Part of the strategy of tax-break opponents is to shine more sunlight on the exemptions.
The Washington State Labor Council has called for all tax exemptions to go in the annual budget as line items, and for them to sunset if lawmakers don’t reauthorize them.
The cost of tax breaks is cataloged every four years by the Department of Revenue. Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, introduced a bill last week that would make the department publish its report twice as often.
But even there, some lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction. Shorthanded after budget cuts, the Revenue Department has asked to postpone its report that is due in 2012 by two years.
House Budget Chairman Ross Hunter agreed to introduce a bill to postpone the study. He says the list doesn’t change much year to year.
Figuring out how much exemptions cost is expensive. Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow said it takes at least 2,000 staff hours – the equivalent of a full year of work for one employee – and costs at least $85,000.