No such thing as a free lunch? Or is there?

Three WRA members testified in Olympia before the Washington State Legislature’s House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. Joe Fugere, of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria; Bret Stewart, of Center Twist, Inc., and Shawn O’Donnell of Shawn O’Donnell’s Restaurant spoke to the Committee, urging them

to support House Bill 1498, which would exempt tax responsibility from free meals provided by restaurants to employees.

Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37th), prime sponsor of the bill, explained his support for the legislation by acknowledging that “small businesses provide the majority of jobs in this state.”

He went on, “These restaurants being able to provide these meals is just what some employees need to make ends meet.”

A number of lawmakers expressed confusion over why restaurants are required to pay the tax. At one point, Committee Chair  Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48th) voiced his uncertainty over the existing statute and asked Drew Shirk, legislative liaison for the Department of Revenue, to explain.

“Maybe you could give us a little primer on what revenue you’re actually talking about charging a B&O on, because none of us can figure it out,” Rep. Hunter asked.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-18th), co-sponsor of the bill, acknowledged the reality of existing statute.

“I guess I’m not asking about how it actually is now,” he said. “I guess I’m asking the question, ‘Is that how it should be?'”

To which Shirk responded, “Absolutely,  that’s the policy question for the legislature, and that’s the bill that’s before you–whether or not to exempt meals that are given away for free.”

The entirety of the exchange, along with testimony from WRA members can be viewed below. We’d like to thank Joe, Bret and Shawn for speaking out in support of an issue that impacts many operators in Washington state.

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