Friday, February 26, 2010

Voter-approved taxpayer protections repealed, again

The 2010 Legislative Session is scheduled to come to a close on March 11. Rumors of a special session, however, are starting to be heard in the halls of the capitol. Facilitating the consideration of numerous tax proposals now being debated is the decision to repeal for 2-years most of Initiative 960.  On three separate occasions (1993, 1998 and 2007) voters have adopted an initiative or referendum to require a 2/3 vote of lawmakers to raise taxes. On three separate occasions (2002, 2005 and 2010) the Legislature and Governor have signed a law to “temporarily” repeal this requirement to facilitate tax increases . . . READ MORE

State Auditor releases performance audit work plan

While lawmakers debate ways to balance the state budget, State Auditor Brian Sonntag released today his performance audit work plan to help identify savings and efficiencies. According to the plan . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Ghost bill" fleshed out

A title only bill introduced, subject to a public hearing and adopted by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, all on the same day, for the first time has actual text. Here is the description of the effect of the amendment to SB 6853 . . . READ MORE

Laws enacted by voters need more protections

Yesterday Governor Gregoire enacted a 2-year repeal of many of Initiative 960's provisions. While this is not the first time a voter approved initiative has been changed, it represents the third time this particular voter enacted policy (2/3 vote for tax increases) has been set aside. One of the ironies of this latest action is that a 2/3 vote requirement can be repealed by a simple majority vote. Although initiatives adopted by the people are statutory law just like bills passed by the Legislature, it is a much higher hurdle for citizens to get their laws enacted. As such there should be a high threshold to change or repeal their laws or they should at least have a say . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Governor signs I-960 bill without vetoing advisory vote repeal

Governor Gregoire signed SB 6130 as adopted by the Legislature. There was some question as to whether the Governor would veto the 2-year repeal of the non-binding advisory votes. She said that she delayed the bill signing today to consider the requests to veto that section of the bill. As a result of today's action the Washington Policy Center will be publishing an I-960 voter's pamphlet.

Comparison of House and Senate budgets

 The following information is courtesy of the state's budget transparency website ( The House budget decreases near general fund spending by $322 million while increasing total spending by $1.5 billion. The Senate budget decreases near general fund spending by $141 million while increasing total spending by $1.8 billion . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Senate tax bills available

 Here are the tax bills mentioned at today's Senate budget press conference . . . READ MORE

Senate targets business tax exemptions and sales tax increase

The Senate Democrats released their budget blueprint this morning. We'll have additional analysis on the specifics after we've had time to read the proposal but in the meantime here are details on the tax increases being proposed . . . READ MORE

Monday, February 22, 2010

Constitutional Sunshine

With National Sunshine Week (March 14-20) less than a month away, it's not too early to think about the reforms needed to make the legislative process more transparent. Whether it's the failure to implement a reasonable budget review period, holding hearings on "ghost bills," or carving out a special legislative exemption from the state's public records act, it is clear that constitutional transparency protections are needed for citizens. The Catch-22 of course, any constitutional reform must originate in the Legislature. Despite this obstacle, here are some suggested constitutional transparency protections to help make Washington the legislative sunshine state . . . READ MORE

Friday, February 19, 2010

Senators propose car insurance surcharge

Senators Hargrove and Regala introduced today SB 6871 - Supporting judicial branch and criminal justice funding. The bill would increase fees on car insurance by $1 every six months per vehicle to fight auto theft. According to the bill . . . READ MORE

Washington Policy Center to Publish Initiative 960 Voters’ Pamphlet

In the wake of a bill on its way to Governor Gregoire implementing a two-year repeal of Initiative 960, Washington Policy Center today announced it will publish the public disclosure information that would have appeared in the voters pamphlet if Initiative 960 had remained in place . . . READ MORE

OFM projects sales tax increase would last through 2015

The Office of Financial Management released today the required I-960 fiscal impact statement for the proposed sales tax increase in HB 3183. HB 3183 would increase the state's sales tax rate from 6.5% to 7.5%, a 15.4% increase. The rate would drop back to 6.5% once the state's unemployment rate hit 5% for four consecutive months. The state's current unemployment rate is 9.5% According to OFM the sales tax increase is projected to be in effect through 2015.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bill introduced to eliminate state printer

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.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Will Governor veto tax transparency suspension?

