Thursday, October 28, 2010

Washington's Business Tax Climate Ranking Slips, Could Get Far Worse with I-1098

Two new reports from the D.C.-based Tax Foundation should cause some concern in the ranks of economic development officials in this state. Washington fell out of the top ten for "Best Business Tax States." In FY 2010, Washington ranked 9th and for FY 2011 we slipped two places to 11th. It's not a huge drop-off compared to a few other poorly-performing states, but it does raise concerns as we head into a budget-writing legislative session with a projected $4.5 billion budget shortfall . . . READ MORE

Monday, October 25, 2010

Washington needs Medicaid flexibility

Facing a projected $4.5 billion budget shortfall, Washington State officials are debating the possibility of opting-out of Medicaid entirely to preserve flexibility in state health care spending. The alternative to opting-out of Medicaid is the potential elimination of state only health care programs such as the Basic Health Plan, prescription drug coverage, and the disability lifeline. Due to Medicaid Maintenance of Eligibility restrictions in the new federal health care law combined with the current budget climate, the option for policy makers is either fund state only programs or Medicaid match programs. The state can’t afford to do both. This debate is not unique to Washington. Already health officials in Nevada and Wyoming have drafted white papers discussing the impact of opting-out of Medicaid to provide more budget flexibility . . . READ MORE

Friday, October 22, 2010

OFM details potential 2011-13 budget reductions

Earlier this month the Office of Financial Management (OFM) provided details on how agencies planned to respond to the Governor's ordered across-the-board cuts for the current budget. OFM has now created a separate website detailing how agencies would implement 10% reductions in the 2011-13 budget. Here is a sampling of those proposed reductions . . . READ MORE

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cigarette tax revenue lost in smoke of smuggling

Back in April lawmakers increased Washington's cigarette tax by a $1 a pack bringing the total to $3 per pack. While this proposal was being debated we highlighted a Michigan study that warned this type of tax increase would not lead to increased revenue but instead to increased cigarette smuggling and a growth of the black market . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Attorney-client privilege public record exemption debated

One of the most contentious issues members of the state's Sunshine Committee have debated is what to do about the claim of attorney-client privilege used to deny release of public records. Though argued ferociously, some say this exemption from public disclosure was created by the State Supreme Court in its 5-4 Hangartner ruling in 2004 . . . READ MORE

Monday, October 18, 2010

I-1100 and I-1105: Ending the state's liquor monopoly

In November the people of Washington will vote on Initiatives 1100 and 1105. There are important differences between the two, but both measures would end the state’s prohibition-era monopoly on the sale of hard liquor. Washington Policy Center has long recommended ending the state’s liquor business and refocusing efforts on enforcement and public education. Washington is one of 18 states which operate an official monopoly over sales of hard liquor. Washingtonians last considered privatizing liquor sales in 1972, when they voted on Initiative 261. That measure was defeated . . . READ MORE

Friday, October 15, 2010

Report identifies need for more higher education transparency

In 2009 the legislature passed a bill (HB 2344) directing the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC) to audit "Transparency in Higher Education Data." Based on the preliminary report, Washington's higher education system is in need of some serious sunshine. According to JLARC . . . READ MORE

Friday, October 8, 2010

An election system made for late night TV

If the race between Sen. Patty Murray and challenger Dino Rossi comes down to the wire and control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance, Secretary of State Sam Reed may become a mainstay on shows like The Tonight Show, Daily Show, and Colbert Report.  The silver lining for this type of critical national exposure highlighting Washington's odd post-marked-by-election-day strategy for mail voting may be just what is needed to help move Reed's long-stalled proposals for election reform forward . . . READ MORE

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Have voters' liquor attitudes changed since 1972?

Following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 state officials created the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) to regulate and control the sale and distribution of alcohol in the state. State voters have been asked four times to change aspects of the state’s liquor control system via initiatives that qualified for the ballot since 1933. One of the initiatives sought to expand the powers of the WSLCB while the other three to loosen its restrictions.  Here is a brief summary of those initiatives and the results . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Private liquor sales is the national norm

There are currently 18 liquor monopoly states across the country including Washington. These are states that maintain some level of monopoly control over the sale of liquor. Washington is one of 12 states that employ a monopoly over both retail and wholesale liquor sales . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Does the state try to maximize liquor sales?

One of the arguments Initiatives 1100 and 1105 proponents make is that the state's current monopoly on liquor sales distracts the Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) from its other duties and incentivizes the state to try to maximize liquor sales to generate more revenue for government budgets. A 2009 liquor sale strategy by the WSLCB appears to confirm an effort to increase sales. Between November 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009, the state opened temporary liquor stores in four Western Washington shopping malls. According to the Liquor Board’s press release . . . READ MORE

OFM details agency budget cuts

The Office of Financial Management (OFM) has created a webpage detailing how agencies plan to respond to the Governor's ordered across-the-board cuts. The webpage will be updated as agency plans are received. Here is a sampling of the agency plans . . . READ MORE