Sales tax deduction must be permanent

Yet, Congress is playing political games with this tax deduction that saves the average family $600 a year.


An ugly political game now being played in Congress could be very expensive for Washington state taxpayers.

It's flat-out wrong.

At stake is the sales tax deduction from federal income taxes that citizens of Washington and six other states are allowed to take. This exemption saves a typical family about $600 a year.

Keeping the sales tax deduction is simply a matter of fairness.

After all, those who live in Oregon and other states with an income tax can deduct a portion of their state payments from their federal income taxes.

Unfortunately, since only a handful of states have only a sales tax, a majority of senators and representatives don't really care if the exemption is allowed.

But they do care deeply about getting re-elected and having their party hold the majority in the House and Senate. That makes the sales tax exemption the perfect political pawn as giving it -- and taking it away -- doesn't directly impact most lawmakers. It explains why this deduction has been killed and then resurrected over and over for the past two decades as lawmakers, and even presidents, play political games,

Now the race between Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and her Republican challenger, Dino Rossi, could be impacted by the political shenanigans.

Republicans and Democrats this week both have blocked efforts to extend the break, reported Les Blumenthal of McClatchy Newspapers.

"I am going to keep fighting to get this done, but I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans continue to treat this as an election-year game when families across my home state of Washington are counting on us to get something done," Murray said after Republicans blocked her push Wednesday night to pass a one-year extension, Blumenthal reported.

But Republicans aren't alone in playing this game.

Earlier Democrats blocked a GOP proposal to make the sales tax deduction permanent.

Sadly, it's all about framing the issue in a way that one party can take credit while allowing the other party to be blamed.

Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, is not seeking re-election. He has, over the years, championed the sales tax deduction that he said has saved state taxpayers between $350 million to $500 million a year.

He is now concerned politics will ultimately hurt Washingtonians.

"Sometimes brinkmanship can take you over the brink," Baird said in an interview with Blumental, adding he would find it "reprehensible" if either side was holding the measure hostage to advance their candidates at the expense of middle-class taxpayers.

Citizens -- regardless of their personal politics -- should be outraged.

Congress should do the right thing. Stop playing political games and make the fair and equitable sales tax deduction permanent.


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