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

Editorial: How to track your legislators

January 15, 2010 in In the News
Whidbey News-Times
Source: 
Whidbey News-Times
Date: 
Friday, January 15, 2010

Lawmakers propose unpaid furloughs for state workers

January 15, 2010 in In the News
The Herald (Everett)
Source: 
The Herald (Everett)
Date: 
Friday, January 15, 2010

Bipartisan 72-hour budget review bill introduced

January 14, 2010 in Blog

Past efforts to improve the transparency of the state's budget process are gaining bipartisan support. Today Representatives Gary Alexander (R-20), Larry Seaquist (D-26), Barbara Bailey (R-10), Mark Ericks (D-1), Bruce Dammeier (R-25), and Joe Schmick (R-9) introduced HB 2872: Establishing a period of public and legislative review of appropriations legislation.

From the bill:

Section 1 
The legislature finds that approval of the state budget is the most important act of the legislature in any year, having profoun!
d consequences for every resident of the state. The legislature further finds that the public is entitled to a reasonable opportunity to learn how public funds are proposed to be expended before bills making appropriations become law. The legislature further finds that public notice, dissemination of information, and informed analysis of proposed budgets is an essential requisite of transparent, accountable government.

The state Constitution charges the legislature, and only the legislature, with the responsibility to fund the operation of state government through the enactment of appropriations legislation. Yet the abbreviated time frame in which the legislature acts on omnibus operating appropriations legislation permits little opportunity for informed legislative deliberation or public review and discussion, which in turn impairs public trust in government. The legislature finds that many other states, in their Constitu!
tions, statutes, or legislative rules, require a reasonable op!
portunity for public and legislative review of budget legislation.

The legislature therefore finds that it is in the public interest to provide for an appropriate period of public and legislative review of all omnibus appropriations bills before they are acted on by the legislature and submitted to the governor for approval.

Section 2
(1) An omnibus operating, capital, or transportation appropriations bill, may not be voted on by the senate or the house of representatives unless seventy-two hours have elapsed since the bill was last subject to amendment.

(2) For the purposes of this section, "amendment" means any proposed change to a bill and includes executive action by a standing committee of the senate or house of representatives, adoption of a conference report, or vote to concur with!
an opposite house amendment.

Joining with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, I sponsored model language for the American Legislative Exchange Council back in 2007 based on a proposal by Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA), to create a 72-hour budget review period.

Talking about his effort, Baird said: “This is a common-sense proposal about the fundamental principles of our democracy. Our votes have consequences. My congressional colleagues and I owe it to both our constituents and to this institution to know what it is we are voting for.”  

Bills propose advertising on school buses and commercial business at rest stops

January 14, 2010 in Blog

It looks like lawmakers are starting to get serious about exploring opportunities to partner with the private sector to increase state revenues.

Here are details on two bipartisan bills introduced today.

SB 6465 - Authorizing certain commercial activity at state-owned safety rest areas:

"To the extent permitted under federal programs, rules, or law, the department may enter into a lease with private entities allowing them to operate food or beverage retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, service station businesses, or other private enterprises that are of benefit to the traveling public at state-owned safety rest areas." (Section 1, 1)

SB 6466 - Authorizing advertising on sch!
ool buses
:

"The rules of the state superintendent of public instruction under RCW 46.61.380 governing the marking of school buses shall allow school districts to place advertising and educational material on and in school buses if such advertising and education material is approved by the school district board of directors. The advertising and educational material shall not be placed on the front or rear of a school bus." (Section 1,1)

It is encouraging to see lawmakers putting these proposals up for public debate.

Study: Cigarette smuggling will grow with tax increase

January 14, 2010 in Blog

The Michigan-based Mackinac Center issued a warning yesterday that a $1.00 increase in Washington's cigarette tax would "ensure that half of all cigarettes smoked in Washington are smuggled in from other states."

From Mackinac's blog:

In December 2008 we published a study "Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling: A Statistical Analysis and Historical Review." The study reviewed the efforts of states trying to fight the growth of smuggling, documented the history of cigarette taxes in Michigan, New Jersey and California, and modeled the level of illicit tobacco use in states due to cigarette tax rates. We recently updated the model to include changes to the Federal Excise Tax, as well.

The 2008 study already found that Washington has the fourth highest smuggling rate. In applying the model to the proposed tax increases, we found that a $1.00 per pack increase in taxes would jump the state's smuggling rates from 39.3 percent to 51.5 percent.

Legal sales would decrease by at least 20 percent over 12 months. This is evidence not of people quitting smoking due to higher taxes, but of individuals and businesses finding ways to evade cigarette taxes. A 2004 study helps confirm this by finding that up to 85 percent of the sales tax decrease comes from tax avoidance rather than actual declines in smoking.

The bulk of the cigarette smuggling increase comes from commercial smuggling--of organizations that import cigarettes from lower tax areas or through counterfeiting with distribution systems in state. If the tax hike passes, it's expected that 3 out of 10 cigarettes in Washington will be through these me!
ans.

The House Committee on Finance heard public!
testimony this morning on HB 2493: Concerning the taxation of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Among other things the bill would increase the state's cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack.

Bipartisan 72-hour budget review bill introduced

January 14, 2010 in In the News
Seattle PostGlobe
Source: 
Seattle PostGlobe
Date: 
Thursday, January 14, 2010

State needs to do more competitive contracting

January 14, 2010 in In the News
Port Orchard Independent
Source: 
Port Orchard Independent
Date: 
Thursday, January 14, 2010

Should government compete with the private sector?

January 13, 2010 in Blog

The Governor said yesterday in the State of State that "Jobs are the way out of this recession." Based on a bill introduced today, some lawmakers believe that one way to increase private sector jobs is to stop government from providing commercial type activities.

Here are some of the details from HB 2808 - Regarding commercial activities by state government:

Sec. 1. (1) The legislature finds that in the process of governing, the state of Washington should not engage in commercial activity in competition with its citizens. The legislature finds that the competitive enterprise system, characterized by individual freedom and initiative, is the nation's primary source of economic strength, and that the growth of pr!
ivate enterprise is essential to the health, welfare, and prosperity of the citizens of the state of Washington. The legislature further finds that the role of the private sector is to provide commercial products and services for which there is demand in the marketplace, while the role of state agencies is limited to performing functions that are in the public interest and inherently governmental in nature.

(2) The legislature therefore declares it to be the general policy of the state that state agencies are prohibited from providing to the marketplace for a fee those products or services that could be obtained from a private enterprise . . .

Sec. 2. (1) State agencies are prohibited from engaging in commercial activities for a fee, unless they are granted an exception by the office of financial management.

Continuing this theme, Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-18) issued a new "Budget Tidbit"!
today focusing on the need for the state to take advantage of the seldom used competitive contracting reform adopted in 2002. Zarelli recommends that the state enact a Competition Council to determine "the privatization potential of a program or activity and performing a cost-benefit analysis."

We highlighted how other states are utilizing Competition Councils in our recent competitive contracting study.