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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This is not the time for a new welfare program

April 27, 2010 in Blog

With the state once again projected to face a multi-billion dollar budget deficit in 2011-13, this is not the time to start a new welfare program.

Unfortunately this is the path the 2010 supplemental budget sets the state on. That is of course, unless the Governor uses her veto pen.

Here are the details from Section 136 (6) of SB 6444

"$1,200,000 of the general fund--state appropriation for fiscal year 2011 is provided solely for making the necessary preparations for implementation of the working families tax exemption pursuant to RCW 82.08.0206 in 2012."

The working family rebates were adopted as a policy goal in 2008 but not funded.

The $1.2 million is not to provide the working family rebates but for the Department of Revenue to set up the administrative process required to begin making the payments in 2011-13 if funded.

According to legislative staff, funding the working family rebates could cost more than $105 million in 2011-13.

Of note is the fact this proviso is different from the original version not included in the conference budget. Consider Section 135 (4) of an earlier approved version of SB 6444 (emphasis added):

"$5,250,000 of the general fund--state appropriation for fiscal year 2011 is provided solely for the implementation of Senate Bill No. 6875 (working families tax exemption). If the bill is not enacted by June 30, 2010, the amount pr!
ovided in this subsection shall lapse. It is also the !
intent of this subsection to approve implementation of the working families tax exemption as required in RCW 82.08.0206(4)."

SB 6875 would have increased the sales tax in-part to pay for the working family rebates. The bill was not adopted.

The more important part of that proviso was this sentence: "It is also the intent of this subsection to approve implementation
of the working families tax exemption as required in RCW 82.08.0206(4)."

You'll note that the proviso included in the final budget does not include this phrase which means the only thing being approved is $1.2 million in administrative costs for DOR, not the commitment of the Legislature required by RCW 82.08.0206(4) to begin funding the working family rebates.

Since it is unlikely a new welfare program costing more than $100 million will be high on the priority list of lawmakers trying to close a projected multi-billion dollar deficit, the use of $1.2 million for administrative prep costs seems like a waste of resources.

It would be prudent for the Governor to veto this section of the budget unless she believes the state can afford a new welfare program without raising taxes in the next budget.

A Failure to Communicate

April 27, 2010 in In the News
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Legislative tax error shows value of transparency

April 26, 2010 in Blog

The Legislature's well documented lack of transparency this past session was not only an affront to citizens that demand open and accountable government but also lead to an easily avoidable error in the final tax package that could cost even more Washington jobs. 

By failing to slow down long enough to hold a single public hearing on the final tax proposal or allow enough time for lawmakers to read and understand the tax changes being made, lawmakers failed to provide the relief they thought they were granting to the in-state soda industry when raising the pop tax.

As noted by Washington !
State Wire

Here’s what happens when you pass a soda-pop tax increase and you don’t bother with a hearing.

You get a great big sticky mess.

As part of their $794 million budget-balancing tax package this year, lawmakers decided to increase the tax on soda pop by two cents a can. And when small bottlers across the state said it was a tax they couldn’t bear, lawmakers said no problem – they’d give them an exemption.

Trouble is, the Legislature didn’t understand how the industry worked.

Now bottlers are foaming. They say they’re stuck with a tax break that won’t work and a tax increase that will cut deeply into their business. Lawmakers say they’re sorry, they didn’t mean it that way – and maybe they’ll fix it next year.

“That doesn’t make me feel very good,” said Tim Martin, president of the Washington Beverage Association and owner of Harbor Pacific Bottling in Elma. Th!
e Legislature’s boo-boo will cost him $375,000, and every ot!
her small bottling company in communities around the state will face a tax bill just like his.

“Time will only tell how it’s going to work, but whatever happens, we’re going to have to tighten our belt and lay off a few people,” he said . . .

By the time of Friday’s bill signing, nearly two weeks had elapsed since the final draft of the bill was released. The soda-pop industry made sure everyone knew about the problem, and they lined up support from House Speaker Frank Chopp. He asked Gov. Gregoire to use her line-item veto to eliminate the pop tax – but the governor said no.

It wasn’t easy getting legislators to agree on the tax bill, she said, and she sold the compromise to the Legislature as a package. She wasn’t about to go back on the deal unless Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, asked her to do it, too. Gregoire said she spoke with Brown Friday morning, and Brown didn’t ask. So the pop tax stayed.


Transparency is not a fad or catch phrase, it's the cornerstone of a functioning democracy and government accountability.

Maybe, just maybe, enough lawmakers will understand this next year and institute long overdue transparency reforms to help involve the public and avoid future mistakes caused by rushing through legislation.

Budget brings a cavalcade of tax hikes

April 23, 2010 in In the News
Puget Sound Business Journal
Puget Sound Business Journal
Friday, April 23, 2010

Holmquist missed her share of votes this year

April 23, 2010 in In the News
Yakima-Herald Republic
Yakima-Herald Republic
Friday, April 23, 2010

Backers launch income-tax initiative

April 22, 2010 in In the News
The Seattle Times
The Seattle Times
Thursday, April 22, 2010