Legislatures chart different courses

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Editorial

In Idaho, when the Legislature wants to increase the state's agricultural tax base, it looks for ways to help business.

In Washington state, the Legislature grasps at "revenue raisers."

During their special session -- called to plug a $1 billion hole in the state budget -- Washington legislators had before them a proposal to review state tax exemptions, including sales and use taxes on off-road diesel, machinery and agricultural fertilizers and chemicals.

The proposal is in the bullpen until lawmakers run out of ideas for balancing the budget. (Here's one: Cut spending.)

Once they've given up on that, they will trot out other ideas for raising taxes and "reviewing" tax exemptions as a prelude to repealing them. By the time they are done, they will have added to revenue by putting a drag on the economy.

Jack Field, of the Washington Cattlemen's Association, told the Capital Press the loss of tax exemptions along would raise retail costs as much as 9 percent. It is difficult to see how that would help Washington's staggering economy.

In the meantime, before Idaho legislators adjourned -- with a balanced budget, we might add -- they debated how best to attract new agricultural businesses to the state and encourage companies already in the state to expand.

Though it ultimately didn't pass, such proposals are emblematic of the mindset of a Legislature intent on building the state's economy instead of sucking the life out of it, as Washingtonians do.

Which strategy would be more successful? Will Washington be able to tax its way out of a $1 billion budget hole? Or will Idaho's business-minded efforts lead to greater success?

We'll go with Idaho.

Stimulating the economy has become a buzzword in these recessionary times, but most of the "stimulating" in Washington and many other states has involved the crossing of fingers in hopes that someday the economy will come back despite the Legislature.

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