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House Democrats on Friday unveiled a proposed $1.5 billion tax package. Senate Republicans plan to rollout their proposed budget later this week.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Technically speaking, Alicia Goodwin knows she's benefiting from one of Washington state's biggest tax exemptions just by checking out at the grocery store. Sales taxes aren't charged on food purchases.

Seattle Daily Times

Editor's Note: We're taking a closer look at Washington's tax system through a week-long series. This is the first installment of “Where’s the Dough? On the Hunt for Washington’s Missing Tax Dollars."

Washington state’s tax system has long been heaped with insults. Lately, it’s been called a jalopy, a Ford Pinto and the worst in the country.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, says Washington's tax system is the most regressive in the nation. That’s because with our state’s heavy reliance on sales tax and lack of an income tax, the poorest 20 percent of residents pay 16.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest pay 2.4 percent.

Washington state Senator Jim Honeyford of Yakima has apologized after using the term “colored” to refer to people of color.

Cacophony / Wikimedia Commons

 

Washington lawmakers are approaching the halfway mark of their 105-day session. Hot issues include marijuana, mental health, oil trains and cap-and-trade.

But the heavy lift for lawmakers will be writing a new two-year operating budget that increases funding for public schools. Both House Democrats and Senate Republicans will unveil dueling budget proposals in the weeks ahead.

City of Seattle Community Tech / Flickr

Somali immigrants living in Washington hope the federal government will help them restart the flow of money to relatives in Somalia. Those remittances have ground to a halt since a California bank announced last month it would stop handling them.

That leaves an uncertain future for many families in Somalia who depend on money from relatives abroad. Mohammed Jama, executive director of the Abu Bakr Islamic Center in Tukwila, said in the devastated Somali economy, his relatives have hardly any income.

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

 

An Idaho lawmaker and farmer said the state should press the federal government to establish a national labeling system for genetically engineered foods before states create their own.

Cacophony / Wikimedia Commons

 

Washington lawmakers are in contempt of court over school funding. But it’s a couple of non-funding issues that could create a partisan rift.

Republicans are back this year with two controversial school reform measures. One would require teacher layoffs to be based on performance, not seniority. The other would make student performance on a statewide standardized test part of a teacher’s annual evaluation.

Tradnor / Wikimedia

 

 

In Olympia, legislative budget writers got a shot of good news Friday regarding tax collections.

Washington's chief economist said about $274 million more than previously projected should flow into the state treasury from now through 2017. A strong economic recovery gets credit. This prompted a reaction from the legislature's lead budget writers.

Paul Eggert / Wikimedia Commons

The sun rose and then quickly set again on a proposal by some state legislators to abolish daylight saving time in Washington state.

Constituent complaints about disrupted sleep and the hassle of changing clocks prompted legislation in both Oregon and Washington.

Staying on Pacific Standard Time year-round would avoid the twice-yearly ritual. But it raises complications if other states keep springing forward, said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, at a committee hearing on Thursday.

City Of Seattle

 

After almost 10 years of service, Seattle City Council Member Sally Clark says it’s time for her to start a new chapter.

Clark announced she will not seek reelection. Her decision follows similar announcements by council members Tom Rasmussen and Nick Licata.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Families of murder victims and opponents of capital punishment spoke out in support of a measure to abolish the death penalty in Washington, saying that a costly and drawn out appeals process only prolongs the pain of the crime.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

Kate Brown has been sworn in as Oregon's 38th governor.

"It's been a tough few months," Brown said in a speech at the capitol after taking the oath of office. "The people of Oregon have reason to question their trust in state government." 

Colin Fogarty

 

Washington lawmakers are considering whether to beef up oversight of the party bus industry. At a public hearing Monday, the head of the state agency that regulates in-state bus lines said it’s a matter of safety.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

Under a cloud of pressure and scrutiny, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced his resignation on Friday, cutting short his record-setting fourth term in office.

The governor had said as recently as Wednesday that he would stay in office. Kitzhaber and his fiancée Cylvia Hayes face a criminal investigation and political pressure over allegations of selling access to his office.

Rachel La Corte / AP Photo

 

A bipartisan group of Washington state senators is backing an 11.7 cent gas tax increase over three years.

The 16-year proposal was rolled out late Thursday at the Capitol. The higher gas tax would help fund a multi-billion dollar roads and transit package.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

 

Oregon's House speaker and Senate president have both asked Gov. John Kitzhaber to resign. The request comes as the governor is under intense pressure as part of an ongoing ethics scandal.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Three Washington state senators received a boost in their per diem last month, despite previously saying they wouldn’t take a raise in their daily allowance.

In March 2014, a Washington Senate committee narrowly voted to increase the reimbursement senators get when they’re in session to $120 a day, a $30 increase.

Don Ryan / AP Photo

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown launched a wave of speculation in the state capitol Wednesday by abruptly leaving a conference she was attending in Washington, D.C. Brown is first in line of succession to the governor’s office.

Gov. John Kitzhaber and his fiancée Cylvia Hayes are facing criminal investigations over allegations they used his office for personal gain.

Keenen Brown / Flickr

 

Washington lawmakers are considering whether to exempt amateur athletes from state labor laws.

The move comes as Washington’s four Western Hockey League teams remain under investigation for possible child labor violations.

Wikimedia Commons

 

The state of Oregon now has a third major political party, according to the secretary of state. The Independent Party has achieved the status that, until now, was enjoyed by only Democrats and Republicans.

M Glasgow / Flickr

 

We’ve seen rallies and demonstrations against Washington’s new voter-approved background check law. But now a gun rights group is planning a “we will not comply” gun show.

It’s dubbed the Arms Expo. It’s scheduled for the weekend of June 20 in the Yakima area at a location yet to be announced. A website bills the event as a gun show and “patriot campout for the whole family.” And it promises “no background checks, no paperwork, no infringement.”

Kristen Wyatt / AP Photo

 

The Washington state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to make hemp farming legal. The measure now goes to the state House for further consideration.

State Sen. Brian Hatfield said the plant cousin of marijuana has "tremendous potential" as a crop.

A McLin / Flickr

Residents of tent cities in Seattle are speaking out against a proposal from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to allow more such encampments.

Colin Fogarty

 

Paid sick leave and a boost in the minimum wage are among the top priorities of organized labor in Washington state this year.

Democrats in the legislature have embraced both ideas. But Republicans and business interests remain wary. Adding to the politics is the fact Seattle has already adopted these policies.

Fanduel.com

 

On the eve of the Super Bowl, Washington state lawmakers are considering whether to legalize fantasy sports contests.

This is where sports fans build an imaginary team based on the stats of real players. They then compete in a league with other participants.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Nearly two years after public radio and the Associated Press investigated lobbyist-paid meals for Washington lawmakers, the issue is still a topic of discussion in the legislature.

A Senate panel Thursday took testimony on two proposals related to gifts of food and beverage.

Seth Perlman / AP Photo

 

Gas prices have plummeted, but Washington’s gas tax could soon go up.

Republican Curtis King, the chair of the Senate Transportation committee, is looking at an 11.5-cent per gallon increase phased in over three years. It would help fund a $14 billion transportation package with projects on both sides of the Cascades.

Jessica Robinson

 

A committee in the Idaho House Thursday rejected a gay rights measure known as the “Add the Words bill” on a 13-4 party line vote.

Austin Jenkins

 

Public utility districts in Washington have the right to place power lines through state trust lands, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

This ends a years-long legal fight between Washington’s elected lands commissioner and the Okanogan PUD.

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