State and South Sound business leaders are united in their support of expected legislation to complete the rollback of 1993 business tax increases when the Washington State Legislature convenes Jan. 13 in Olympia.
Increased state revenues and a voter-imposed cap on spending combine for an estimated $450 million surplus in the 1997-1999 budget, and business leaders say one good use for part of that excess is to finally eliminate the B & O and other tax increases that have hobbled the growth of businesses for the past three years.
“I think the chances of (tax relief) are pretty good,” said Don Brunell, president of the Washington Association of Business. “Anytime you have both the Democrat and Republican leaders saying they favor the legislation, your chances increase.”
Others are cautious about achieving a full rollback since many competing interests will also be looking for a piece of the budget surplus, which can’t be spent under limits created by Initiative 601.
“Given the other demands coupled with the existing surplus, I would expect to see at least a continuation of the rollback on the B & O” portion of the ’93 increases, which started last session, said Casey Cochrane, government affairs manager for the Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce.
Both the state business group and the Tacoma chamber will also support legislation to eliminate the tax on intangible business property that counties now have the authority to impose.
Modifications to funding for the state’s basic health care program and the range of services it covers are also on the business agenda, as is property tax reform.
Reform of the state’s basic health program, which faces an approximate $167 million funding shortfall, also ranks high on business agendas (see related story page 9).
“We’ve got to trim it down to a more affordable level,” Brunell said, suggesting paring down the program’s coverages.
Of particular interest to the Pierce County business community is funding for phase II of the University of Washington Tacoma branch. A fraction of what the branch requested was included in lame-duck Gov. Mike Lowry’s proposed budget.
“The onus is upon our community to support this project,” said the Tacoma chamber’s Cochrane.
“We’re going to work the (elected) delegation to give them whatever they need to pursue phase II funding” of more than $30 million.
Property tax reform is also on many business agendas.
By Brad Wright, Editor