The State Supreme Court will hear a pension case this Thursday at 9 a.m. brought by various unions that could cost taxpayers an additional $1.3 billion at the state and local level during the 2015-17 biennium and billions more in the future. At issue is whether lawmakers had the legal right to make changes to what they thought were conditional pension benefit increases.
Channeling former President Nixon, the state Supreme Court today showed Washington State isn't that different from Washington D.C. after all by granting the Governor's office the claim of executive privilege to deny citizens access to public records.
Are the state's editorial boards reflective of the general voting public? We'll know after the votes are counted on Initiative 517 and Initiative 522. Based on the near consensus of the editorials to date, supporters of the proposals may be feeling a bit nervous. Here's a roundup:
In November the people of Washington will vote on Initiative 517. The measure would make several changes to state law concerning signature gathering for initiatives and referendums. Initiative 517 would increase the time period for gathering signatures, require that proposals that receive an adequate number of valid signature proceed to the ballot, change the penalties for interfering with signature gathering, and increase the number of locations, both public and private, where signature gathering can occur.
Today Governor Inslee put his stamp on the state's long track record with performance management efforts with a "soft" launch of Results Washington. As noted by his press release:
Gov. Jay Inslee today formally launched Results Washington, which will provide faster and easier answers to those questions and access to an unprecedented array of performance data related to his top goals.
Now that we've had time to review and digest the state's new 2013-15 budget, how did lawmakers do? As with all budgets there are good and bad items included, though the biggest policy success was that lawmakers allowed the 2010 “temporary” tax increases to remain temporary and to expire as promised on July 1st. The enacted budget also includes revenue and spending projections that balance in compliance with the state’s new four-year balanced budget requirement.
Among the provisions of Initiative 517 is the requirement to allow signature gathering “inside or outside public buildings such as public sports stadiums, convention/exhibition centers, and public fairs.” Public buildings, however, is not defined by the measure. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Department of Enterprise Services, and the Attorney General’s Office there is currently no standard rule for signature gathering on public property though most public entities provide some opportunity for signature gathering with certain restrictions.
Despite projected revenue growth of $2 billion for the 2013-15 biennium, proposals for significant tax increases dominated the budget debate and contributed to the Legislature going into two special sessions to finish its work on the budget. The final tax increase package included in the 2013-15 budget was a fraction of what state Democrats initially proposed. Below is a breakdown of how the tax increase proposals evolved.
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.