Open Government

WPC's Center for Government Reform's mission is to partner with stakeholders and citizens to work toward a government focused on its core functions while improving its transparency, accountability, performance, and effectiveness for taxpayers.

What's New

Ghost tax bill rising

February 10, 2010 in Blog

The ghost tax bill is moving in Olympia.  Yesterday the Senate Ways and Means held a public hearing on SB 6853.  The bill has no text.  First, it took Committee members 21 seconds to cancel their rule that bills must be available to the public for at least five days.  Later the Committee received a staff briefing on the bill - that took 35 seconds.  Then the only witness, Amber Carter of the Association of Washington Business, spoke for 65 seconds, speculating about what the bill might contain in the future.  She asked that her organization be included in any discussions if and when lawmakers decide to provide the bill with text.  Later the Committee passed the bill - that took 22 seconds. !
; The Committee's actions on SB 6853 are shown in a related blog post by Jason Mercier, WPC's government reform director.  Still unknown is what effect this tax legislation might have on Washington's economy or the jobs, families and lives of people across the state.

What does legislative transparency look like?

February 10, 2010 in Blog

Earlier today we highlighted a troubling trend of the legislature moving away from transparency. One of the examples we highlighted was SB 6853: Relating to creating the legislative review of tax preferences act of 2010.

Legislative transparency takes a beating

February 10, 2010 in Blog

The Legislature's commitment to transparency is taking a serious beating. Consider the handling of these bills:

Continuing this troubling trend, the Legislature is considering repeal of the state's Sunshine Committee while failing to act on the Committee's recommendation that the Legislature's double standard exempting lawmakers from the state's public records law be repealed.

Transparency taking a hit in state Legislature?

February 10, 2010 in In the News
Bellingham Herald
Source: 
Bellingham Herald
Date: 
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Olympia update on I-960 repeal

February 10, 2010 in In the News
KIRO 97.3
Source: 
KIRO 97.3
Date: 
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Roll call report for 2010 Legislative session

February 10, 2010 in In the News
Kirkland Reporter
Source: 
Kirkland Reporter
Date: 
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Senate votes to retain tax advisory votes

February 9, 2010 in Blog

The Senate has voted to "temporarily" suspend the 2/3 vote requirements for tax increases enacted multiple times by voters. The vote was 26 to 23.

Instead of approving the bill as referred by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the full Senate adopted an amendment that limited its changes to only the 2/3 vote restriction. This means the current requirement for non-binding advisory votes for tax increases not sent first to the voters for approval would remain in effect.

Based on the number of tax increase proposals being considered by the Legislature, it could be a long ballot for voters in November.

Next up for the proposal is debate in the House.

Ghost bill on taxes introduced

February 9, 2010 in Blog

A strange thing happened in Olympia today.  This morning a bill was introduced in the Senate, SB 6853, which has no text.  The full bill is reproduced below.  The bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the Ways and Means Committee this afternoon.  Committee members may decide to pass it today and send it to the full Senate, going against the rule that legislation be made public for at least five days before being acted on.

This bill may make major changes in the tax code, and could result in a significant increase in the tax burden state lawmakers place on citizens, so it would be nice to know what the bill actually says.  As independent policy analysts, it is hard for Washington Policy Center, or anyone else, to make a fair assessment of a major bill when the public has no idea what it says, or how it may affect our lives.
SB6853

Senate moves step closer to tax increases

February 9, 2010 in Blog

Washingtonians are a step closer to seeing their taxes increased as a result of a vote yesterday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The Committee adopted the proposed suspension of the state's 2/3 requirement for tax increases.

Voting in favor of the suspension were Senators Prentice, Fraser, Tom, Fairley, Keiser, Kline, Kohl-Welles, McDermott, Murray, Oemig, Pridemore, Regala and Rockefeller.

Opposed were Senators Zarelli, Brandland, Carrell, Honeyford, Parlette and Schoesler.

If the full Senate follows suit, this will be the third time voter approved tax restrictions have been "temporarily" set aside by lawmakers. Previous suspensions occurred in 2002 and 2005.

Though billed as a "temporary" suspension, the full effect of the proposal will result in the 2/3 vote restriction likely never being triggered. This means the Legislature will not have to vote to suspend the law again while not being restricted by the original intent of voters.

Consider Section 2 (D) (ii) of the bill: "Any action or combination of actions by the legislature that
raises taxes may be taken with the approval of a majority of members
elected to each house of the legislature if the revenue is for the
purpose of funding a voter-approved initiative."

Rather than continue the current cycle of voters being forced to reenact the 2/3 vote restriction only to have it disregarded by lawmakers, the Legislature should put to rest this debate once and for all by referring the question to voters as a constitutional amendment.

Regardless of the outcome, the intent of voters will no longer be in question and the 2/3 vote protections will not be subject of legal debate or legislative shenanigans.

As noted by Crosscut this morning, of those states with a supermajority requirement for tax increases, Washington is the only one without constitutional protections