The Petri Dish: Yes, legislature did raise a lot of taxes, fees this year

State lawmakers outdid themselves this year in the assortment of ways they chose to extract more bucks from you, your neighbor, and even your friends in Oregon.

They passed and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed 51 bills containing a means of generating money to help pay for what the state does now and will try to do in the near future for its 7.5 million residents. In sheer numbers, the Class of 2019 outproduced their predecessors in this arena. There were 17 tax and fee bills enacted in 2018 and 32 in 2017, according to statistics compiled by the Office of Financial Management.

In the four years before that, the high-water mark was 30. It occurred in 2015 when, like in 2017 and 2019, a new two-year budget got written. There tends to be more tax and fee changes in such years. Some of this year’s changes are starting to take effect.

On the fee front, for example, people will pay a few dollars more to get a copy of a death certificate, file a small claims court action or transact business with a vehicle licensing subagent.

If you only fish for smelt, a new law says you will soon need a special license to do so. And the state is going to allow delivery robots to operate on public sidewalks. You must fork out $50 to register each one you want to deploy.

It was on taxes where the political battles were most heated and where the public reaction may be most strong. During the session, Democrats used their majorities in the House and Senate to muscle past resistant Republicans in order to pass a gamut of measures.

Residents of Oregon and other states without a sales tax are no longer exempt from paying it in Washington. Oil companies will be paying a higher tax on the amount of petroleum they move. And if you vape, prepare to have products taxed by the milliliter starting this October.

This January, the tax rate paid by an estimated 82,000 professional service businesses will rise a little. It will be going up a lot more for a handful of Big Banks. Lurking down the road in 2022 is a new paycheck deduction for a first-in-the-nation program to provide assistance for long-term care. Also looming, tolls on the southern end of Interstate 405.

And the list of tax and fee bills compiled by the Office of Financial Management actually excludes two pieces of legislation with noticeable pocketbook impacts.

One is the two-year transportation budget, a provision of which is spurring a hike in fares on state ferries. The other lifted the cap on local school levies, which will result in higher property tax rates for homeowners in some school districts.

Add all of this up and the resulting new revenue will enable a significant expansion of programs and services for children, seniors, college students, those with mental health issues and those who are homeless.

It’s also triggered another Tim Eyman tax-limiting initiative. He vowed to file signatures July 5 to get his measure on the November ballot. Regardless, Republicans will be talking to voters in 2020 about the amount of fees and taxes raised in the midst of a strong economy. And for a few Democrats, this year’s performance could come back to haunt them.

Jerry Cornfield can be reached at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@herald net.com

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