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Taxpayer refund/settlement checks should not include political messaging

Receiving a refund for overpaid taxes is good. Having those government checks include political messaging, however, is not. For example, here is language that was previously included on some Idaho taxpayer refund checks:

While this is a worthwhile project, including this type of unrelated language on a taxpayer refund check is an example of the government unduly tipping the scales and should be avoided.

Including political messaging on taxpayer refund/settlement checks is also an issue in Washington state. As reported by Center Square back in January:

“Last month, the AGO sent out $40 million worth of checks in the amounts of $50 and $120 to state residents considered ‘low-income’ derived from a lawsuit settlement against chicken and tune companies that had engaged in price-fixing. However, many of the checks ended up mailed to residents who are not low-income, wrongly addressed, or to people who are deceased.

Yet, the biggest complaint among critics of the checks, which were signed by Ferguson and included a personal message touting his office’s successes, is that it was an inappropriate use of public money at a time when he is actively campaigning to be Washington's next governor.” 

The 2024 supplemental budgets introduced this week in Washington state include another example of this practice. According to the Washington Policy Center:

“If House and Senate budget writers get their way, some Washington residents will receive $200 checks this year using revenue from the tax on CO2 emissions – but there are some interesting conditions.

  • The Senate proposal requires checks be sent in 2024.

  • The House version cancels some payments if voters support Initiative 2117 and repeal the tax on CO2 this fall.

  • Both budgets require utilities and organizations that send the payments to use government-approved language when they are delivered.

These restrictions clearly have an eye on this November as voters decide whether to pass Initiative 2117 which would repeal the state’s climate policy known as the Climate Commitment Act . . .

Both budgets stipulate that when sending checks to customers, utilities must 'adhere to program communications guidelines provided by the department’ of Commerce. Those guidelines have not yet been developed but are reminiscent of last year’s decision by the members of the Utilities Commission (and suggested by the Office of the Attorney General) to prohibit utilities from listing the cost of the of the CO2 tax on customer bills.

When checks go out, some legislators want to make sure the message accompanying those checks is approved by the Inslee Administration.”

Government officials should be commended for prioritizing tax refund checks when taxpayers overpay. The practice of including political messaging on refund checks, however, should be discontinued. Let the checks speak for themselves without turning them into a government-funded political advertisement.

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