Washington’s finances are a mess. Very likely, the state needs both spending cuts and a revenue infusion. And we need to do something quick.

So I say, let’s go ahead and eliminate tax credits for working families. Let’s delete the paid family leave benefits. After all, those things don’t affect the ordinary people of Washington. But whatever we do, we must never close the tax loophole on sales of tangible personal property related to a building or structure that is an integral part of a laser interferometer gravitational wave observatory. Not in these tough economic times.

I mean, I can see the merits of overriding a citizen’s initiative to reduce classroom sizes. And I can see abrogating contracts with state employees. Anyway, those hardly have any meaning for working folks. But it is strictly off limits to consider eliminating the tax exemption on sales of carbon and similar substances that become an ingredient or component of anodes or cathodes used in producing aluminum for sale. That’s unthinkable.  

  • I hope you’ll pardon my sarcasm. It’s just a little galling to hear the state’s leaders talk about slashing social services and backing off climate policy promises, but apparently refuse to consider tightening up the Swiss cheese of tax exemptions written into state law. (You can see the whole list here.)

    We have sales tax exemptions for natural gas used by aluminum smelters and for semen used for artificial insemination, not to mention dietary supplements; to say nothing of the tax exemption for property and services that enable heavy duty diesel vehicles to operate with onboard electrification systems.

    Look, some of these exemptions may be good ideas. Heck, they may be great ideas. But you know what else is a great idea? Here’s one: not hacking away the safety net for the most vulnerable people in the state. It’s also a good idea to honor employment contracts and give working families a break right now.  

    In that context, is it really critical that we continue to provide a tax loophole for sales of human blood, tissue, organs, bodies, or body parts for medical research and quality control testing?

    So how much revenue are we leaving on the table? What’s the worth of these loopholes?

    We need these figures in the public discourse. We need them now. That means you, Olympia press corps.

    A big tip of the hat to John DeVore at Horsesass. Again, you can see the full list of state tax exemptions here. I promise you, it’s nothing short of fascinating.