The Left—including Democrat politicians and their big labor supporters—love to hypocritically point out the need to close tax “loopholes” in order to “invest in kids.” They blame the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC)—the bi-partisan state Senate majority—for not removing tax exemptions the Left doesn’t like, ironically accusing them of supporting the interests of big business over our state’s children.
Of course, Democrats conveniently leave out the part that, due to the MCC, our state budget re-prioritized spending and added nearly $1 billion more in new money for K-12 schools and froze college tuition for the first time in 30 years. The state budget prioritized education over non-education spending at a 4:1 ratio—again, for the first time in the 30 years that Democrats have controlled the Governor’s mansion in Washington State. By contrast, under the Democrat-controlled budgets before last year, the education over non-education spending ratio was 1:2 (that’s two dollars for bigger government for every new dollar of education funding).
The Left also fails to mention that, for the past 30 years that Democrat governors have signed every Washington State’s budget – and that for 28 of those 30 years the budget was written by Legislatures with at least one body under Democrat leadership. You see, these facts would inevitably raise the question of why, if Democrats and their supporters are truly concerned with ending tax exemptions for the sake of the children, budget after budget written by Democrats and signed by a Democrat governor did nothing about the supposedly terrible loopholes?
Democrats like Jay Inslee have argued that the Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision that requires the state to fulfill its constitutional duty to adequately fund public education renewed their interest in prioritizing spending on education. But that also requires Democrats to acknowledge that, under their watch, they failed our children miserably. Democrats and their special interest allies would have to admit that they, quite literally, cared for education half as much as they cared for growing the size of state government. And, that their misplaced priorities were not just a one-time fluke. Rather, it was a preference they acted on for decades.
Another pressing issue that Democrats must explain is why, when proposing which tax breaks to end, they never mention those given to their biggest campaign donors — big labor. Earlier this year, Jay Inslee claimed that ending certain tax breaks would put an additional $600 million into K-12 education over the next three years. He proposed doing away with a sales tax exemption for bottled water, janitorial services, and motor-vehicle trade-ins valued over $10,000. What Inslee notably left of his list, is ending any tax break given to big labor.
Labor unions benefit from massive tax exemptions in Washington State—a reality that costs taxpayers millions of dollars annually. You see, in our state, unions do not pay the state business and occupations tax. The Washington State Wire projected that the exemption saves unions about $9 million per year back in 2011. Responding to that figure, Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council didn’t see the relevance to big labor’s tax breaks but said, “We’ve never said all tax exemptions are bad or do not have a valid purpose – many of them do – but in a time of severe budget deficits, there is a need for greater shared sacrifice out there.”
If Johnson truly believes in his “shared sacrifice” jargon, he might consider starting with not demanding that state employees all get pay hikes of 3 percent in July 2015 and approximately 1.8 percent the following year in “a time of severe budget deficits.” Unfortunately, we all know that when Johnson says “shared sacrifice” he’s not volunteering big labor to carry any part of that sacrifice. After all, the more union workers are paid, the more unions collect in untaxable union dues. Johnson knows Inslee will, even at the expense of working Washington families, put the interests of his campaign donors first. And, they are both happy to keep pointing the finger at all the other tax “loopholes” to close in the meantime.
Photo from the Oregonian.