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Gov. Inslee wants to charge businesses $11 to pay for nothing

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The Secretary of State’s office figured out a way to save businesses in Washington $11 every year, but others in Olympia still want that money.

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Businesses in Washington state are required to file paperwork with Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office when they first form. They’re also required to file an annual renewal for every year they remain in existence.

A couple decades ago, the Secretary of State’s office realized the Department of Revenue was actually better equipped to handle this responsibility, so they worked out a deal.

“The Department of Revenue said we’ll do this, but we’ll need to charge an $11 fee on each one to cover our costs of handling all the paperwork,” state Rep. Drew Stokesbary told KTTH Radio’s Jason Rantz. “So the Secretary of State and the Department of Revenue made that agreement in the 1990s, I think.”

In November, the Secretary of State’s office set up a new system that allows businesses to file their annual renewal online. The new system eliminates the necessity of paperwork, and it also eliminates the necessity of a contract with the Department of Revenue.

In theory, it also eliminates the necessity of an $11 fee. But that might be a problem for the Department of Revenue.

“Without this $11 fee, their budget is going to be $2 million to $3 million short,” Stokesbary said. “They’re in a panic over it.”

Democrats in the House, with support from Governor Jay Inslee, proposed HB 2989 as a solution. It would require the Secretary of State’s office to continue charging the $11 fee and deposit it into the business license account. Stokesbary said it doesn’t make sense to charge businesses a fee when the government has rendered the fee obsolete.

“I’ve never seen a situation where the agency says we don’t want to charge a higher fee and the Legislature says no, you must,” Stokesbary said. “Not only is that what this bill would do, but it would say the Secretary of State doesn’t even get to collect the $11 fee they’re being forced to charge their customers.”

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