breaks, charging sales tax to shoppers from out of state, and replacing business taxes with a 1 percent income tax.

There has been talk about going to the ballot to seek those kinds of long-term changes to the state tax code, given that voter-imposed supermajority rules force Democrats to get Republican support to pass them in the Legislature. But the Democratic freshmen said at a news conference today they aren’t pushing for a referendum.

“We should get two-thirds votes on these. These are good ideas,” Jinkins said.

“Everybody should be asked where they stand on that vote.”

Jinkins acknowledged voters may not be ready to support her capital-gains proposal. “People don’t actually understand it very well,” she said. She said later that while she has seen polls showing greater than 50 percent support, they also show that people aren’t familiar with the idea and plenty are still undecided.

A nine-day run through the Legislature would be quite a sprint, and Democrats acknowledge they’re thinking about these proposals more in terms of a marathon that would extend into future years.

Rep. Chris Reykdal of Tumwater hopes for “a successful campaign over a long period of time,” and Rep. Andy Billig of Spokane said it’s OK “if we have to work on it over the interim and come back next year to see results.”

They noted that their class project last year, narrowing a tax break on banks, ran into Republican opposition then but now has support from the GOP.

The freshmen describe  proposals like the capital-gains and income tax as ways to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes to the state. The proposed 5 percent tax on capital gains over $10,000 would bring the state in line with more than 40 states that tax profits from stocks and assets, but would also be a particularly unstable form of revenue for the state.

At the hearing, supporters of the capital-gains tax bemoaned budget cuts — the tax would bring in a projected $1.4 billion in 2013-2015 that could help restore some of the cuts — while opponents from a wide variety of industries criticized the proposal as the beginning of an income tax and a disincentive to investing.

The full list of freshmen Democrats backing the tax proposals:

  • Rep. Andy Billig (Spokane)
  • Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (West Seattle)
  • Rep. Drew Hansen (Bainbridge Island)
  • Rep. Laurie Jinkins (Tacoma)
  • Rep. Connie Ladenburg (Tacoma)
  • Rep. Kris Lytton (Anacortes)
  • Rep. Luis Moscoso (Mountlake Terrace)
  • Rep. Gerry Pollet (North Seattle)
  • Rep. Chris Reykdal (Tumwater)
  • Rep. Cindy Ryu (Shoreline)
  • Rep. Derek Stanford (Bothell)
  • Rep. Steve Tharinger (Dungeness)
  • Rep. Sharon Wylie (Vancouver)

UPDATED 2 p.m. with Jinkins’ comments on polling.

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