So Much for Inslee's No-Tax-Increase Pledge

Today Governor Jay Inslee reneged on his tough-on-the-campaign-trail promise to not raise taxes.

After a year of pledging that higher taxes won’t be needed to fix Washington’s budget woes, Governor Inslee has broken his campaign promise with his budget that would raise $1.2 billion in new revenue to pay for increased government spending.  Inslee's budget proposes the largest increase in government spending (11%) since Governor Gregoire's increase (18%) in 2005.

Part of Inslee’s budget would roll back a series of tax breaks for businesses and individuals, and would make permanent tax increases that were supposed to be temporary and set to expire this year.  Those temporary taxes 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and an increased tax on beer, among other tax increases (increased taxes on soda and bottled water were subsequently repealed by voters via I-1107).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 those taxes that were passed on lawmakers’ promise they would expire, should become permanent. By extending these taxes, Governor Inslee would impose an additional $661 million tax increase on Washingtonians in 2013-2015.

When Inslee first indicated he might extend the tax increases (his second day in office) he explained that 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.”

Governor Inslee may hold a major in economics from the University of Washington, but he is wrong.  Under Washington State law extending those tax hikes would clearly be considered a tax increase because they are scheduled to expire and as such that $661 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.

The News Tribune is calling a spade a spade, noting that, “Overall, the Democratic governor is calling for $1.4 billion in new revenue—what would legally be considered tax increases.”

When challenged on his no-tax-increase promise during the campaign, Inslee repeatedly stated, “I think economic growth is the best way forward.” Broken promises and $1.2 billion in new taxes on businesses and consumers is not the best way forward, and will certainly not spur economic growth.

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