Washington’s massive rulemaking is strangling businesses
During the final three days of the 105-day legislative session in April, more than $2 billion in new and higher taxes were approved. These included new and increased business and occupation taxes on more than 90,000 employers and certain banks, a graduated real estate excise tax on both residential and commercial sales, a higher tax on oil, ending the sales tax exemption for Oregonians and changing it into an annual remittance program.
Because Oregon is so close to Southwest Washington’s 17th Legislative District, which I represent, I’ve been concerned how these tax increases affect us locally, especially our smaller businesses operating on razor-thin margins. This summer I talked with business owners throughout the district and heard something unexpected. Yes, the tax increases are increasingly burdensome. However, many said the biggest obstacle they struggle against is the ever-changing and growing amount of regulations added to their plates every year.
Consider this: Washington has 23,715 pages of administrative code, written and adopted by state agencies – nearly 8,000 pages of which have been added since 2001. They are lengthy, confusing and sometimes conflicting, yet the state says everyone, including employers, are responsible for knowing and following these rules.
The Revised Code of Washington – laws created by the state Legislature – total 14,021 pages. These laws increase every time the Legislature completes a session. During the 2019 session, 2,278 bills were introduced and 204 became law.