OLYMPIA- A new front in the battle to finally end the state's death tax was launched Aug. 22 when two of the state's most effective and influential business groups officially filed papers creating a new committee to fight for passage of Initiative 920 on the November ballot.
NFIB/Washington, the state's leading small business organization, and the Association of Washington Business (AWB), one of the state's oldest and most diverse business groups, have joined forces to create the "Yes on 920-Keeping Washington Family Business Alive" campaign committee.
"While there are other efforts fighting for passage of I-920, we wanted a campaign focused solely on family-owned businesses," said Don Brunell, president of the AWB.
"They are the ones who suffer most, since not only do they have to pay this most unfair tax of all, they are also doubly burdened by often not being able to keep their inherited enterprises going," he added.
"We want to ensure that the viewpoint of the family businesses that generate jobs and contribute to our communities is heard strong and clear between now and the November election," added Carolyn Logue, state director for NFIB/Washington.
"Our message is quite simple: keeping Washington's local family-owned businesses alive and well in the state is the best thing for the Washington economy," she said.
In 1981 Washington voters eliminated the state death tax via initiative by an overwhelming majority. "Last year, without regard to public opinion, the legislature slapped the death tax back on the books," said Brunell.
This "new" estate tax is a separate, stand-alone tax from the federal estate tax and could result in a survivor having to pay nearly 70 percent of any inheritance in taxes.
"This is double taxation, since everyone who lives in the state has paid sales taxes, property taxes and-if they own a business-gross receipt taxes. With more than a $28 billion budget, Washington does not need more money. The government should spend within its means," Brunell claimed.
Logue and Brunell also take issue with lawmakers linking the death tax to school funding, calling a sly bid for support for their action.
"The money from the death tax is ostensibly for public school funding, but really this means lawmakers have pushed aside the need to fund schools from the general fund and instead are forcing schools to be dependent upon a narrowly applied and variable funding source," said Brunell.
"Our schools and our children deserve to be funded through the general fund," added Logue. "When voters passed initiatives to lower class size and increase teacher pay, they clearly said the money should come from general fund revenues. Once again, lawmakers failed to listen to voters."