Governor Inslee considers new bills and post-session county rollbacks

Apr 29, 2021
Written by Renée Sunde, President & CEO

As the state Legislature adjourns after a long 105-day virtual session, the retail industry is still reeling from legislation that will add new taxes and lead to a higher cost of living for many residents and business owners.

Given the uncertainty of the pandemic and the state’s surprising revenue recovery, Washington Retail did not support the increase in taxes that project to grow the state budget from about $5 billion to $59 billion. As revenues rebounded, our state led the nation with a 12% two-year increase in revenue collections starting in pre-pandemic 2019, according to research by the Pew Research Center.

As federal relief funds disappear, the state budget increase will now depend upon a new 7% tax on capital gains of $250,000 or more that is in limbo. The conservative Freedom Foundation in Olympia already has filed a lawsuit maintaining it is an illegal income tax.

These outcomes are especially difficult given the recent announcement of county rollbacks forcing businesses back to Phase 2 of the coronavirus recovery plan. As COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates have begun to increase again, there’s talk of further recovery rollbacks in additional counties across the state.

Business and industry leaders have been working tirelessly for more than a year to adhere to government requirements and meet consumer demand while keeping their employees and customers safe.

But in spite of these successful efforts and increased vaccinations, the path to full reopening is still very unclear.

For well over a year, Governor Inslee has maintained emergency executive orders that have forced restrictions and closures for many businesses.

Legislators have learned first-hand about the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s current recovery effort under what some have called “one-man rule” by Governor Inslee.

But even with bipartisan efforts, the legislature overruled placing a limit on emergency powers that would require a vote by the legislature, 60 days after declaration. A better balance of powers would allow for input from constituents as decisions are made that affect both lives and livelihood.

It’s way past due for government officials and private industry to work together in a cooperative partnership to manage future COVID recovery.