Friday, September 23, 2011

Citizens' Guide to Senate Joint Resolution 8206 To Enhance the State's Constitutional Savings Account

This November, Washingtonians will vote on Senate Joint Resolution 8206, a proposal to enhance the state’s existing constitutionally protected savings account for the state budget. The proposed constitutional amendment would build on a previous constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2007 that created a constitutionally protected rainy-day savings account for the state budget, replacing the state’s statutory emergency reserve. The 2007 proposal passed with 68 percent of the vote. To build on the success of the 2007 reform, in January Washington Policy Center recommended that state leaders take additional steps to ensure that once the economy begins to improve, the state secures adequate reserves to help smooth out the ups and downs of revenue collections . . . READ MORE

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Governor calls special session to begin November 28

Governor Gregoire announced this morning she is calling a special session to start November 28 to address the state's $1 billion plus budget deficit. Here are my notes from her press conference . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

State employee compensation now available in a searchable format

The Office of Financial Management (OFM) and the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee (LEAP) have worked together to make the state's 2011 Personnel Detail available on the state's budget transparency website ( in a searchable way. This has been one of our top priorities since was launched in 2008. Many thanks to OFM and LEAP for their efforts to make this happen and their commitment to provide future year's data in the same searchable format . . . READ MORE

Monday, September 19, 2011

Citizens’ Guide to Initiative 1183 To End Washington’s Liquor Store Monopoly

In November the people of Washington will vote on Initiative 1183, which if passed would end the state’s 78-year-old monopoly on the sale of liquor in Washington. Initiative 1183 is similar to last year’s Initiative 1100, which was rejected by voters, but there are also important differences. These differences are discussed in detail here. Washington Policy Center has long recommended getting the state out of the liquor business and allowing the competitive private sale of liquor under regulation by the state. This change would allow state officials to shift their efforts from managing retail sales to exclusively enforcing the state’s liquor, public health and public safety laws. Here are our Key Findings . . . READ MORE

Friday, September 16, 2011

Small Business Owners Offer Solutions for Recovery at Statewide Conference

Small business owners and policymakers from around the state gathered at Bellevue College yesterday to discuss the state’s business climate at Washington Policy Center’s (WPC) 2011 Statewide Small Business Conference. During several interactive issue breakout sessions, business owners suggested and discussed solutions to improve the climate for small businesses in Washington.  This was the fifth statewide small business conference hosted by WPC since 2003. The result is a list of priority solutions, selected by small business owners, for solving the major problems with the state’s business climate and moving towards economic recovery . . . READ MORE

Budget writers discuss options

The Chair and ranking member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee were interviewed by TVW's Austin Jenkins yesterday on what the options are for lawmakers to address the estimated $1 billion plus budget deficit. Among the questions Jenkins asked Sen. Murray and Sen. Zarelli were their thoughts on our proposal to provide the Governor with discretionary budget cutting authority . . . READ MORE

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Provide Governor with discretionary budget cutting authority

Believe it or not, state revenues are still projected to increase by $2.1 billion for the 2011-13 biennium over the 2009-11 biennium. Unfortunately for lawmakers this increase is $1.4 billion less than what was estimated at the June Revenue Forecast meaning a budget deficit exceeding $1 billion now exists . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sen. Honeyford wins open government award

The Washington Coalition for Open Government presented Sen. Jim Honeyford with its Key Award today for his efforts to improve legislative transparency this past session. I had the privilege of providing Sen. Honeyford with the Key Award on behalf of the Coalition on the floor of the state Senate this morning. Here is a copy of my prepared remarks . . . READ MORE

Monday, September 12, 2011

State Auditor Brian Sonntag to retire

In a surprise announcement, State Auditor Brian Sonntag has decided to retire at the end of his term in 2012. From his email: "In the past week, I made a difficult decision not to seek re-election as Washington State Auditor in 2012. It was a tough call, but it is the right decision. At the end of my current term, I will have served 20 years in this Office and 40 years in public service - 35 in elected office. Based on what we has accomplished and what we will continue to do in behalf of citizens, the 2012 election is the right time for the Office to transition to new leadership . . ." READ MORE

Thursday, September 8, 2011

WA Supreme Court grants motion to hear tribal gas tax case

The Washington State Supreme Court granted the motion to hear the tribal gas tax case, Automotive United Trades Organization (AUTO) v. State of Washington. You might recall, WPC and others filed Amicus Briefs encouraging the Court to accept direct review.  In 2006, Governor Christine Gregoire negotiated an agreement with Washington State Indian tribes that exempts tribally owned fuel stations from paying 75% of state gas taxes. This year the state will give Indian tribes approximately $22 million in state fuel tax revenue. And the amount will certainly grow as tribes continue to add more fuel stations. Taxpayers will pay approximately $621 million to tribes over the next 17 years . . . READ MORE

If tax referendum is put on ballot voters should also be sent constitutional 2/3 vote restriction

There is universal expectation that after next Thursday's state revenue forecast lawmakers will need to make substantial reductions to the 2011-13 budget adopted earlier this year. The Speaker of the House and the Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee have already stated their desire to consider tax increases next year . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Comparison of liquor retail store density for Western states

In November the people of Washington will vote on Initiative 1183. Initiative 1183 would end the state’s 78-year old prohibition-era monopoly on the sale of liquor in Washington. Though there are similarities to last year’s Initiative 1100, which was rejected by voters, there are also important differences. We will be releasing a full analysis discussing these differences next week. There are currently 18 liquor monopoly states in the U.S., including Washington.  These states maintain some level of monopoly control over the sale of liquor.  Washington is one of 12 states that impose a government-only monopoly on both the retail and wholesale liquor sales . . . READ MORE

Citizens' Guide to Initiative 1125

In November, voters will have a chance to consider Initiative 1125. I-1125 is known as the “Protect Gas Taxes and Toll Revenues Act – Protect the 18th Amendment to Washington’s Constitution.” I-1125 contains eight provisions that would affect how Washington officials collect and spend revenue from highway tolls. Washington motorists have a lot of experience with tolls, which have been used to fund 14 bridges, including those across the Tacoma Narrows, the State Route (SR) 520 floating bridge and the Interstate 90 floating bridge . . . READ MORE

Thursday, September 1, 2011

State Supreme Court issues conflicting opinions on authority of Attorney General

The Attorney General in Washington State is independently elected by the people. Of that there is no controversy. Based on two separate rulings by the State Supreme Court today, however, whether the Attorney General is truly independent is now in question. In one ruling concerning the City of Seattle's attempt to get the Attorney General to withdrawal from the multi-state challenge of the federal health care law the Court ruled . . . READ MORE