SEATTLE - It's like juggling three flaming torches - Washington
legislators can make further cuts to state services and programs, enact
tax increases or close tax loopholes. This week at a special session,
the lawmakers will try to agree on a combination of actions to balance
the state budget without burning anyone.
The group Fuse Washington is making a last-minute pitch
for one action in particular: HB 3176, a bill that would end a tax
exemption for the largest banks that allows them not to pay taxes on
interest earned from first mortgages.
Jim Dawson, the group's organizing director, says the exemption was
made 40 years ago to help Washington-based national banks compete for
mortgage business with out-of-state rivals, but the banking market has
"Now, we don't have any big, in-state national banks, after WaMu was
bought out by Chase. So the exemption is really no longer valid. Also,
there's a lot of evidence the banks never really passed along their
savings to consumers."
Today, members of Fuse Washington are protesting in front
of a Chase bank branch in downtown Seattle to make their point. With
all the state budget cuts to education, health and social services,
they don't think a tax giveaway to out-of-state banks makes sense,
"We feel the banks have gotten plenty of support from taxpayers in the
bailout - money that they've pocketed and given away to their
executives in bonuses. They don't need any more tax dollars. We need
this money to be invested in our kids, in our future and in our quality
Dawson says ending the exemption would not affect smaller banks, and
would increase state revenue by $67 million through the end of this
budget cycle, June 2011.
The protest takes place today at 11 a.m. at 2nd and Union streets, Seattle.