Editorial — Legislature needs to reach transportation consensus

May 27, 2015

State legislators are closer than they’ve been in years to reaching a deal to fix the state’s aging transportation infrastructure. They must not get bogged down by ideology and let slip this opportunity to create jobs and make roads safer.

The Senate already passed a package, including a gas-tax increase, with bipartisan support. Last month, the House Transportation Committee passed two key Senate bills, ESSB 5987 and ESSB 5988. Negotiations are under way to reconcile differences between the Senate and the House’s Democratic leadership.

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Governor urges Congress to pass sales tax bill

December 4, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire urged Congress on Nov. 26 — Cyber Monday, the largest online shopping day all year — to require online businesses to collect sales tax.

The governor said Washington businesses face unfair competition from online and mail-order retailers that fail to collect sales taxes.

The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act aims to give states the option to collect sales and use tax revenues from out-of-state sellers.

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Governor urges Congress to require online businesses to collect sales tax

November 27, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 27, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire urged Congress on Monday — Cyber Monday, the largest online shopping day all year — to require online businesses to collect sales tax.

The governor said Washington businesses face unfair competition from online and mail-order retailers that fail to collect sales taxes. Gregoire said Congress should address the issue by passing legislation to treat out-of-state sellers the same as local businesses.

The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act aims to give states the option to collect sales and use tax revenues from out-of-state sellers. U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced the bill a year ago.

Congress is now reconvening to address expiring tax provisions and the looming “fiscal cliff” crisis. Gregoire said the focus on taxation issues is a good opportunity to address the online sales tax legislation.

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Issaquah retailers prepare for Black Friday rush

November 20, 2012

The day after Thanksgiving, long before the sun rises, open season for bargains starts at retailers throughout Issaquah and beyond.

Black Friday sends shoppers pinging from store to store like a pinball in search of deals — a 32-inch LCD television for $147 at Target, perhaps, or a Blu-ray player for $39.99 at Best Buy. Consumers brave predawn darkness, long lines and sharp elbows to score early-bird bargains.

The boost to retailers’ bottom lines could also offer a jolt to city coffers. Popular Black Friday destinations — including Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Fred Meyer, Target and, of course, Issaquah-based Costco — lure consumers from throughout the region.

Issaquah is a retail hub on the Eastside, and city officials hope the holiday rush resuscitates a flat year for spending. Overall, sales tax revenue forms a key piece in the city budget — a larger share than property tax revenue and permit fees, other main sources of dollars.

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City’s sales tax revenue is down so far in 2012

May 8, 2012

Issaquah municipal government did not collect as much revenue January through March as it did during the same period a year ago, although planned developments could strengthen city finances.

In 2011, sales tax revenues increased almost 10 percent from 2010, but only due to sales tax on construction, mostly related to Swedish/Issaquah.

However, the city received about $6.1 million in revenue through March, down 6 percent — or $393,286 — from the same period a year ago. The figure includes sales tax revenue, building permits, grants and other funding sources.

The construction of Swedish/Issaquah bolstered the 2011 total.

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Issaquah sales decline, state sales increase

May 8, 2012

Taxable retail sales in the state increased 3 percent to $103.8 billion in calendar year 2011, the state Department of Revenue reported April 27.

The 3 percent gain for 2011 compares to a 0.1 percent drop in overall sales in 2010. Overall sales dropped 11.2 percent in 2009 due to the recession.

In 2011, retail trade, a component of all taxable retail sales including retailers but excluding other industries, increased 3.5 percent from 2010 to $47.9 billion.

Construction dropped 1.7 percent last year, a smaller decline than the 12 percent drop in 2010. In addition, new and used auto sales climbed 8.3 percent last year, compared to a 2.8 percent gain in 2010.

In 2011, accommodations and food services rose 5.1 percent; apparel and accessories increased 5.5 percent; and sales of building materials, garden equipment and supplies declined 0.3 percent.

Sales of taxable retail sales in Issaquah amounted to $1.1 billion last year — down 2.61 percent from 2010.

King County recorded $40.4 billion in taxable retail sales last year — a 4.2 percent increase from the previous year. Overall retail trade in King County amounted to $16.7 billion — a 4.6 percent increase from 2010.

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State orders businesses to stop collecting expired sales tax

April 3, 2012

Consumers should scrutinize bar and restaurant receipts a little more closely, after state officials said some establishments continue to collect a long-expired King County sales tax.

The county used the revenue from the half-percent sales tax to pay for Safeco Field construction, but the tax expired Oct. 1. In the meantime, the tax on food and beverages at bars and restaurants remained in place at many businesses.

“Short of auditing every business, we don’t really know whether they collect it or not, but our sense is that it’s pretty widespread,” state Department of Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow said March 30.

King County bars and restaurants should collect the state and local sales tax rate of 8.6 percent to 9.5 percent — not 9.1 percent to 10 percent. Issaquah is inside the Sound Transit taxing district, so consumers pay 9.5 percent. (The regional transit authority collects a 0.9 percent sales tax.)

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King County highlights successes for Mental Health Month

May 11, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. May 11, 2011

King County used dollars set aside for mental-health programs to serve more than 27,000 people last year — a jump from 19,000 in 2009.

County Council members received the information Monday in a report about the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency sales tax, a revenue source for mental health and criminal justice programs.

The report also indicated a 23 percent reduction in jail bookings among mental-health clients and a 23 percent reduction in jail days between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010. In the same period, psychiatric hospitalizations decreased by 19 percent for clients included in the sample.

“I sponsored the legislation authorizing the MIDD in 2007 because the costs of our jail being a de-facto mental institution were unacceptable and because I knew we could do better,” Councilman Bob Ferguson, Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee chairman, said in a statement.

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Issaquah legislator backs corporate income tax

March 24, 2011

NEW — 10 a.m. March 24, 2011

State Rep. Glenn Anderson seeks to scrap the unpopular business-and-occupation tax and levy a flat-rate corporate income tax instead.

Besides calling for a 7 percent corporate income tax on revenues after expenses, the legislation also proposes eliminating all B&O tax exemptions and prohibiting a personal income tax.

In introducing the bill and constitutional amendment, the Fall City Republican said the idea is based on the same premise as a recent proposal from the national deficit-reduction commission to simplify the federal tax code.

In Olympia, legislators face pressure to close tax “loopholes” to help patch a $5.1 billion hole in the 2011-13 state budget.

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State offers a reprieve for delinquent taxpayers

February 7, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 7, 2011

The state is offering some businesses more time to settle old tax bills.

The state Department of Revenue launched a tax amnesty program Feb. 1 to waive penalties and interest on certain unpaid state business taxes.

Legislators OK’d the amnesty program for businesses facing overdue state tax bills in early December. Taxpayers may be eligible to pay the overdue taxes without penalties or interest under the amnesty program.

The amnesty — authorized by the Legislature during a one-day special session Dec. 11 — applies to state business-and-occupation and public-utility taxes, and state and local sales and use taxes.

“Hardworking business owners have faced some very tough economic times over the past several years,” Revenue Director Suzan DelBene said. “This program will help them meet their tax obligations without the additional burden of penalties and interest.”

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