The release of a forecast which projects state revenues falling by an additional $698 million over the next two years means that a new approach is necessary to balance the state budget, says a leading consumer protection and government watchdog group.
“Policy makers in Olympia can’t close a gap this big by focusing only on slashing services like education and healthcare that people rely on,” said Steve Breaux, public interest advocate at the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG). “It’s time to extend the ‘all-cuts’ approach to include cuts to special-interest subsidies and tax exemptions that don’t serve a well-defined broad public interest.”
Breaux notes that according to the “Our Economic Future” coalition, there are hundreds of tax loopholes and subsidies have escaped scrutiny, meaning a loss of potential revenue that should be available to balance the budget without cuts that are devastating thousands of Washington families, worsening existing economic inequalities, and harming our economic recovery.
“It’s time to eliminate tax exemptions that were intended to help emerging businesses that have now matured and no longer need them,” said Breaux. “There’s no reason to maintain giveaways like B&O subsidies that were put in place to stimulate economic activity or create jobs that have failed to materialize.”
WashPIRG released a report last October in partnership with the conservative National Taxpayers Union that detailed more than $600 billion of spending cuts with appeal across the political spectrum, and Breaux says that similar cuts should be made at the state level.
“The big banks on Wall Street got their bailout and are now back to giving out huge bonuses, but the state still gives them a $100 million a year tax break,” says Breaux. “The Legislature needs to revisit giveaways like this and ask if they still make any sense.”
At the other extreme are scores of smaller tax breaks that – taken together – add up to millions of dollars per year.
“Is the general public interest being served by tax breaks for medically unnecessary drugs like Viagra,” asks Breaux. “Would there be a loss of economic activity or jobs if the state eliminated B&O exemptions for fish cleaning businesses and Christmas-tree farms, and instead made them pay their fair share like other businesses?”
“It’s time for everyone in Olympia – Democrat and Republican alike – to stand up and tell taxpayers whose services are being cut why these exemptions make sense.”
WashPIRG is the Washington Public Interest Research Group, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting consumers, encouraging fair sustainable economies, and fostering responsive democratic government.