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

It’s land-use regulations that inflate home prices

February 18, 2010 in In the News
Port Orchard Independent
Port Orchard Independent
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Roll Call

February 18, 2010 in In the News
SnoValley Star
SnoValley Star
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Will governor veto tax transparency suspension?

February 18, 2010 in In the News
Seattle PostGlobe
Seattle PostGlobe
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bill introduced to eliminate state printer

February 18, 2010 in Blog

SB 6867 - Eliminating the state printer was introduced this morning by Senator Tom. According to the bill:

"The legislature finds that technological changes have decreased the need for a central state printer. Information to citizens is increasingly being provided in electronic formats, which is both cost-effective and saves natural resources. Additionally, as printing technologies have changed, they have become within the reach of most agencies to conduct their own printing. The legislature also finds that printing is not a core state service and would be better handled within the private sector. To that end, the legislature is eliminating the state printer." />

The bill has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Will Governor veto tax transparency suspension?

February 17, 2010 in Blog

Late this evening the House adopted its version of SB 6130, repealing for 2-years the 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases and some of the transparency provisions of Initiative 960 enacted by the voters in 2007.

The vote in the House was 51-47.

Since the House made changes to the bill (added back email notification of tax increases) it now goes back to the Senate for approval and then to the Governor for signature.

The repeal of the 2/3 vote requirement will clear the way for tax increases. Today the Governor proposed $605 million in tax increases.

Though the Governor plans to sign the 2-year !
repeal of the 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases she has not indicated whether she supports the Legislature's plan for a 2-year repeal of non-binding advisory votes for tax increases enacted with a referendum denying emergency clause.

The intent section of I-960 discusses the goal of the non-binding tax advisory votes:

From I-960:

state constitution guarantees to the people the right of referendum. In recent years, however, the legislature has thwarted the people’s
constitutional right to referendum by excessive use of the emergency
clause . . . The people find that, if they are not
allowed to vote on a tax increase, good public policy demands that at
least the legislature should be aware of the voters’ view of individual
tax increases. An advisory vote of the people at least gives the
legislature the views of the voters and gives the voters information
about the bill increasing taxes and provides the voters with
legislators’ names and contact information and how they voted on the
bill. The people have a right to know what’s happening in Olympia."

By repealing for 2-years the non-binding advisory votes, lawmakers that vote for a tax increase will be spared from having their names show up in the voter's pamphlet next to a description of the tax increases they supported as required by RCW 29A.32.070:

"Two pages shall be provided in the general election voters' pamphlet for each measure for an advisory vote of the people under RCW 43.135.041 and shall consist of the serial number assigned by the secretary of state under RCW 29A.72.040, the short description formulated by the attorney general under RCW 29A.72.283, the tax increase's most up-to-date ten-year cost projection, including a year-by-year breakdown, by the office of financial management under RCW 43.135.031, and the names!
of the legislators, and their contact information, and how they voted on the increase upon final passage so they can provide information to, and answer questions from, the public. For the purposes of this subsection, 'names of legislators, and their contact information' includes each legislator's position (senator or representative), first name, last name, party affiliation (for example, Democrat or Republican), city or town they live in, office phone number, and office e-mail address."

Short of a change of heart in the Senate, the only thing that can ensure the non-binding tax advisory votes as intended by the voters remains in effect is the Governor's veto pen.

The Constitution provides the Governor line-item veto authority which means she could approve the 2-year repeal of the 2/3 vote requirement while maintaining the non-binding tax advisory vote provision.

Time running out for legislature to help business community

February 17, 2010 in Blog

Yesterday (Feb 16th) marked the house of origin cut-off date; meaning bills that did not make it out of the legislative body in which they were introduced are now considered "dead." Now, "dead" in Olympia-speak doesn't mean that those bills couldn't be resurrected, just that they are almost certainly done for the session. 

Kicking off this legislative session, members from both parties indicated that on the business front, there were few big ticket items to address, although those few issues were considered important. In the wake of Boeing's 787 decision, reforming the state's workers' comp and unemployment insurance systems became much more of a visible battle than originally anticipated. Newspaper editorial boards from all over the state called on the legislature to reform the systems, especially after state officials released the rate hikes for 2010. Businesses struggling to stay afloat during this Great Recession are now shouldering a bigger workers' comp/UI tax burden.

It is no surprise that Labor officials strenuously fought business' attempts at reform. A good summary of the battles on both workers' comp and Unemployment Insurance can be found over at Washington State Wire. 

The bottom line is that the legislature passed up an excellent chance to reform both workers' comp and UI for the better, without curtailing benefits for injured or l!
aid-off workers. On one hand, some in the business community a!
dvocated for privatization of the workers' comp system, while others focused on a bi-partisan bill that would take more incremental steps that could help contain costs in the short term. But no go. No workers' comp reform bills were even heard in committee. 

In fact, policymakers didn't even pass a task force that would have been set up to study workers' comp reform (though it did make it out of committee); not that another task force would have accomplished anything worthwhile. 

On the UI front, legislation to smooth out future tax increases without driving the state further into debt also went nowhere. As did, thankfully, legislation that would have increased the benefits for UI recipients, as well as expand the voluntary quits provisions for eligibility -- including the provision that part-time workers would be eligible for benefits.&!

This Legislative Session began with one of the major goals from both parties being that government needs to take steps so that the private sector can grow and create the jobs and wealth our state has desperately missed the past couple of years. The state has lost almost 175,000 private sector jobs and even if the economy turned around tomorrow, it will take time to recover a majority of those jobs and even longer for state coffers to see a benefit. 

With yesterday's cutoff deadline passed, it now appears that very little will be accomplished in 2010 towards easing the business community's costly burdens in workers' comp and unemployment insurance. That's a shame.