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Bloomberg BNA recently posed a series of tax-centric questions to the Republican and Democrat candidates for governor in Washington. Below are the responses from Republican candidate Bill Bryant.
Interview by Paul Shukovsky
Bill Bryant (R), after eight years as a Port of Seattle commissioner, didn't stand for re-election in 2015 in order to launch his bid for Washington governor. At the port, he worked on issues ranging from freight mobility on surface roads and rails to consolidating the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma to address intense global competition among North American ports. Bryant is founder and chairman of Bryant Christie Inc., whose website touts the firm as having grown from one that helped agricultural exporters “eliminate trade barriers into a full service company that provides foreign government affairs, trade policy, international marketing, research and regulatory data services.”
What are your priorities related to state and local tax, if elected?
1. Maintain Washington’s competitiveness by stopping any new income tax.
2. Review every tax exemption to determine if it is moving us toward a strategic objective.
3. Work with the Legislature to re-balance education levy rates.
4. Develop a small business tax reform package to be delivered before 2019.
What existing state and local tax measures or initiatives would you seek to support? Or curb? Please include I-732, the carbon tax, in your answer.
I would like to stop the governor’s plans for an income tax on capital gains and his carbon tax schemes. Washington voters have repeatedly rejected an income tax. The governor should listen to the people and quit proposing initiatives based upon a funding source they reject.
The carbon tax is also a regressive and misguided attempt to punish our way to clean energy. Washington’s businesses, innovators and industries are leading the world in emissions reduction. There’s no need to drive them out of the state with a tax that will have almost no impact on climate change. I would support tax incentives to encourage energy innovation and environmental cleanup to continue Washington’s progress to meeting our 2020 emissions goals.
What is the biggest hurdle you foresee to enacting your major tax-related initiatives, and do you intend to revisit incentives such as those to the aerospace industry that some say should have claw-back terms to ensure performance by Boeing in maintaining jobs in the state?
The biggest hurdle is a government culture in Olympia that defaults to spending more before scrutinizing current expenditures. A second hurdle are politicians who will not be satisfied unless they get a new tax, primarily an income tax. As governor, I will launch a zero-based budget initiative to rebuild the budget from the ground up. Until we focus expenditures on priorities, we will not know how much we really need to run government efficiently.
When Jay Inslee ran for governor, he promised to veto any new taxes for Washington. Once he got into office, he broke his promises by proposing taxes on beer, bottled water, carbon, income from capital gains and more. It’s because of politicians like him that voters don’t trust their government. If we’re going to have an honest and productive discussion of how to improve Washington’s tax structure, first, we need to restore trust.
What is the biggest challenge you see facing your state from a tax and revenue perspective, in light of current and evolving market conditions?
The biggest challenge will be re-balancing the state’s levy rates to meet our education funding needs. Right now, many rural and low income school districts are paying much higher levy rates while receiving less money than more property-rich urban and suburban districts. I’m already working with legislators on a solution to this challenge that will be ready for the 2017 legislative session.
Do you believe Washington has the right balance right now in terms of overall taxes? Does anything need to be re-balanced?
As mentioned above, our levy rates have wild variation in both rates and revenue generated. The $1.20 levy rate in Bellevue raises more money than the $5.50 rate in Franklin-Pierce. This needs re-balancing both for the unequal cost to local homeowners and the inequitable distribution of education funding. To have the quality of a kid’s education depend on which zip code they live in is not just unconstitutional— it’s morally wrong.
To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Shukovsky in Seattle at PShukovsky@bna.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at firstname.lastname@example.org
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