Lawmaker proposes tax reform task force

By Sean Harding

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

A proposal by Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Beacon Hill, would create a Washington state revenue reform task force to review the state tax system and make recommendations to the Legislature on how it can “better serve” state residents.

The bill would also seek funding mechanisms that would be, according to the bill, undisturbed by economic fluctuation, equitably spread among citizens, transparent and administratively simple.

The task force would include a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Senate and the House, as well as representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Washington Association of Cities and Washington State Association of Counties.

The task force may also convene an advisory group consisting of members of academia, business representatives and the general public.

“We think that it’s high time that the state take a look at its revenue, its tax system, in order to determine whether or not it’s keeping pace effectively with the changing dynamics in our economy,” Patrick Connor of the National Federation of Independent Business said.

Gov. Jay Inslee proposed several major tax changes last year. While a new budget will need to be written and approved by the Legislature, Inslee’s proposals include the introduction of a capital gains tax and raising the Business & Occupation tax on services to 2.5 percent.

“This is not a proposal to create an income tax by the way,” Hasegawa said, “although that is not prohibiting them from coming to that conclusion.”

Not everyone agreed that the state tax system is in need of overhaul.

“This language sort of puts the cart before the horse and concludes that the tax structure is in need of reform,” said Clay Hill, government affairs director at the Washington Association of Business.

If the legislation is passed, the task force will be required to submit a final report to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2019.

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