State Sen. Maralyn Chase told her 32nd Legislative District constituents during a Saturday Town Hall meeting that the best way to fix the state’s budget is to overhaul its tax system.
To do that, she said, citizens across the state need to know about its issues.
She began that process by distributing a series of charts to the town hall’s attendees. One showed the percentage of a household’s income that is paid in taxes, broken down by income levels. According to that chart, using a study from the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, those who make $21,000 or less in Washington state pay 16.8 percent of their income in taxes. Families making $507,000 or more, by contrast, pay about 2.4 percent of their household income in taxes.
The chart is compared to similar charts from Oregon, California and Idaho, where the highest and lowest income levels pay nearly the same percentage of their income. The highest income levels pay approximately 2 percent less than the lowest in all three states.
“This tax structure doesn’t generate enough revenue,” Chase said. “We need to take a fundamental deep dive into how we collect taxes.”
She also distributed a county map of Washington, showing how much money the state spends in any particular county compared to the tax money raised in that county. Six counties pay more than they receive, including King and Skagit counties, according to the chart. San Juan county received the least, at 54 cents cents per dollar. Stevens County received the most, at $1.95 per dollar.
Snohomish County received $1.04 per dollar, which would be less than average, according to the chart.
Chase said she plans to distribute both of these charts across the state.
“When I say I’m going to put these charts out statewide, I am,” she said. “People need to know what our tax system is. We’re paying 10 percent in sales tax, for God’s sake. We have to have a reduction in sales tax. We can’t have lower-income people paying 16 percent of their total income in tax.”
Chase said informing the state’s population about the current tax system may help a tax reform pass in the future, though she thinks putting forward a bill for an income tax right now wouldn’t make it far through the Legislature.
She also told constituents she would like to see the state’s B&O go away.
“You can’t put a $15 minimum wage on small businesses with this horrible B&O tax,” Chase said. “Strong businesses hire people.”
She said the current tax structure is contributing to problems balancing the budget. Right now, the state Legislature is struggling to fully fund basic education, as is required by the state constitution. Chase said she does not support cutting funding to programs providing health care, public safety or other basic state services to fund education.
But, she said, it’s clear that education needs additional funding. In her opinion, the effort needs to benefit public schools rather than privatizing schools.
“Public education works,” she said. “When they say they want good education, you tell them to fund the public schools.”
She would like to see school administrators, superintendents and teachers in Olympia helping legislators determine how much money the public school system needs to function properly. Then, the legislators can focus on securing the funding.
The way to get the funding, she said, is not through more of the same sorts of taxes Washington residents already pay.
“I will not vote for another regressive tax,” Chase said. “I will not.”
The 32nd Legislative District covers part of Edmonds and Lynnwood, as well as a portion of Mountlake Terrace west of I-5. To find your legislative district, click here.
–By Natalie Covate