Rep. Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor filed his long-awaited bill to create an easier way to close tax breaks for special interests that no longer serve their purpose. The Democrat says he wants to raise $1 billion a year for education programs that are facing spending cuts at a time recent school reforms called for increased spending.
We wrote about Seaquist’s proposal before session began Jan. 10, and he's drawn six Democratic co-sponsors including South Sound Reps. Kathy Haigh of Shelton, Chris Reykdal of Tumwater and Sam Hunt of Olympia.
He outlined a plan in a news release, saying it is "simple" and "an apple to apple" trade-off between new revenues and spending for schools. He said it has four steps for ending preferential tax treatment: "Educators nominate their next, “best-dollar” investment would buy – what educational improvements from early learning to higher education they can deliver for how much money. "The Legislature selects a balanced package of those ideas adding up to about a billion dollars a year in outcome-focused increments and sends that package to the public commission. "The commission holds public hearings across the state to select a set of lower priority, less effective tax exemptions and loopholes to be closed to produce the required funds. "The Legislature sends that package to state voters for an up or down vote.” But Seaquist and friends they may be pushing linguini uphill with their noses, given the sentiment of House Ways and Means chairman Ross Hunter, who has not yet given House Bill 1980 a hearing. And there seems to be just as much interest in expanding tax breaks as in closing them.
Of course, Seaquist isn’t the only willing to look at tax exemptions this year, despite a tough political environment.
Seaquist is a former naval ship commander and doesn’t give up easy. His proposal House Bill 1980 is meant to emulate the federal Base Realignment and Closing commission that looked at military bases and recommended lists for Congress to shut down.
And he is tying the closure of tax breaks to education, a potentially bipartisan issue. As the bill states:
Once again we’ll stay tuned.