The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.

Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View: 2013 legislative session

Sunsetting tax loopholes

The relationship of a big employer and state government is often like a high-powered spouse threatening infidelity. We cringe as the might-be-cheated-upon goes to humiliating extremes to preserve the marriage.
When Boeing abruptly moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago in 2001, the late writer and historian Walt Crowley captured the sense of betrayal. "Chicago, that old floozy," Crowley said.
In 2003, then-Gov. Gary Locke, chastened by the uprooting of the headquarters of the consummate Northwest manufacturer, called a special legislative session to offer $3.2 billion in tax breaks to Boeing and its contractors if the 7E7 Dreamliner was assembled in Washington (the session also chopped unemployment benefits and workers comp). It was kowtowing -- and Boeing began an unnerving fling with Charleston, S.C.--but Washingtonians were relieved that a critical economic relationship was saved.
In Oregon, Nike is the Boeing analogue, the deep-pocketed mega employer with equally sizeable political muscle. On Friday, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber finessed a special session to keep an ever-expanding Nike content, pledging not to fiddle with the state's corporate tax structure.
"There's a reason that legislators and Gov. Kitzhaber jumped last week to fill Nike's request for tax certainty," The Oregonian's Brent Hunsberger writes. "They don't make 'em that big anymore. And the big ones spawn lots of little ones."
The Boeing and Nike examples bring into focus what is derisively termed "corporate welfare" and the appropriate role of state government in stoking business growth. As the New York Times reported early this month, states often pay an enormous price for well-intentioned tax sweeteners that ultimately come up short (the universal draw will continue to be the quality of education). The challenge is to separate the wheat from the pointless-giveaway chaff, flagging what spurs jobs and aligns with the public interest.
In light of anemic revenues and the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision mandating additional resources for K-12, a prudent approach would revisit the tax breaks and loopholes that already exist. That was the mission of a bipartisan proposal this past year that will hopefully find life again in the 2013 session. Co-sponsored by Rep. Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat, and Glenn Anderson, a Republican, HB 2762 would have put an expiration date on hundreds of loopholes -- many that should continue, and many that should be pitched.
"Exemptions and credits should be required at least every 10 years to show a return on investment, a financial metric based upon sound data and clear criteria," Carlyle said. "They should expire, in my view, and be forced to prove to future legislatures that they actually achieve their objectives for taxpayers."
Amen to prudence and putting taxpayers first.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.


Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor:

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer:

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor:

Josh O'Connor, Publisher:

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at or 425-339-3472.