The third time was the charm for the Benton County public safety sales tax increase. After voters rejected a 0.2% increase in 2007 and 2008 they are giving approval to Proposition 14-5 (0.3% increase). Now that the voters have given their trust to elected officials it is time for these leaders to come through on their promise to enact performance audits to ensure the new resources are efficiently and effectively spent to deliver on the important public safety goals.
Tomorrow the Governor's Office will continue secret contract negotiations with state employee unions focused on compensation related issues for the 2015-17 budget. Not only is the public and media not allowed to monitor these conversations but the legislative committee created in the same law that authorized closed door contract negotiations still hasn't been consulted as required by law. This lack of legislative consultation isn't new, however, as the committee the Governor is charged to consult with has never met since the law went into effect in 2002.
Last week the Washington State Labor Council held its 2014 Constitutional Convention meeting. Among the speakers was Gillian Locascio of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition. Although she was speaking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, her concerns and criticism of how those negotiations were occurring are 100% aligned with our concerns about public union contract negotiations.
Define a "totally unacceptable" compensation contract offer: Is it no raise? A 2% raise? A 6% raise? A 10% raise? Due to the fact the negotiations currently under way between the Governor's office and state employee unions are secret and prohibit public access we have no idea what the union deems to be "totally unacceptable" and neither do union members for that matter.
Ballots are starting to arrive in Benton County for the August 5 primary. One measure voters will be considering is Proposition 14-5, a proposal to increase the local sales tax rate by 0.3 percent and collect approximately $9 million per year for increased public safety spending.
Circle your calendars for September 3. That is the date we'll start to get a feel for if the state is on a crash course for a full-fledged constitutional crisis or if the respective branches of government will respect the separations of power. The first attempt to back off the current dangerous path was filed last Friday when the state submitted its brief arguing against several proposals to hold the state in contempt concerning its response to the McCleary school funding lawsuit.
As we kick off our 4th of July festivities it's a good time to reflect on the founding of our country. What better way to do that than to dust off the farewell speech of the first U.S. President George Washington.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) did not rule in its Harris v. Quinn case today, as some had expected, on whether government workers must join a union, the decision does call into question the forced unionization of some Washington residents.
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:
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.