Within Hours of Becoming Governor, Inslee Says He May Break His No-Tax-Increase Pledge
After a year of pledging that new taxes won’t be needed to fix Washington’s budget woes, Governor Inslee now appears prepared to break his campaign promise with his declaration that continuing tax increases that were supposed to be temporary and set to expire is not a tax increase.
The taxes in question were part of SB 6143, an $890 million tax package passed by the Legislature in 2010. Included in the bill were increased Business & Occupation taxes and an increased tax on beer, among other tax increases (increased taxes on soda and bottled water were subsequently repealed by voters via I-1107).
When debated, lawmakers promised the controversial tax increases would be temporary increases in revenue. Then Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown gave rousing floor speeches on March 7, 2010 and April 12, 2010 promising the taxes would be temporary. Senator James Hargrove is also on record reassuring opponents the tax hikes would not be permanent.
The tax increases were passed as temporary taxes, and will expire June 30, 2013.
Governor Inslee now says that taxes that were passed on lawmakers’ promise they would expire, may become permanent. By extending these taxes, Governor Inslee would impose an additional $635 million tax increase on Washingtonians in 2013-2015.
Inslee explained allowing those temporary tax increases to continue is not breaking his no-tax campaign promise because it is not an actual tax increase: “We would not be increasing taxes for consumers in that regard. That’s something that as an economics major at the University of Washington is pretty clear to me and I think people will come to understand that over time.”
While Governor Inslee may hold a major in economics from the University of Washington, under Washington State law extending those tax hikes would be considered a tax increase because they are scheduled to expire and as such that $635 million is not part of the projected revenue the state is expected to have when the new biennium starts on July 1.
Breaking the promise to sunset those temporary tax increases would qualify as a tax increase and trigger the protections of the state’s supermajority for taxes law, as recently reinforced by 64% of voters with passage of I-1185.
When challenged on his no-tax-increase campaign promise, Inslee repeatedly stated, “I think economic growth is the best way forward.” The best way forward for spurring economic growth is not to break his no-tax promise his second day in office and increase taxes on businesses and consumers.