Rep. Ed Orcutt provides legislative update

Lawmaker participates in legislative phone call hosted by Woodland Chamber of Commerce

Mitch Torres

The Woodland Chamber of Commerce held a legislative phone call Tuesday morning with Rep. Ed Orcutt (Republican, 20th District).

Rep. Ed Orcutt
Rep. Ed Orcutt

Orcutt addressed various topics during the phone call, beginning by giving an update on a bill that would construct infrastructure for broadband internet in rural areas. The bill was heard in the Finance Committee Monday. Orcutt described the effects of the bill, saying, “The state takes a little less money and leaves a little more at the local level. And that would be used to, to put out infrastructure. It wouldn’t be for providing internet service, it would be for putting in  infrastructure.” 

Orcutt is hopeful that the bill, which has a $50 million fiscal note, will pass through the Finance Committee and get set in motion.

Orcutt also discussed a wealth tax bill. The bill was scheduled to be heard today by the Finance Committee. The bill would tax any individual living in Washington state with a worldwide wealth of more than $1 billion. Orcutt made additional comments regarding the bill, expressing concerns that the bill is a stepping stone.

“One of my worries is that it will metamorphosize into something else, or they will start bringing it down to lower and lower income or wealth levels, and it will be an early estate tax,” he said.

Orcutt further expressed his concerns about the bill and how it could impact people later on. “The other problem is that it will be an annual tax, so if you tax somebody’s wealth, you could actually be taxing their income from this year, [for] multiple years.”

Orcutt answered a question regarding the bill’s impact as only four Washingtonians would be subject to the tax, and it could potentially be circumvented by moving to a different estate out of state. Orcutt responded, saying, “That’s one of the concerns. Because they could still be doing business in the state, they just need to move their primary residence. So they could live up here, you know, half of the year and live somewhere else and come under somebody else’s taxation.”

As Orcutt continued the discussion regarding taxes, he brought up the estate tax passed in Washington. Orcutt described how it worked before the changes. “The federal government gave a credit against their portion of it to the states. So, whatever you paid in, in a state tax to the federal government, the state got to keep a portion of that.”

Orcutt continued explaining how it currently works. “Now, because they took that away, the federal government was no longer giving that credit to the states. The federal government keeps all of the federal estate tax. The state created a new death tax to cover what was no longer a credit against the federal. So, they created a standalone.”

Orcutt expressed his displeasure against the estate tax, stating that he opposed it from the beginning, “I think it’s a horrible tax,’’ he said. “They’re trying to go after wealthy people, and hey, they’re dead. What do they care about it? Well, you know, they worked hard, and we’re trying to pass something on. So, their kids didn’t have to go through the same thing that they went through, and they don’t really want to see it all destroyed because of an estate tax.”

“Some businesses end up that way,’’ he added. “Because, if you do not have the liquid assets to pay that estate tax, sometimes you have to liquidate your most precious assets. And so that is a big problem.”

Orcutt gave a personal story regarding the estate tax issues. “I had somebody in this area here that just went round and round with the state. They submitted their documents, and it was a year, a year before that estate got settled. They ended up owing no tax, but it took the department a year to process that and give them the clear to release the estate.

“People who had just lost a loved one were caught up in this whole thing with the state and dealing with them, waiting to settle the estate and waiting to get on with their lives and get on with the healing process,’’ he said. “I’m really concerned about how long this takes, [and] how much people have to go through and in some of the worst times of their life.”

As the call continued, Orcutt brought up the House Democrat transportation package that was recently proposed. The package would increase the fuel tax by 18 cents a gallon. Orcutt noted that with the current amount at 47.4 cents a gallon, the increase would raise it to 65 cents a gallon. Additionally, Orcutt pointed out, “The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents. This proposal would raise the state tax by 18 cents a gallon. That would raise about $10 billion dollars.”

Orcutt noted an additional aspect of the package was indexing the tax to inflation. There was no loss due to inflation. Orcutt said that would raise an extra $6.7 billion. Orcutt described the other concerns that he had regarding the package, such as the raising of the diesel tax and an increase in truck licensing fees.

A question was asked regarding the I-5 bridge and if that was the only project receiving funds from the proposed package. Orcutt responded, saying, “That’s the only megaproject. I’m not sure what other smaller projects there might be. And I don’t know how much of the preservation and maintenance money would go to do anything in Southwest Washington.”

A point was made noting that a potential increase in the cost of transporting people and goods could lead to a rise in the price of necessities, like food and other important items. Orcutt agreed that was a likely result, “This is one of the points that I put out, is that when you raise vehicle registrations on trucks, [and] when you raise the fuel tax on trucks, you inflate the price of every product we buy.”

Orcutt also discussed the importance of avoiding anything that could be negative or outright drive business out of Washington. He gave an example, “I don’t smoke, I don’t recommend people smoke. But at the same time, I recognize that those who do smoke, if you ban the sale of menthol cigarettes in the state, people are gonna buy their cigarettes in Oregon, if they’re not already buying them [there]. And once they make that stop in Oregon to buy those things, they’re not going to just buy those things and come into Washington and buy all their other things. They’re gonna buy everything at that one stop.”

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