Sales tax bill clears House committee

Oregonians would lose exemption in Wash. under proposal

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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A proposal to make Oregonians pay retail sales tax in Washington, as part of a plan to help pay for all-day kindergarten, passed out of the state’s House Ways and Means Committee on Saturday.

Repealing the tax exemption would raise an estimated $26 million each year and would help Washington meet its goal of raising the $176 million it needs to provide all-day schooling to all kindergartners by 2018, education officials said during a public hearing last week. About 17,000 of the state’s 78,000 kindergartners participate in the state-sponsored all-day program, and the state currently lags behind when it comes to meeting its 2018 goal.

The House Ways and Means Committee did not add a referendum clause to House Bill 2791. If lawmakers don’t include a referendum clause allowing Washingtonians to vote on a tax increase, then the bill must win at least two-thirds of the vote in the Legislature rather than a simple majority, according to state law.

Those opposing the bill say they believe it would hurt businesses in border towns, such as Vancouver, that compete with neighboring states for customers. Taxes on vehicle and boat sales are exempt from this bill.

According to bill documents, the measure could cause a slight drop in sales for businesses, and it would impact border counties more than other parts of the state. Specific dollar amounts weren’t included in the bill’s preliminary fiscal document.

Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, is the primary sponsor of the bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver.

Earlier in the 60-day legislative session, Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, introduced a bill that would make out-of-state shoppers pay retail sales tax, with the option to have the state’s portion of the sales tax refunded to them later. Senate Bill 6061 stalled in the Senate Ways and Means Committee following a public hearing in late January.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics