Spokane Sales Tax Rebate

The How is Now

GSI’s 0.09% Gambit

Caution! Things are about to get wonky, but without the wonk you won’t get the what; you also won’t get the totally boring part of this otherwise strikingly brilliant blog post. 

In a county with few legitimate economic development tools and in a state that’s poor at providing them, we might be onto something with this 0.09 thing.

At present, the state provides a 0.09 percent rebate on sales taxes collected from rural counties. The proceeds of which may be pledged toward economic development activities within those counties. Senate Bill 5899 allows the same rebate to Spokane County under the banner that we share a border with, in many ways, a more competitive Idaho tax environment.

The math on this legislation is kinda’ tricky, particularly if you’re a mindless bureaucrat whose brain is fogged by years of cabernet-soaked steak dinners with people far more important than me. The state sales and use tax rate for Spokane County is 6.5 percent. If 0.09 percent is rebated back, the state only gets 6.41 percent. Thus, nearly 1/10 of one penny in sales tax may be rebated our way. Therefore, proportionally speaking, there’s a lot of proportions found in the last two sentences.

If so passed and signed into law, SB 5899 might as well stand for Super-Badass 5899 because we’ll officially have a market-driven revenue stream wholly pledged toward economic development activities. Such a notion is so irreverent in Spokane County it’s a wonder our political elite support it. SpokanePlanner’s bosom buddy, Todd Mielke, can take credit for stimulating the initiative back before he was shown the door at GSI.

If the prospect of a market-driven economic development revenue stream strikes you as entirely too rational for Spokane County, you’d be right, but worry not! Here comes the irrational part. The talking points trotted out in an effort to build support for the legislation are dumb, primarily: “Just worry about the what, we’ll worry about the how later.”



The legislation is the how. Now’s the time to get it right, not later. The how is now, says Dr. SeussPlanner. Because, at present, all revenue proceeds go exclusively to Spokane County, who may then keep or delegate spending thereof as they deem fit. If I’m a Spokane County Commissioner (which actually may be the case someday), why in the world would I delegate the rebate revenue stream to a third-party entity to manage? If I’m a Spokane County Commissioner, I’m launching my own economic development department within the county so I can control all proceeds of our sweet new revenue stream. Additionally, with my other hand, I’m yanking GSI’s associate development organization (ADO) designation from them and designating my shiny new economic development department the county’s new ADO.

As it’s presently written, SB-5899 deals all the cards to Spokane County. If I’m GSI, or a local munie, or a local PDA, or a local tribe, or a local pole dancer (which actually may be the case someday), I’m making active efforts to ensure the state legislature deals me in.

The how is now. Revise the proposed legislation to dilute Spokane County’s authority by providing seats at the decision making table for all stakeholders, including pole dancers.