Them’s the (tax) breaks

As Washington State grapples with the impacts of a slowing economy on the state budget, it’s worth noting that since 2003 the Legislature has passed business tax breaks reducing revenues by nearly $400 million this biennium and next.

This while our state economy was, by all accounts, roaring along – when it would have been easiest to collect a little extra to save for a future downturn.

Lately, it seems the rate of doling out tax breaks is slowing down. Over half the above total was given away in 2003 and 2004. In 2005 and 2006, legislators doled out only $135 million from the next biennium’s revenues, and in 2007 less than $13 million.

Where’s that leave Washington today? Including tax breaks renewed in 2004 along with all the new tax breaks passed from 2003-2007, the total for 2007-09 is $579 million, and for 09-11 is $623 million.

That’s not just budget dust. Plugging holes in our tax structure would not only help the state revenue forecast, it would give our state more to invest in business-friendly improvements to transportation, education and workforce training.

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