Cattle leader warns of rising costs if various taxes rise
By STEVE BROWN
OLYMPIA -- On the table during the Washington State Legislature's special budget session is House Bill 2762, which calls for a legislative review of tax exemptions, including sales and use taxes on off-road diesel, machinery and agricultural fertilizers and chemicals.
The bill would repeal those exemptions in coming years by default if a legislative review determines they should not be renewed. The repeals would start in 2017. Tax preferences for businesses, including farm and agriculture, would be repealed in 2021.
The Legislature opened its special session March 12 to address a $1 billion shortfall in the state's budget.
Scott Dilley, of the Washington State Farm Bureau, said the bill creates uncertainty for ag producers and would increase input costs substantially.
Jack Field, of the Washington Cattlemen's Association, said the loss of tax exemptions would raise retail costs as much as 9 percent.
"People would look for the product elsewhere, whether it's agriculture or the drugstore on Main Street," he said.
Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, a co-sponsor of HB2762, said he doesn't know whether the bill will be brought up during the special session.
"My own view is we need to regularly review all exemptions, and the operative word is 'review,'" he said. "We need to look at the future cost of present decisions, both in revenue and expenditures."
Seaquist said he will continue to seek an overhaul of the state's tax system.
"We need a nonpartisan path to reforming the tax structure," he said.
In the final days of the regular session, several ag-related bills were sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature:
* House Bill 2329 authorizes the Board of Natural Resources to create a state forest land pool to be managed for the benefit of counties affected by the downturn in the timber industry.
* House Bill 2349 authorizes the Department of Fish and Wildlife to permit the release of captured beavers on public or private property if the landowner consents. It also requires the agency to help connect landowners with excess beavers with those who want more beavers.
* House Bill 2456 exempts from disclosure under the Public Records Act most information submitted to the Washington State Department of Agriculture for tracing animal diseases.
* Senate Bill 5343 extends until Dec. 31, 2016, the time for certain electric generating plants powered by gas from anaerobic digesters to comply with the Clean Air Act.
Gregoire signed into law House Bill 1381, which allows an application for a temporary permit, change, transfer or amendment to a water right to be sufficient cause for nonuse as it applies to water rights relinquishment. It will become effective on June 7.