Chai_inseminated.jpg
Photo by Ric Brewer, Woodland Park Zoo
Will this photo inspire legislators to do a favor for the zoo?
The state House and Senate are

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Should the Elephant-Impregnating Woodland Park Zoo Get a Tax Exemption?

Chai_inseminated.jpg
Photo by Ric Brewer, Woodland Park Zoo
Will this photo inspire legislators to do a favor for the zoo?
The state House and Senate are still at odds over how to resolve the $2.8 billion budget deficit (the Senate wants a sales tax hike, the House and Governor don't). But with everyone talking about how to get Washington out of the red, it's surprising that proposals that would reduce the state's funding are still alive down in Olympia.

Among the revenue-shrinking bills is one sponsored by Rep. Reuven Carlyle, whose district extends to the Woodland Park Zoo, home of the controversial pachyderm insemination program. Carlyle's legislation would extend a state business tax exemption for arts organizations to both the zoo and the Seattle Aquarium.

Most of the proposed tax exemptions, including one that has already passed for companies that build and operate giant warehouses filled with computer servers, are meant to bring in new jobs.

But Carlyle's concern here is fairness. During the last decade, the City of Seattle turned over management of both animal-viewing facilities to non-profits organizations. Unlike governments, non-profits have to pay some state business taxes, unless they qualify as a cultural or arts organization.

Neither the zoo nor the aquarium fits the "cultural" bill under state law. But Carlyle believes both should. Speaking specifically of the zoo, he says by phone from Olympia: "obviously, it's a treasure, not just in Seattle, but statewide."

If Carlyle can get the exemption into the final budget bill, or passed independently, the state stands to lose $378,000 over the next four years, according to the state Office of Financial Management. No word yet from Woodland Park on whether or not that's enough extra cash to get Chai the Elephant knocked up again if it doesn't work out this time.

 
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