By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
As the 2018 legislative session wraps up this week, legislators, lobbyists and retail stakeholders alike have described this year’s as a fast and furious 60-day session.
With a shift in majority leadership in the Senate, all three branches were led by a Democrat party majority. But even with the shift in leadership, the House and Senate have still been somewhat evenly divided.
The harried session offered numerous opportunities for the minority party to put together a coordinated case for the business community and trade associations. These strategies have required strong communication and collaboration with the Democrat majority to consider and debate policy that may negatively impact retailers large and small around the state.
Rather than driving new legislation, our approach has focused on halting potential legislation that could ultimately hurt our ability to employ a high-demand workforce and strengthen Washington’s economy.
Our team has been busy tracking a host of bills that would negatively impact many of our members. The results have brought a few successes such as HB 5251 that will restore state tourism funding for the first time in seven years. We also won overwhelming approval for HB 2822 that includes $500 fines for shoppers who compromise customer comfort and health codes by bringing a wide variety of untrained, household pets into groceries and other retail stores.
In a year where there is $1.3 billion in previously unexpected long-term state revenue and state economists forecast that revenues for the 2017-2019 budget cycle have increased by $647 million, proposals for new taxes have continued to be put forth that would impact businesses and taxpayers.
Although lawmakers had said a capital gains tax would be off the table in 2018, we continue to battle House Bill 2967. It would create a capital gains tax of 7 percent with the intent of lowering property taxes across the state.
WRA has opposed this tax on the sale of personal assets as a penalty to sellers hoping to use proceeds for retirement. Small businesses from around the state have testified that a capital gains tax could be a major hit on their savings after years spent building up their retirement nest egg.
The outcome of the bill is tied to the final form of the adopted state budget that is likely to be determined by end of day tomorrow.