For many Washingtonians, summer is the time to wind down and enjoy much needed R&R. Not so for budget writers at state agencies and the Office of Financial Management (OFM). This is the time of year that the framework for the Governor's 2015-17 budget proposal is put into place. To facilitate these efforts OFM sent agencies budget instructions which lay out several directives that agencies are to follow when submitting their budget requests.
Based on the results of a May 2014 statewide poll, Washingtonians' support for taxpayer protections has not waned since they approved I-1185 in 2012. You may recall that approval of I-1185 was the fifth time that voters had adopted a supermajority vote for tax increases requirement. It passed statewide with a 64 percent “yes” vote and with majority approval in 44 of the state’s 49 legislative districts and in every county of the state. This policy received more votes statewide than either President Obama or Governor Inslee.
No? Neither do we. Realizing that potentially hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, we believe that like other budget related decisions, these meetings should be open to the public. This is exactly what already occurs in several states.
Only in Washington D.C. can near unanimous agreement on a policy mean there is danger it may not occur. Consider the pending expiration of the ban on internet access taxes and whether or not Congress will act in time. As reported by The Wall Street Journal:
If the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl demolition of the Denver Broncos taught us anything, it's that anything Colorado can do Washington can do better. With that in mind, it is worth noting that Colorado lawmakers have sent to their Governor a bill to allow remote testimony. As reported by Colorado's KREX news:
No, that's not the opening line of a joke but instead an example of how the (now misnamed) Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) is improving access to public records. According to Governor Inslee's Results Washington process, the Liquor Control Board has made progress using Lean management to improve its response time to growing public records requests as a result of the state's legalization of marijuana.
In my prior post I highlighted the details of Benton County Proposition 14-5, a proposal on the county's August ballot to increase the local sales tax rate by 0.3% raising approximately $9 million per year for public safety spending. The proposed sales tax increase came from the recommendations of a Citizen Advisory Committee that was created to study the county's public safety programs.
Voting for candidates for elected office is an important decision. Unfortunately at times there is little information available about candidates to help us make an informed decision. While county auditors and the Secretary of State produce voter pamphlets with information self-provided by those running for office, is the information actually truthful?
That’s where the new CandidateVerification.org in our state has the potential to bring clarity.
14 years ago today this was the scene in downtown Seattle as the Kingdome was brought to its knees:
Since then the Seahawks have made 2 Super Bowl appearances, winning one, and taxpayers have paid nearly $135 million to retire debt on the imploded Kingdome ($25.8 million for original construction and $109 million for repairs has been paid for debt service since 2001 to date).
With seven minutes to spare, lawmakers adjourned at 11:53 p.m. on the last day of the 60 day 2014 Legislative Session, avoiding for the first time in several years going into a special session. Among the bills passed was a 2014 supplemental operating budget (SB 6002). Unlike previous years, when major re-writes of the budget were needed, SB 6002 was a true supplemental budget making minor changes to state spending.
This Sunshine Week forecast is brought to you by the 2014 Legislative Session: Your right to know is partly cloudy. When the just concluded session began there was the opportunity for brilliant sunshine but at least we avoided any severe secret storm warnings.
Below is a look back on some of the open government actions (or lack thereof) during the 2014 Legislative Session.
In just a few weeks the country will be celebrating "Sunshine Week," a time committed to celebrating the people's right to know about what their government is doing. Recent developments in Olympia, however, may put a damper on those celebrations.
Jason Mercier is Director of the Center for Government Reform at Washington Policy Center and is based in the Tri-Cities. He serves on the boards of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and CandidateVerification, and was an advisor to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee. Jason is an ex-officio for the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce. In June 2010, former Governor Gregoire appointed Jason as WPC’s representative on her Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Panel.