Sheldon denounces Senate-minority plan to raise taxes

OLYMPIA… Sen. Tim Sheldon had hoped his Democratic colleagues in the Senate minority caucus would think twice before proposing to increase taxes this year. However, Democratic legislators went ahead and introduced several proposals that would raise taxes by more than $38 billion. Five of those bills, including a state income tax proposal, will come before the Senate Ways and Means Committee starting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Senate Hearing Room 4.

“When will the Democratic Party leadership actually listen to the majority of voters instead of playing partisan politics? We have heard from voters that income taxes are not welcome in Washington, yet here we are defending against the same tired proposals designed to tax the middle class to death,” said Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

Sheldon 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.

“These proposals will shock people when they realize how eager some legislators are to add to the tax burden on job creators and working families,” Sheldon said. “I joined the Majority Coalition Caucus for this very reason. Who are we to ignore the 60 percent of the state’s voters who recently voted against every tax increase on the ballot, and for the two-thirds legislative-vote requirement to raise taxes? And now they propose new income taxes?”

Taxes 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 Senator Tom [Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue] and I were trying to avoid,” Sheldon said. “If our coalition had not assumed leadership of the Senate we now know that we would be facing the possibility of new taxes on income, businesses, utilities, plastic bags and capital gains. I guess I just don’t see how this benefits the middle class. Democrats are supposed to be for the working people. In this instance, that dog doesn’t hunt.”

Sheldon acknowledged his 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; these Valentine’s Day hearings are proof.”

Sheldon also said any legislation proposed by the minority 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 propose more legislation like these tax hikes, it will have zero chance of passing,” Sheldon said. “A state income tax is not what the voters had in mind. It’s a shame to realize that legislative leaders who were accustomed to having their way seem unwilling to collaborate now that someone else is setting the agenda. At what point do voters and the media say enough is enough?”