Washington House Democrats drop beer tax, other proposals

They also back away from other revenue proposals

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OLYMPIA — House Democrats in Washington state have dropped their plan to extend the state’s beer tax and backed away from other revenue proposals they felt were distracting.

Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle, one of the chamber’s budget writers, said the beer tax might have been subjected to a ballot challenge from large beer companies. He said he thought it and other proposals could have created problems for the larger goal of increasing funding for education.

“Some of those items were particularly distracting from our success,” Carlyle said. “Goal No. 1 is to be successful at getting a revenue package to fully fund public education.”

The beer tax extension would have raised a projected $60 million over the next two years. The Democrats also dropped a plan to eliminate tax breaks for insurance agents and dockworkers, which would have raised more than $80 million. They also passed on a proposal to pursue a sales tax on janitorial services, which would have brought in an estimated $41 million.

The House is still pursuing a variety of tax changes, including an extension of business taxes that would raise $620 million over the next two years. Senators have approved a budget without those tax changes, and the two sides are now involved in final budget negotiations.

Lawmakers are under pressure from the state Supreme Court to increase funding for education while at the same time dealing with a projected revenue shortfall. Senators have accomplished that by a variety of fund transfers and cuts to social services programs, while the House has argued that the Senate budget is unsustainable.