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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Do the words permanent tax confuse you?

April 12, 2010 in Blog

It appears some Senators may have a problem with truth in advertising. This evening the Senate is poised to adopt HB 2561 which makes the temporary sales tax increase on bottled water from SB 6143 permanent to pay for "green" building bonds. Never mind the fact the bill seeks to amend a law not yet enacted.

Another interesting tidbit is the objection to changing the proposed ballot title for the measure. Section 501 (3) reads:

Pursuant to RCW 29A.72.050(6), the statement of subject and concise description for the ballot title shall read: "The legislature has passed Engrossed House Bill No. 2561 (this act), concerning job creation through energy efficiency projects in school buildings. This bill would promote job creation by authorizing bonds to construct energy efficiency savings improvements to schools, including higher education buildings."

Senator Parlette offered an amendment to change that section to read: 

Pursuant to RCW 29A.72.050(6), the statement of subject and concise
description for the ballot title shall read: "The legislature has
passed Engrossed House Bill No. 2561 (this act), concerning job
creation through energy efficiency projects in school buildings. This bill authorizes bonds in excess of the Article VIII, section 1 constitutional debt limit to construct school energy efficiency improvements, and makes permanent the sales tax on bottled water."

The amendment failed by a vote of 16-30.

Those opposing this change worried that voters would be confused by the reference to debt in excess of the constitutional limit and describing the removal of the expiration date on the bottled water sales tax increase as being permanent. You see, Sen. Brown pointed out that calling the tax permanent would be misleading since the Legislature could repeal it at any time.

And as we already know, honoring the will of the voters isn't high on Olympia's priority list so such a repeal could actually happen, right?

If such a repeal were to happen, Section 401 of the bill would come to the rescue:

The legislature may provide additional means for raising moneys for the payment of the principal of and interest on the bonds authorized in section 201 of this act, and section 202 of this act may not be deemed to provide an exclusive method for the payment.

There you have it, if the voters approve this bond measure and the Legislature changes the permanent bottled water tax back to being temporary, the Legislature is authorized to raise a new tax to pay back the bonds. Of course, even if the sales tax on bottled water isn't repealed, the Legislature would still have the authority for additional new taxes per Section 401.

Idaho - Washington conflict continues over who is better for business

April 12, 2010 in Blog

Idaho Governor Butch Otter returned fire this weekend as he continues the war of words with Governor Gregoire over which state is more business friendly. In an op-ed he penned for the Seattle Times, Governor Otter says

"Business owners understand that having a state government working with you, rather than against you, makes all the difference. Just ask Areva, the French company that was looking for somewhere to build a multibillion-dollar uranium-enrichment plant in 2008. Idaho and Washington were in the running, and competition was fierce for the 700 construction jobs and 250 permanent career opportunities — not to mention many expected spinoff and support businesses.

In the end, it came down to attitude. Areva officials said after visiting Olympia, they "didn't feel welcome over there."

Otter's op-ed comes on the heels of Rogers Weed's piece defending Washington as 

"...Washington is fiscally sound. Washington earns high marks from all three major bond-rating agencies. Our unemployment-insurance fund and other key programs are solvent, while many other states have had to borrow extensively and will have to substantially raise rates to repay their loans in coming years. It all adds up to predictability for business."

To which Governor Otter replied,

"...Idaho has reduced state spending as revenues have declined, keeping our commitment to put individual citizens and family budgets ahead of government programs and live within the taxpayers' means.

Washington, on the other hand, has trimmed a little around the edges but mostly is attacking its enormous deficit by raising taxes on employers, and ultimately on consumers. Right now it appears Washington will impose hundreds of millions of dollars in business and occupation tax increases on service-related companies."

So, I find it interesting then that in the proposed supplemental budget released today, there is a line item for $3.2 million in funding for "associate development organizations" for 2010, another $3.2 million for 2011. 

What is an "associate development organization?" According to legislation passed in 2007 authorizing such entities, they are responsible for, among other things:

(b) Providing information
on state and local permitting processes, tax issues, and other essential
information for operating, expanding, or locating a business in Washington;

(c) Marketing
Washington and local areas as excellent locations to expand or relocate a
business and positioning Washington as a globally competitive place to grow
business, which may include developing and executing regional plans to attract
companies from out of state;

So, Idaho's Governor is cutting regulation and taxes while Washington increases them. But have no fear, policymakers are spending $6.4 million towards making Washington look more appealing to prospective businesses. 

1 p.m. vote scheduled for 344 page budget bill?

April 12, 2010 in Blog

The grapevine is a buzz with House plans to vote on the 344 page budget (just made public moments ago) at 1 p.m. today.

I didn't realize Olympia was home to so many proficient speed readers. Our lawmakers wouldn't vote on billions in spending without first reading the details, would they?

Here is the budget bill in all its glory.

House to Take Budget Vote Today

April 12, 2010 in In the News
Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy
Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy
Monday, April 12, 2010

Fastest Budget Ever!

April 12, 2010 in In the News
Washington State Wire
Washington State Wire
Monday, April 12, 2010

Did we say "temporary" tax?

April 12, 2010 in Blog

A world record may have been broken yesterday - the shortest time in recorded history for lawmakers to decide a "temporary" tax should be permanent.

So much for 24 hours to review the tax plan

April 10, 2010 in Blog

Rumor has it House Republicans will allow House Democrats to waive the required 24 hour waiting period before votes are taken on the tax increase plan announced at 1:30 today

This means the 112 page tax bill could be voted on this evening. 

Regardless of how one plans to vote, it is very disappointing that state representatives not only believe they don't need at least a day to study the details of a massive tax increase, but that their constituents don't deserve this common sense courtesy either. 

It is time for constitutional transparency protections for citizens

In the meantime, happy speed reading for those with nothing better to do t!

UPDATED: 112 page, $794 million tax increase deal finally made public

April 10, 2010 in Blog

At long last the details of the Democrats' tax increase plan is available for public and lawmaker consumption. Here is the 112 page, $794 million tax increase bill.

Because the House last night finally agreed to the Senate's March 25 request for a conference committee, the 112 page bill will not be subject to amendment and must sit on the bar for 24 hours before action is taken. This means that lawmakers can only vote yes or no on the various taxes proposed and not offer changes.

When considering the fact Democratic leadership was already negotiating the details outside of the conference committee process, one is left to wonder if they only reason the House finally agreed last night to appoint conference members was for the sole reason of invoking Rule 20 (SCR 8400) to prohibit amendments from being offered. 

Since a conference committee was ultimately formed, Rule 17's public notification requirement was triggered. At 8:53 this morning the public notice went out that the conference committee would meet at 1:30 today - a full four and half hours notice for those wanting to attend.

Here is the Senate Democrats' blog coverage of that hearing. Unfortunately the meeting took place in the Senate Rules room which is not covered by TVW cameras.

It appears the House will vote on the tax increases first.

UPDATE (3:54 p.m.) n>

The $794 million includes taxes raised in other bills. href="" target="_blank">Details here.

House approves tax plan

April 10, 2010 in In the News
Spokesman Review (Spokane)
Spokesman Review (Spokane)
Saturday, April 10, 2010