Rivers challenges House marijuana-tax cut

The House Democrats’ latest state-budget proposal would not only create a new capital-gains tax but would also provide a 20 percent tax cut for pot smokers. Sen. Ann Rivers is challenging House budget leaders to drop the marijuana-tax cut, in the interests of speeding agreement on a state operating budget.

“The House has loudly complained about the unpredictability of marijuana revenue, while quietly giving pot smokers a tax break,” said Rivers, R-La Center. “The Senate has been working hard to include a tax break for low-income seniors and protect small businesses from tax hikes, while the House has been handing pot smokers a sweet deal. Where are their priorities?”

While simplifying the tax structure for marijuana businesses this year, Senate leaders were careful to ensure the same amount of estimated revenue reached the state. Rivers was shocked to discover the House had cut the amount of revenue the state expected to receive from marijuana, not because of an erratic market but because it was significantly lowering the tax rate. At the same time, the House proposed a 20-percent tax increase on small businesses.

“The House’s marijuana-tax cut doesn’t make sense and doesn’t fit with what we were trying to do to shore up the marijuana market with reforms this year,” said Rivers, the architect of the landmark Cannabis Patient Protection Act passed by the Legislature in April. “It makes even less sense when the House then turns around and complains about the unreliability of marijuana revenue. It is confusing and outrageous that House budget leaders would cling to a tax cut for pot smokers while attempting to force the Senate to agree to new taxes on the residents of Washington when they don’t even have the votes for new taxes in their own chamber.”

The Senate budget anticipates $1.1 billion in marijuana revenue over four years. The current House proposal expects $1 billion.

“All the criticism from the House majority of the Senate’s reliance on marijuana revenue is baffling considering they are essentially banking on the same revenue numbers,” said Rivers. “Did they forget that they cut marijuana taxes? I’m surprised they didn’t propose cutting taxes on liquor and cigarettes too,” said Rivers. “House obstinance on these issues is just dragging this process out longer and driving us closer to a government shutdown.”