PORT ORCHARD — In her latest email to 26th Legislative District constituents, state Rep. Michelle Caldier asked readers to weigh in on two controversial issues that involve — get ready — taxes: a state income tax and a pay-by-mile road usage charge.
Not surprisingly, Caldier’s constituents shared strong opinions about the most controversial of issues that legislators deal with while in session: measures that require money from taxpayers.
The Republican state representative, who is on record as opposing legislation to implement a state income tax, earlier created an online survey to gauge the sentiments of her constituents.
Caldier’s unscientific survey on a state income tax tallied the following results: 81.31 percent were opposed to local/state/capital-gains income taxes and 17.76 percent supported the legislation.
Comments provided by the survey takers also were instructive:
In favor: “If we have an income tax, which I think is a good idea, then sales taxes must be eliminated! It is either one or the other. Right now, our sales taxes unfairly hurt lower-income households. We have one of the most regressive forms of taxation in the United States.” — Gig Harbor resident
Also in favor: “I support a Washington state income tax. Low-income citizens are unfairly burdened by our current tax structure. It’s time for the wealthy to pay their fair share and I believe an income tax would achieve this goal. I would also support getting rid of the sales tax upon the adoption of a state income tax. Incidentally, I would consider myself one of the wealthy who would be paying more if an income tax were adopted.” — Bremerton resident
Not in favor: “NO new taxes! We have been saying it for over 30 years, only to fall on deaf ears. I want all government to be independently audited to justify their current spending. If our tax system no longer works, it MUST be re-engineered from ZERO, not constantly adding new revenue streams. Start over, eliminate waste and fraud in Olympia. Then build a new system with accountability to the people of Washington state.” — Purdy resident
Also not in favor: “As a senior citizen living off of my IRA, I strongly oppose any attack on my income levels. I do not support ‘taxing the rich’ notions that politicians usually consider as fair game. If we continue to tax the higher wage earners, we are attacking the incentive we have in our system to strive for success.” — Key Peninsula resident
Similarly, surveyed constituents were overwhelmingly against a pay-by-mile road usage charge. Those in favor constituted only 14.95 percent of the total; 82.24 percent were against it.
Constituents in favor of a road usage charge commented:
“Those who use the road the most should pay the most to fund the roads they are using. That’s nice if their car gets great mileage, but then they aren’t paying their fair share for road maintenance via gas taxes.” — Bremerton resident
Also in favor: “Yes, [I support this] conditionally. Revenues from the gas tax are declining as cars become more efficient, so we need to figure out some ways to equitably charge drivers for the impacts of their vehicles on state highways. The tricky part with per-mile taxation is keeping track of it and reporting it. Not sure how that would work.” — Gig Harbor resident
Not in favor: “This is a crock. We have already paid to have the roads and maintenance done. Our gas tax already pays for this and the pay by mile would not only hurt real working families, but add to the ridiculous spending of our tax dollars. The pay by mile, if initiated, would never go away. It is just another tax.” — Port Orchard resident
Also not in favor: “WE WILL NOT EVER put anything on our cars to check mileage. We get taxed enough through gas as it is. We’re rural for a reason, we want to keep it that way!” — Key Peninsula resident
Caldier said in her newsletter that she doesn’t expect the majority-party Democrats in the House and Senate to take up the income-tax issue in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 13. She pointed to two reasons why she believes the Democratic leaders won’t introduce legislation on that issue.
“It’s very controversial,” Caldier said in the newsletter. “This is a short session — 60 days — as opposed to our longer budget-year sessions of 105 days. Plus, it’s an election year.”
Caldier did caution, however, that the new Speaker of the House-designate — Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma — has championed a state capital-gains income tax for years and sponsored House Bill 2156 earlier this year. Senate Bill 5928, which would allow local income taxes, also was introduced.
2020 session proposals
In the newsletter, Caldier said she is working on several proposals for the upcoming session. One of those would involve a Business and Occupation (B&O) tax exemption for monies received from providing Medicaid services by health care providers not affiliated with a hospital.
“This measure would act as an incentive for health care providers not affiliated with a hospital to continue offering services for Medicaid patients,” Caldier said. “It would also allow these providers to deduct amounts that would have been received from the provision of donated healthcare services.”
The legislator said she originally drafted this legislation as an amendment to House Bill 2158, but it was not added to the bill.
Caldier also said in the newsletter that she is working on a proposal to require health insurance companies to provide at least 60 days’ notice to the state attorney general before a merger, acquisition or affiliation contract takes place. She said the legislation would help deter antitrust monopolies “and ensure an open, competitive health insurance market.”
A third proposed piece of legislation would look into securing funding for group therapy for sexual assault victims in the state’s schools, which she hopes would result in fewer teen pregnancies, additional help and healing for young victims and increased self-esteem.