Braun denounces Senate-minority tax plan but says it deserves fair hearing

While Sen. John Braun has no interest in tax increases, he is interested in bringing more cooperation and bipartisanship to the state Capitol – and that’s why the 20th District lawmaker will spend part of Valentine’s Day listening to proposals from the Senate minority that would raise taxes on Washingtonians by more than $38 billion.

“The voters sent a strong no-new-taxes message in November. Still, several of my colleagues in the Senate minority think this would be a great time to go for everything from new income taxes to a tax on plastic bags,” said Braun, R-Centralia.

“Those of us from the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus who serve on the Senate budget committee are going to let them make their case Thursday – and frankly, I suspect the public will be shocked and disappointed to realize how eager some legislators are to add to the tax burden on job creators and working families.”

Taxes on the table by the Senate minority include $3.6 billion in new gas taxes, $1.5 billion in new business-and-occupation taxes, $89.2 billion in new income taxes, $134 million in new plastic bag taxes and $44 million in new utility taxes. The proposals would reduce property, insurance and sales taxes but not eliminate any of them.

“That’s a whole lot of love for taxpayers’ wallets,” Braun said, tongue-in-cheek. “I am just not sure this is the type of love letter Washingtonians were expecting in this tough economic climate.

“We formed the Majority Coalition Caucus because of this type of ridiculousness,” Braun continued. “People are desperately looking for jobs and small-business owners are trying to keep the doors open — yet we have legislators in Olympia who are trying to tax their way out of the recession?”

Braun said he realizes his constituents may wonder why the Majority Coalition Caucus would hold a hearing when the tax proposals run counter to the focus he and the other 24 MCC members have on creating jobs.

“Over the past ten years, when conservatives were in the Senate minority, they were unable to get hearings on thousands of bills,” Braun said. “Typical partisan politics dictated everything, and good ideas were ignored. We refuse to act like the bullies of the past, which means we will allow hearings on minority bills and welcome open dialogue on all issues of importance.”  

While members of the minority party are looking at tax increases, Braun said the Majority Coalition Caucus is looking for bills that will reduce costs on employers without costing the state any money. Improving the business climate by reducing regulatory burden is the least expensive way to improve our economy.

Senate Bills 5647, 5656, 5688, and 5697 are part of a jobs package he is co-sponsoring.

“My focus on jobs includes simplifying B&O tax definitions, creating a one-stop portal for business licensing, reducing the frequency of changing local sales and use taxes, and requiring the Department of Revenue (DOR) to publish its final determinations,” Braun said. “These are simple changes that will reduce the cost of doing business and encourage employers to hire more workers.”

Currently, final determinations of appeals, interpretations of rules, and administering policy are not available publically. SB 5647 would require DOR to make all its determinations public information. This would allow employers to follow new rule changes, and be able to ensure fair treatment when DOR calculates rates, or when a business files an appeal.

All four bills received hearings Tuesday in the Trade and Economic Development Committee, of which Braun is chairman.