Jay Inslee always looks out for his friends and campaign donors even if it means breaking campaign promises. He refused to publically state his opposition to the Washington Education Association’s latest power grab, Initiative 1351, until the ballots had all been submitted. He even authorized big pay hikes for state employee unions despite the budget troubles facing our state.
The latest in Inslee’s “I’ll support you if you support me” governing comes in the form of extending significant tax breaks for and granting certain privileges to his millionaire friends. Of course, he is doing it under the guise of encouraging the use of clean-fuel cars in Washington State. Ironically, Inslee’s tax break proposal also follows the 2014 elections when Democrats devoted their campaign messaging around the idea of eliminating “tax loopholes”—SHIFT has explained the Left’s duplicity on the issue in the past.
Despite the hypocrisy of his stance, Inslee wants to “extend a sales-tax break for electric vehicles and explore giving them access to carpool lanes.” Our green governor claims to be promoting electric cars as a means to prevent global warming—extending a tax break for electric car purchasers and creating new incentives is his way of doing just that.
Inslee’s claims would, perhaps, carry more weight if he had not publically attacked tax breaks in the past and called for their closure as a means to fully fund K-12 education. But, he has. So, given Inslee’s previous position, the question of who really benefits from a tax break for people who can afford purchase a $70,000 or $80,000 vehicle inevitable arises.
The state Department of Revenue estimates that, if the tax break is extended, it would mean a “nearly $13 million hit in tax revenues in fiscal year 2016, and $17 million in 2017.” Washington State’s budget and K-12 education certainly do not benefit. Working families who simply cannot afford $70,000 or $80,000 vehicles do not benefit. By every indication, by supporting those who have supported him, Inslee’s campaign war chest stands to benefit the most.
Inslee’s push to extend the tax break has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle. House Finance Committee chair Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, stated his concerns over Inslee’s plans. He said, “I’m not enthusiastic about a subsidy that picks winners and losers and doesn’t help the middle class.” In a Facebook post, Carlyle also points to the unclear “marginal benefit” of the tax break in increasing the sales of electric cars.
Republican co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee Curtis King said, “Tell me that a person that buys a Tesla for $70,000 or $80,000 shouldn’t have to pay sales tax? They can afford to pay that kind of money, why aren’t they paying the sales tax?” To that end, some lawmakers have suggested placing a cap on the value of the car, preventing the state from “subsidizing buyers who can afford luxury all-electric cars.”
In the end, Inslee’s push for an extension of the tax break—hypocritical as it is—and for the creation of additional special benefits are just the latest in his hand-outs to his supporters. One thing Inslee can be counted on is a governing style that re-pays his favorites.