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 . . . READ MORE

Friday, February 12, 2010

100 percent increase in state death tax proposed

The legislative tax floodgates have opened. Today Representatives Chase, Williams, Hunt, Dickerson, Flannigan, and Moeller introduced a bill that would increase the state's death tax by 100%. HB 3184 would raise the top state death tax rate from 19% to 38%. The tax rate in the lower brackets would also be increased by 100% Last year WPC's Carl Gipson (Small Business Center Director) highlighted how repeal of the state's death tax would help grow the economy and lead to job creation.

Budget deficit grows to $2.8 billion

The state's budget outlook worsened today with news that the revenue forecast is being downgraded by $118 million. Combined with a $96 million increase in caseloads, the state's new budget deficit is projected to be $2.8 billion. Despite a forecasted 12% increase in revenue for the next budget (2011-13), a multi-billion dollar deficit is projected for the next biennium. This is illustrated by the state's 4-year budget outlook (yet to be updated). Consumer confidence is the key to economic recovery. Should consumer confidence fail to improve the state is at risk of a double dip recession. According to the forecast . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sales tax increase introduced

With the Senate approving a 2-year repeal of I-960 (Taxpayer Protection Act) the House is gearing up for tax increase votes. Today Representatives Flannigan, Ericks, Pettigrew, Ormsby, Eddy, Chase, Appleton, Quall, Hunt, Sells, Nelson, Dickerson, Pedersen, Clibborn, Moeller introduced a bill to increase the state's sales tax by 1% . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Senate votes for full suspension of I-960

At 11:10 this evening the Senate voted to suspend all of I-960's taxpayer protections, not just the 2/3 vote requirement suspension adopted just yesterday. The vote for full suspension of I-960 was 26 to 22. This evening's vote occurred because Senate Democrats said the bill adopted yesterday to only suspend the 2/3 vote requirement was done in error . . . READ MORE

Democrats concerned about the "Spirit of I-960"

A spokesperson for the Senate Democrat caucus made an interesting comment today on why the Democrats are seeking suspension of the requirement for non-binding advisory votes for tax increases not first approved by voters . . . READ MORE

Legislative transparency takes a beating

The Legislature's commitment to transparency is taking a serious beating. Consider the handling of these bills . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Senate votes to retain tax advisory votes

The Senate has voted to "temporarily" suspend the 2/3 vote requirements for tax increases enacted multiple times by voters. The vote was 26 to 23. Instead of approving the bill as referred by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the full Senate adopted an amendment that limited its changes to only the 2/3 vote restriction. This means the current requirement for non-binding advisory votes for tax increases not sent first to the voters for approval would remain in effect. Based on the number of tax increase proposals being considered by the Legislature, it could be a long ballot for voters in November. Next up for the proposal is debate in the House.

Senate moves step closer to tax increases

Washingtonians are a step closer to seeing their taxes increased as a result of a vote yesterday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The Committee adopted the proposed suspension of the state's 2/3 requirement for tax increases. Voting in favor of the suspension were Senators . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Audit: School districts owe state $699,000

The State Auditor's Office released two audits this morning on K-12 school districts' compliance with state law. The audits found that school districts owe the state at least $699,219 due to reporting errors that resulted in overpayments. Reporting errors also resulted in just under $118,000 in underpayments to school districts. The state also overpaid an additional $463,000 to school districts for the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) in 2008. According to the State Auditor . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bill introduced to amend I-960

Nine Democratic Senators (Prentice, Murray, Kohl-Welles, Regala, Fairley, Ranker, McDermott, Kline, Keiser) introduced a bill today to amend the provisions of the voter approved I-960. Here are the details on SB 6843 . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Should tax increases require a 2/3 vote?

The worst kept secret of the 2010 Legislative Session is the majority party's plan to "suspend" the state's 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases. If they follow through with this decision, this would be the third time voter approved tax restrictions have been "temporarily" set aside by lawmakers. Previous suspensions occurred in 2002 and 2005. This disregard for the voter's intent is despite the fact on three separate occasions citizens have voiced their support for requiring lawmakers to reach a broad consensus and secure a 2/3 vote to raise taxes. Votes in support of the 2/3 restriction occurred in 1993, 1999, and 2007 . . . READ MORE