Friday, April 30, 2010

Washington's congressional delegation should join transparency caucus

Yesterday 27 Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House officially launched a Transparency Caucus. Noticeably absent from the caucus are any members from Washington state. As a national leader on open government issues it is disappointing to not see our state represented. Hopefully Washington's Representatives will soon join this effort and Senators Murray and Cantwell will work to form a Senate Transparency Caucus . . . READ MORE

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's time to televise U.S. Supreme Court hearings

Though C-SPAN may never boast the highest ratings on television, it is likely there would have been a spike in Washington state viewers if yesterday's Supreme Court arguments on the state's public records law were televised. A bill being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee may help to encourage reluctant Supreme Court Justices to allow their proceedings to be televised. According to The Hill . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

State's public records law on trial

Today was a big day for Attorney General Rob McKenna, Secretary of State Sam Reed, and supporters of the state's public records law. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Doe v. Reed. The controversy focuses on whether the signature petitions to overturn R-71 are public records and can be disclosed. Here are details from McKenna's press release . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This is not the time for a new welfare program

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 . . . READ MORE

Monday, April 26, 2010

Legislative tax error shows value of transparency

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 . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Details on when tax increases take effect

The Department of Revenue has created a website with details on all the tax increases that passed this year. Here is DOR's press release . . . READ MORE

Government reform commission in budget

Not possessing the speed reading skills of our lawmakers who managed to read and digest the 344 page budget within hours before voting, I am slowly making progress reading each line of the budget bill. There are many interesting things we'll highlight in the coming weeks but one that warrants special attention is the creation of a government reform commission. Check out Section 717 of SB 6444 . . . READ MORE

Monday, April 19, 2010

Budget snapshot

Now that lawmakers have finally adopted a 2010 supplemental budget, is state spending going up or down? Yes. Near General Fund spending is decreasing while total spending is increasing. Here are details on Near General Fund spending, total spending, and Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employees . . . READ MORE

Friday, April 16, 2010

Is outsourcing "anti-government?"

Many lawmakers have started blogs to keep their constituents informed on the issues of the day. One of the more policy focused blogs is Rep. Reuven Carlyle's (D-36). Rep. Carlyle has taken heat from his party's traditional allies for using his experience as a small business owner to advocate for usually taboo policies such as competitive contracting and privatization . . . READ MORE

State Workers' Comp Supplemental Pension Fund Bailed Out

The Department of Labor and Industries this month announced that one of the funds that comprise our state's workers' comp system required a short-term loan in order to mete out its statutorily-required benefits to pensioners. L&I needs to borrow $15 million from the $3.2 billion Pension Fund. The Department says it will fully repay the loan within 45 days and with interest . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Deficit déjà vu

At her press conference yesterday Governor Gregoire was asked about the projected deficit for the 2011-13 budget. The Governor said they don't know yet what impact the budget and taxes adopted by the Legislature this weekend will have on the next budget but that another deficit is likely. Here is her exchange with reporters on this topic . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

State Auditor writes letter supporting our work

State Auditor Brian Sonntag has long been a friend of the Washington Policy Center and supporters of accountable, effective and transparent government. It looks like the State Auditor is also a fan of our work. Here are details from a recent letter he sent . . . READ MORE

Monday, April 12, 2010

Do the words permanent tax confuse you?

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 . . . READ MORE

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

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.

Did we say "temporary" tax?

A world record may have been broken yesterday - the shortest time in recorded history for lawmakers to decide a "temporary" tax should be permanent. On Saturday the long awaited details of the Democrats nearly $800 million in tax increases was made public and then hastily voted on by the House. Among the taxes being increased is charging sales tax on bottled water. That tax was supposed to expire on June 30, 2013. At a Senate Ways and Means hearing yesterday, however, a substitute proposal for HB 2561 was made public for the first time and adopted by the committee which would make that tax permanent to help pay for $505 million in "green" building bonds . . . READ MORE

Saturday, April 10, 2010

So much for 24 hours to review the tax plan

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 today.

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

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 . . . READ MORE

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Property tax increase proposed for community colleges

What will they think of next? Today Representative Hasegawa introduced HB 3220: Providing a permanent and stable source of funding for the state community colleges. According to the bill . . . READ MORE

State Supreme Court: "Must" means may

This morning the state Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of SEIU vs. Gregoire. At issue was the Governor's failure to included specific funding in her budget proposal as required by law. In a 5-4 ruling the court essentially said the Governor has total discretion to do what she wants and the word "must" means may. In a strongly worded dissent, Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen wrote . . . READ MORE

Tax deal reached?

It appears Senate and House Democrats have come to an agreement on a $801 million tax increase, or at least their leadership has. The Everett Herald has posted what is being called the "Go Home Proposal." Here are the details (not all taxes listed) . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

About those across-the-board cuts

Two weeks ago Governor Gregoire warned that if the Legislature doesn't adopt a budget by April 13 she would be forced to execute state law which requires across-the-board cuts. According to RCW 43.88.110 (7) . . .  READ MORE

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Taxpayer choice act" introduced

With Senate and House Democrats struggling over the details of their $800 million plan to tax Washingtonians more during a recession, one lawmaker has introduced a voluntary revenue proposal. Sen. Benton today introduced SB 6891: Creating the taxpayer choice act. From the bill . . . READ MORE

Monday, April 5, 2010

Will House blink on sales tax increase?

Senate Democrats announced on their blog today they sent a new tax increase proposal to House Democrats. The proposal still includes a sales tax increase but at a lower level. In exchange a beer, candy and gum tax are added to the mix: From their blog . . . READ MORE

Friday, April 2, 2010

Legislature adopts 911 tax increase

For those worried the Legislature hasn't done anything this week, you can now rest easy. Yesterday the Senate adopted SB 6846 by a vote of 29-12. Today the House gave its approval with a 56-34 vote. The bill increases taxes to pay for an enhanced 911 system. We've previously written about the proposal here and here. According to the Office of Financial Management the tax increase is expected to collect nearly $79 million over the next ten years.  Surprisingly, on March 19 the House rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Bailey to the capital budget that would have re-prioritized capital projects to free up $25 million for enhanced 911 projects. The vote against the amendment was 60-35. Here is the video of the brief floor debate on that amendment . . . READ MORE

Sen. Murray: Sales tax increase still in play

With the special session running dangerously close to going the full 30-days, it appeared yesterday that a tax compromise between House and Senate Democrats was about to be announced. The basis for this belief was the apparent willingness of the Senate to drop its demand for a sales tax increase. According to Sen. Murray, however, the sales tax increase is still very much in play . . . READ MORE

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Public records requesters no longer equal in Washington

I wish this was an April Fools' joke but sadly it's true - Washingtonians are no longer equal under the law when it comes to accessing public records. Prior to yesterday, the state's public records act prohibited government officials from distinguishing between citizens seeking information . . . READ MORE