Everything about this statement is true. Not only is the Court's contempt order against a co-equal branch of government unprecedented but what may come next could lead to a doomsday scenario against voters.
What seemed almost impossible a few months ago is becoming more probable with each passing day; taxes being charged for internet access. The return of taxes on internet access may occur due to the failure of Congress to either extend temporarily or permanently the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). The current ban on internet access taxes expires on November 1.
That was the question I was hoping to answer today but after reviewing the state's August 20th response to the Centeno v. Dept. of Social & Health Services lawsuit in federal court the elusive answer will have to wait.
While requesting that case "be dismissed with prejudice" one section of the state's brief today said:
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.
Jason Mercier is the 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.