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State rep. says Inslee’s budget needs tax rebates, not increases

Republican State Representative Andrew Barkis represents Washington's 2nd Legislative District. (House Republicans)

Second Leg. Dist. Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-Olympia) was so shocked when he heard the live broadcast of Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget speech over his car radio that he said he “almost had to pull over.”

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“I was dumbstruck by the justification, the call for new taxes, in a time when we have never seen more revenue in the State of Washington,” he said.

Barkis said that the upcoming legislative session was shaping up to be “contentious enough” with the change in leadership, but now foresees Inslee’s budget making for an even fierier political climate in Olympia.

“We do not need additional revenue in the State of Washington,” he said. “We do not need the largest tax increase in the history of the State of Washington at this time in our history.”

Far from tax increases, Barkis believes that the revenues being brought in should prompt a tax rebate for the people of Washington.

“It’s impossible to justify tax increases,” he said. “How can you justify tax increases when you have seen double-digit increases in revenues coming into the state, more than enough revenue to take care of the priorities of the State of Washington?”

He agrees with the governor that “the whales are important,” but noted that legislators have “proposed solutions to deal with that issue” that don’t demand the $1.1 billion allocated for orcas in Inslee’s budget.

The proposed 9 percent capital gains tax in the budget is simply a “repackaged” income tax, Barkis said. The legislator, who has a black cat, said that he can’t simply change the color of his cat’s fur by calling it a white cat. Therefore, he said, calling an income tax a capital gains tax does not change the fact that it is an income tax.

A graduated tax on income is against the state constitution. That doesn’t mean that people have not attempted to pass one anyway throughout the state’s history. Since the 1930s, voters in Washington have turned down an income tax 10 times.

“It’s very clear the people of the state of Washington, over and over and over again, over the course of the last 80, 90 years, have said no to a state income tax,” he said. “To even float that out there as a proposal is ludicrous to think that we as a legislative body are somehow going to find a miraculous way around the state constitution.”

A capital gains tax is not just for the rich, Barkis stressed. He pointed out the small businesses that have paid taxes and employed Washington residents and supported the community for decades are now going to be punished with this tax when they decide to sell.

“Let me tell you about the people who have the businesses … Mom and Dad who have had this company and everything else, and they retire, they’re saving their whole lives — now they’re going to have to pay a giant chunk of what their retirement is for this taxation,” he said. “Is that fair and equitable?”

The other danger, he said, is that the capital gains tax will only get bigger and bigger from its 9 percent starting point.

“You think they’re going to stop at 9 percent?” he said.

Far better than collecting more money from over-taxed residents and spending like the well will never run dry, Barkis said, would be to begin allocating, planning, and budgeting with prudent limits in mind. After all, he said, there will come a day when the state economy turns the other way, and the Legislature will need to be prepared to operate on a smaller budget.

“We need to take a look at the revenue that’s coming in, and we need to better start preparing for the change that’s coming in our economy,” he said. “I mean, we are due for a change. We should be preparing for that, saving for that, prioritizing, so that in the next session after this one, we are not all sitting around listening to all the things we have to now cut because of all the stuff we spent and bought.”

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