Tom calls on fellow Democrats to ‘get serious’ and stop proposing new tax hikes

Sen. Rodney Tom - Contributed
Sen. Rodney Tom
— image credit: Contributed

Sen. Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, had hoped his Democratic colleagues in the Senate minority caucus would finally listen to the voters who have repeatedly rejected tax increases at the ballot box. No such luck, he said.

Democratic legislators introduced several proposals that would raise taxes by more than $38 billion. Five of those bills, including a state income-tax proposal, were heard Thursday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“The voters of this state have repeatedly said that they do not want a state income tax, yet here we go again hearing the same old proposals aimed at taxing our small-business owners out of business and taking every last dime out of the pockets of middle-class families,” said Tom. “When will my fellow Democrats start listening to the majority of Washingtonians instead of playing to special-interest groups in Olympia?”

During the Valentine’s Day hearing Jason Mercier of the non-partisan Washington Policy Center cited a study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University regarding the affect of the proposed tax hikes. According to the report, the state would lose nearly 70,000 jobs by 2016 if all five tax hike proposals were adopted, that number being the net difference between private-sector jobs lost and public-sector jobs gained.

Tom said his Senate Majority Coalition Caucus colleagues on the Senate budget committee invited the Democratic sponsors of the tax bills to make their case Thursday, even though the bills have little chance of moving forward.

“This is exactly why I joined the Majority Coalition Caucus,” said Tom. “Too many of my fellow Democrats in Olympia have grown arrogant and out-of-touch with the people we were sent here to represent. These proposals would add to the tax burden on job creators and working families and ignore the 64 percent of the state’s voters who recently rejected every tax increase measure on the ballot and voted for the two-thirds legislative-vote requirement to raise taxes.

“And now they propose new income taxes? How tone-deaf can you be? The people of this state will be shocked when they realize just how eager some legislators are to shut out their voices and reach into their pockets.”

Tax increases put on the table by the Senate minority include $89.2 billion in new income taxes, $1.5 billion in new business-and-occupation taxes, $134 million in new plastic-bag taxes and $44 million in new utility taxes. The proposals would eliminate the state property tax, but would not eliminate local property taxes. It would also reduce insurance and sales taxes, but will not eliminate any of them.

“This is the kind of absurdity Sen. Sheldon (Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch) and I were trying to avoid,” Tom said. “There is no doubt that if our bipartisan coalition had not assumed leadership of the Senate we would now be seeing many of these new proposed taxes on income, businesses, utilities, plastic bags and capital gains becoming reality. As Democrats, I believe it is our job to stand up for working people – fight for their jobs and their attempts to provide for their families. Unfortunately, many of the policies being pushed my fellow Democrats would do little more than bury the middle class, leaving them with smaller paychecks, and burdening our small-business employers to the point that many Washingtonians could lose their jobs and then won’t see a paycheck at all.”

Tom and Sheldon acknowledged that their constituents may wonder why the Majority Coalition Caucus would agree to hold a hearing on these tax proposals when its focus is on creating jobs.

“Over the past eight years the Republicans who comprised the Senate minority did not get the benefit of bipartisanship, which resulted in the denial of hearings on their most sought-after bills,” Sheldon said. “I was always suggesting to leadership that we should at least have hearings on legislation from across the aisle, but my efforts fell on deaf ears. Now that we are in the majority we decided to treat the minority better than it’s been treated before; the hearings yesterday were proof.”

Tom agreed, noting that any legislation the minority proposes has a chance of receiving a fair shake in the Senate as long as it meets one of three criteria: It must help the private sector to create jobs, or improve K-12 education and include the necessary funding provisions, or be in line with creating a sustainable budget.

“If they want to be part of the solution then we welcome their proposals with open arms,” Tom said. “But if all they want to do is introduce one ridiculous tax proposal after another, then I guarantee they are wasting their time. They either need to get serious and work with us on creating jobs, reforming education and producing a sustainable budget, or they need to get out of the way.

“It’s a shame that people who are supposed to be legislative leaders have decided that playing politics is more important than working collaboratively to get the people’s business done. Enough is enough. There is work to do.”


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