Obama Signs Bills to Extend State Sales Tax Deduction, Preserve Hanford B Reactor

Cantwell-backed tax provision allows Washingtonians to deduct state sales tax on April’s tax filings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Barack Obama signed into law a tax bill that enables Washingtonians to claim the state and local sales tax deduction on their 2014 federal income taxes. U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has led bipartisan efforts to ensure the sales tax deduction remains in effect and to provide tax fairness for taxpayers in Washington state and other states that don’t have an income tax.

The President also signed into the law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, which included a Cantwell-sponsored provision that will preserve Hanford’s B Reactor as part of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The defense bill also includes Cantwell-backed measures to: ensure women small business owners have equal access to federal contracting; transfer a surplus 1,600 acres at the Hanford site to the Tri-City Development Council for economic development; expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area by 22,000 acres, and designate the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic.

The tax bill -- the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 -- extends the sales tax deduction for one year. Washington is among eight states that don’t have an income tax and, therefore, taxpayers can’t claim an income tax deduction on their federal returns. Congress let the sales tax deduction expire at the end of 2013, which left its future in doubt.

“This one-year extension means tax relief in 2014 for about 900,000 Washington filers who claim the state and local sales tax deduction,” Cantwell said. “This bipartisan legislation provides tax fairness for Washingtonians and helps support investment in local economies. This is an important step, but we must work to end the long-term inequity for Washington taxpayers by making the state sales tax deduction a permanent part of the tax code.”

Cantwell, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, helped to craft the Senate package of tax extenders, which passed the Committee in April. She fought for the sales tax deduction’s inclusion in the bill.

About 900,000 Washington state taxpayers took advantage of the state sales tax deduction in 2012, reducing their taxable income by $1.9 billion, according to IRS data. Washington state taxpayers saved an average of $602 with the state sales tax deduction in 2012, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report.

The legislation includes several other Cantwell-backed tax provisions that are critical to Washington state such as tax credits for hiring veterans, building low-income housing and producing clean energy. You can read more about these provisions here.

Cantwell has been a leader in the Senate on the bipartisan legislation to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Elevating the B Reactor’s status to a National Historical Park will ensure it will not be torn down and increase public access to the historic reactor, helping to attract more visitors to the Tri-Cities.

“Today marks an important milestone for preserving the history of the Tri-Cities,” Cantwell said. “The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will boost tourism and enable millions of Americans to learn about the scientific achievements at Hanford.  I congratulate the many Tri-Cities community leaders for their years of work in making this historical park from an idea into a reality.”

The National Historical Park designation gives Hanford sites the same status as Independence Hall, Valley Forge and Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. It also will help promote the site for tourism, which supports local businesses. More than 7 million people visited Washington’s national parks in 2013, which pumped $430 million into surrounding communities and supported 5,269 jobs, according to a recent National Park Service report.

Along with establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the NDAA legislation also approves the transfer of 1,641 acres of land from the Hanford site to the Tri-Cities Development Council for use as an industrial park. Cantwell has worked over the last few years to urge the Department of Energy to transfer the surplus land -- which is adjacent to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Port of Benton Manufacturing Mall, and the Tri-Cities Research District -- to use for economic development.