OLYMPIA, Wash. - Since Governor Christine Gregoire made a ten-percent cut in the number of in-home care hours that elderly Washingtonians and those with disabilities can receive with state funding, some of them and their caregivers have been in court, fighting the cutbacks. Now, a group of state lawmakers is suggesting a way to pay for restoring those hours. They want to remove the sales tax exemption for nonresidents who stop and shop in Washington. It would raise enough money to preserve in-home care hours, according to bill co-sponsor, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent).
"It amounts to $90 million in exemptions, all these little sales tax deals. So, it's a lot of money as it nickels-and-dimes its way through. And we are having to cut services for home care hours in about the same amount of money."
The nine co-sponsors of Senate Bill 5926 are all Democrats. Keiser says she tried to get Republican co-sponsors for the legislation, but without success. In the view of many GOP lawmakers, taking a tax exemption away, in effect, creates a tax. To Keiser, it's a popular refrain, but one that isn't getting the state anywhere in solving the budget crisis.
"It's very easy to be anti-tax, and it's very much ideology among some people, a matter of faith. I don't agree; I don't think the public agrees that every tax loophole closure is the same as a tax increase."
The measure asks voters to decide in November whether shoppers visiting Washington from out-of-state should have to pay the sales tax on their purchases. The bill is in the Ways and Means Committee.