Students Pitch Budget Cuts to Gregoire

Their message: Cut your friends, not our schools.

Facing a $9 billion state budget deficit, Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state legislature claim they’re looking everywhere to make cuts. But Alex Ng, Ricky Tran, Jennifer Truong, and Joann Ucol, students in Miriam Miller’s 10th Grade Law & Society/History & Humanities classes at Franklin High School, think state officials ought to look under their long noses. Rather than, say, cutting housing, education, and medical benefits to the poor, how about removing some of those multimillion-dollar tax breaks for Boeing, Microsoft, and other corpulent cats?

Miller’s students put together a PowerPoint presentation, using figures from a Seattle Weekly story (“$64 Billion Falls Through the Tax Cracks,” Feb. 18, 2004), detailing 503 tax exemptions worth $64 billion in givebacks to individuals and industry. The presentation asked why, for one, Washington schools could be so underfunded when the repeal of just a few select tax breaks could remedy that shortage? “I sent the PowerPoint to [House speaker] Frank Chopp, [then–King County exec] Ron Sims, the presidents of the various bar associations, and so on,” says Miller. “And there was no response.”

That’s likely because no one wants to talk about erasing tax exemptions that, rather than being reversed, have steadily been expanded by state lawmakers. Today, “tax preference items,” as the state Department of Revenue (DOR) calls them in its 2008 exemptions report, number 567 and total $98.5 billion—up more than $34 billion from four years ago. They include, for example, the more than $4 billion in tax breaks for Boeing to smaller exemptions handed out to myriad businesses—grocers, caterers, farmers, and brewers, to name a few.

Typically, those are exemptions recipients obtained by lobbying the governor and legislature, claiming the breaks were needed to profit and survive. But while many exemptions are necessary and commonplace—property-tax breaks, for example—DOR director Cindi Holmstrom says her staff has identified a series of exemptions that, if eliminated, could bring $15 billion into state coffers. They include reversing exemptions on some aerospace, high-tech, biotech, agriculture, newspaper, vehicle, fruit-processing, fuel, tobacco, and beverage products and processes—all detailed in a 330-page report on DOR’s website.

A state commission is also reviewing the exemptions, notes DOR spokesperson Mike Gowrylow. But it has made little headway. The breaks aren’t a sexy topic, nor easily understood. Miller’s class realized that, and in their presentation suggested the answer might be a state income tax. But as the kids put it, “The people of the State of Washington have no will to change the tax system.”




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
King County and Port of Seattle to collaborate on waste-to-fuel study

The study is aimed at identifying logistics of developing aviation fuel out of municipal garbage.

file photo
Department of Health announces QR code verification program to prove vaccination status

WA Verify is intended to make vaccine verification simpler and more efficient.

Mid-afternoon traffic on northbound Interstate 5 on Nov. 22 near Everett. Dan Bates/The Herald
Thanksgiving traffic forecast is heavier than pre-pandemic

Drivers and ferry riders could be in for long waits, depending on when they go.

Patti Cole-Trindall
King County Executive appoints Patti Cole-Tindall as interim sheriff

Cole-Tindall has a background in the sheriff’s office and county government.

Comparison map between current district map and proposed draft. (Screenshot from King County’s website)
King County proposes redistricting map, asks for feedback from public

Public invited to comment at November 30 public hearing.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

A Snoqualmie Officer was involved in a shooting Tuesday night, Nov. 16. Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Police Department.
Man killed by Snoqualmie Police was homeless, living in car

The 33-year-old man who was killed by a Snoqualmie police officer late… Continue reading

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

Homeless encampment in a wooded area in Auburn on Aug. 27, 2021. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
What the history of homelessness in our region can teach us about our current crisis

A talk with the author of “Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City.”

Most Read