Occupy the Capitol protesters officially kick off events today with speeches and demonstrations in Olympia and what will be, for the first time, a concerted public effort to force legislators to tap into that sacrosanct $15 billion worth of corporate tax exemptions doled out over the years by lawmakers.
As we've reported, the Dept. of Revenue says that amount is available as potential revenue if legislators want to man up and siphon off at least some of it - rather than continue to slash programs for education, health care and the poor.
The object of the 30-day special session opening this morning is to make cuts and add revenue to fill a $2 billion budget hole. And as Occupy the Capitol says in an outline of its legislative goals, lawmakers should "Start by closing outdated and unjustified corporate tax loopholes," adding:
It doesn't make sense to hand out tax breaks to big banks and special interests at the same time as we're raising tuition, ignoring toxic pollution, shortchanging our kids and putting people with disabilities and mental illness out on the streets.
Among the tax breaks, for example, is the $1 billion exemption given Boeing, which recently reported a $1 billion profit for the third quarter. (Some of the nearly 600 tax breaks given to state corporations are detailed here).
But, perpetually collared by corporate lobbyists, lawmakers have been reluctant to act. Occupy participants hope to push back with their own arm-twisting arguments. As college instructor and thrice-candidate for the legislature David Spring puts it,
Tax breaks for major corporations in our state have skyrocketed 250 percent during the past 10 years: Over 90 percent of these tax exemptions benefit the richest one percent, with much of this wealth being shipped out of state and even out of the country, creating jobs overseas instead of here in Washington State.
Adds Don Smith of Occupy the Capitol: "Lawmakers in Olympia will act only if they are forced to act. If they tried to eliminate corporate tax exemptions, lobbyists would swarm on them like hungry rats on garbage. So, call your legislators, support the Occupy Movement, and consider participating." Today's schedule.