Gov. Inslee’s veto pen continues to run afoul of state lawmakers

Apr 6, 2022, 6:58 AM | Updated: 9:41 am

Gov Inslee veto...

Pens bearing the signature of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee rest on a tray. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Gov. Inslee’s propensity for partial line-item vetoes of bills passed in the Legislature has long drawn the ire of state lawmakers, and appears to have done so again in 2022 after striking down parts of a bill related to tax incentives for warehouses in smaller counties.

Lawmakers disappointed by Gov. Inslee’s veto pen

Passed with broad bipartisan support, SB 5901 was designed to create a sales tax deferral program for counties with populations under 650,000, expanding a sales tax exemption to large warehouses in those areas, and capping the sales taxes exemption on the construction of large warehouses and grain elevators at $400,000.

After signaling his intention to reject the bill entirely, Inslee eventually opted to scale back his veto to include specific portions of the legislation, including the sales tax exemption cap and a stipulation expanding access to the program itself.

In justifying his initial opposition to the proposal, Gov. Inslee criticized the measure for being “overly broad” in providing exemptions to businesses in 36 of 39 Washington counties, while arguing that overall, “the warehousing industry has remained strong” with the rise of online shopping, and as such, “does not require an expanded tax incentive program to remain competitive.”

Among those criticizing Inslee’s partial veto was the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Emily Randall, who labeled the move as “a short-sighted attempt to apply a Seattle-centric, one-size-fits-all policy to our whole state,” going on to express how she was “extremely disappointed in the governor’s decision.”

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“This bipartisan bill made it to the governor’s desk with broad support because it was an overdue investment in our communities beyond the I-5 corridor,” she continued. “Now, with this partial veto, SB 5901’s impact will not expand beyond the biggest warehouses in King County, and the smaller facilities and businesses — like those that might grow and scale at the Port of Bremerton’s industrial park — will not see the benefits of this tax exemption.”

This also isn’t the first time Inslee has butted heads with lawmakers over his veto pen. In 2021, he struck down language in climate change legislation that would have linked a cap-and-trade proposal and a clean fuel standard measure to a yet-to-be-passed transportation package. At the time, then-Senate Transportation Chair Steve Hobbs claimed that the partial veto was “illegal.” House Speaker Laurie Jinkins similarly stated that Inslee had reached “beyond his constitutional powers.”

Later in that same year, the Supreme Court of Washington State ruled that a separate line-item veto from Inslee in a 2019 transportation bill had upset the “constitutional balance” between the governor’s office and the Legislature.

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Gov. Inslee’s veto pen continues to run afoul of state lawmakers