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.

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Roll call

March 11, 2010 in In the News
SnoValley Star
Source: 
SnoValley Star
Date: 
Thursday, March 11, 2010

Senators: No per diem for special session

March 10, 2010 in Blog

Several Senators introduced a bill today to prohibit lawmakers from receiving per diem if called into a special session.

According to SB 6883 - Restricting the payment of legislators' expenses:

"During any special session of the legislature convened within thirty days following a regular session of the legislature under Article II, section 12 of the state Constitution, no member of the legislature shall receive any allowances for per diem expenses under Title 44 RCW."

As we previously discussed, if a special session is called it should be done by the Legislature and not the Governor to ensure that it is limited to only the budget.

House ghost bill is failed Senate car insurance increase

March 10, 2010 in Blog

Riddle me this.

The Senate fails to adopt SB 6871 (car insurance increase) on March 8 by a vote of 20-26.

The House Ways and Means Committee holds a public hearing and schedules for executive session HB 2365 (a title only bill) for today.

A striker amendment is introduced to HB 2365 for the Committee to consider. The striker is the text of SB 6871 which fail!
ed the Senate.

The punch line is?

Another title only ghost bill on the agenda today

March 10, 2010 in Blog

Stop me if you've heard this before, a legislative committee is holding a public hearing and is scheduled to take executive action on a title only bill at 12 p.m. today.

Based on the one sentence text of the bill it may be more appropriately named the: "Everything and the kitchen sink so we can go home act of 2010."

The final language ultimately adopted (once it eventually becomes available) could be the best thing since sliced bread, but we won't know until after the fact.

Details, or lack thereof rather, below:

Ghostbill

!

History of Bill

as of
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 7:50 AM

  Sponsors: Representative Linville
 
  2009 REGULAR SESSION
    Apr 16  First reading, referred to Ways & Means. (View Original Bill)

  2010 REGULAR SESSION
    Jan 11  By resolution, reintroduced and retained in present status.
    Mar 10  Scheduled for public hearing and executive session in the House Committee on Ways & Means at 12:00 PM. (Subject to change) (Committee Materials)
Go to history...
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Available Documents
Bill Documents Bill Digests Bill Reports
Original Bill
 
Bill Digest
 
 

Is a special session necessary?

March 9, 2010 in Blog

Running against a constitutional clock to adjourn in a few days some lawmakers are openly discussing the need for a special session to balance the budget and raise taxes on recession strained Washingtonians.

As noted by the Seattle Times:

"Past a longshot," was how Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, summed up the odds Monday for an on-time finish.

The regular session is required under the state Constitution to end by midnight Thursday. A special session, which would have to be called by Gov. Chris Gregoire, would bring inevitable criticism about the extra $20,000-a-day cost to taxpayers for legislators' expenses.

But some Democratic leaders say a brief special session — say about a week — could be justified given the size of the state's budget woes.

"We&#!
39;re dealing with the largest fiscal problem the state Legislature has faced since the Great Depression," said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, one of the budget negotiators. "I think we need to go into a short special session to get it right."

After rejecting calls for a special session last fall when the state's finances further deteriorated, do lawmakers deserve overtime if they fail to do their job during the constitutional 60-days provided?

There is another solution as highlighted by House Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Morris.

Morris told the Capitol Record:

"I think something that’s not been widely talked about is not adopting a budget at all !
is an option. We have a supplemental budget -– if we didn’!
t adopt one and if we got into a cash flow issue, the governor has the authority to start doing across-the-board cuts . . . if we can’t get people together with either an agreed to budget number or what taxes are need to buy state services back then that would be an option. That would probably be the most draconian but one that would be the most expedient."

According to RCW 43.88.110 (7):

"If at any time during the fiscal period the governor projects a
cash deficit in a particular fund or account as defined by RCW 43.88.050,
the governor shall make across-the-board reductions in allotments for
that particular fund or account so as to prevent a cash deficit, unless
the legislature has directed the liquidation of the cash deficit over
one or more fiscal periods . . ."

Lawmakers chose not to solve the state's budget deficit last fall and are on the verge of failing to do so again during the 60-day 2010 Session. State law provides a remedy for the Governor to balance the budget if the Legislature is unable to do so.

If a special session is called, however, it should be done by the Legislature and not the Governor. According to Article 2, Section 12 of the state Constitution, only a special session called by the Legislature is limited to a specific topic. If called by the Governor, lawmakers are free to consider any bill or policy.

The last thing taxpayers need is a "Christmas tree" special session where votes are traded in exchange for new shiny ornaments of spending or policies.

UPDATED: Life Sciences and Research Targeted with 100% Tax Increase

March 9, 2010 in Blog

If you were up late last night (technically this morning I guess) you could have seen the House pass its tax package on a 52-45 vote. 

There is much to discuss about the 162 page bill that can be read here, but interesting enough amongst the menu of tax increases is a tax on the very life science industry the Governor has been pushing for several years. 

The language in the bill doubles the B&O tax 0.5 percent, from 0.484% percent to 0.984% percent (a 100% tax increase) for non-profit research and development, while for-profit R&D will see a 33% increase in their rate, from 1.5% to 2.0%:

"Scientific research and development services including but not limited to research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences (such as agriculture, bacteriological, !
fit research and development should be under the 0.484% catego!
ry, not the 1.5% category, which means the 0.5% increase represents a doubling of the tax rate, not thirty-three percent increase.  However, for-profit research and development is under the 1.5% service category and would see a 33% increase if this bill becomes law.

Legislature proposes $130 million of fee increases

March 8, 2010 in Blog

Long has there been arguments over what constitutes a "fee" increase versus a "tax" increase. It seems each year the legislature fights over the definition, even if the minds are made up about increasing whatever it is they end up calling it.

Senate Bill 6444, the supplemental operating budget, includes $130 million in fee increases over the next ten years. Many of these will hit the business community right in the pocketbook -- and so it doesn't really matter if it is a "fee" or "tax" increase; the point is that someone has to pay.

Some highlights ($$ total over 10 years):

  • Acupuncture license fee -- $1.2 million
  • Adult family home license fee -- $44.2 million
  • Animal massage practitioner license fee -- $230,000
  • Boarding home license fee -- $9.6 million
  • Dental license fee -- $8.3 million
  • Farmworker housing fee -- $1 million
  • Mental health counselor license fee -- $2.2 million
  • Nursing license fee -- $26 million
  • Nursing Assistant license fee -- $10.2 million
  • Nursing Home license fee -- $11.4 million
  • Optometry license fee -- $655,000
  • Respiratory Therapist license fee -- $2.2 million
  • Child care provider license fee -- $5.4 million

Not all fees are bad. Sometimes the fees go towards programs or expenses that incur costs from a specific activity -- one that a general tax should not pay for. But, as in the tax discussion, the increase in fees should be weighed carefully against the benefits of levying the fee because it just raises the cost of doing business.