Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Executive session taping bill receives public hearing

The Senate Committee on Government Operations heard public testimony today on SB 6109: Exempting video and audio recordings of closed executive session meetings from public inspection and copying. SB 6109 reflects a new strategy by the Attorney General and State Auditor to ensure that executive sessions aren't being misused in violations of the state's Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). I joined State Auditor Brian Sonntag and Tim Ford, Open Government Ombudsman for the Attorney General's Office, in testifying on SB 6109 . . . READ MORE

Friday, January 27, 2012

DOR requests 5 year sunsets for new tax preferences

The state Department of Revenue (DOR) is requesting legislation that would automatically sunset any new, extended, or amended tax preference after 5 years. DOR's request bill (HB 2530) is scheduled for a public hearing at 3:30 on Monday. According to DOR . . . READ MORE

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Remember the budget deficit?

As we conclude the 18th day of the 2012 REGULAR Session, the lack of legislative urgency to solve the state's billion dollar plus deficit grows more troubling with each passing day. It's been 92 days since the Governor called last December's special session declaring "timely legislative action is needed to secure the State’s fiscal health and address the shortfall in the 2011-2013 operating budget." Perhaps it is time to revisit the December 5, 2011 email Marty Brown, Director of the Office of Financial Management, sent all lawmakers under the subject line - "The urgency of budget action" . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State argues 18 year old 2/3 vote requirement for taxes is constitutional

Acting on behalf of the state the Attorney General's Office has once again argued the 1993 voter-approved requirement for a 2/3 vote to raise taxes is constitutional (policy has been subsequently re-approved by the voters and legislature on multiple occasions). Here are some pull quotes from the state's motion for summary judgment in the most recent legal challenge . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

State Auditor sheds light on local government finances

State Auditor Brian Sonntag launched a new website today that allows citizens to quickly find data on local government finances. Here is a summary of the new resource . . . READ MORE

Monday, January 16, 2012

House committee passes LEAN management bill

Neither ice nor snow could slow down efforts to improve agency efficiency today as the House State Government Committee adopted by a vote of 11-0 an amended version of HB 2173: Maximizing the use of lean strategies in state government. Here is a memo describing the changes from the original bill . . . READ MORE

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gregoire files legal brief in 2/3 vote for taxes lawsuit

Last year several House Democrats joined the Washington Education Association (WEA) and the League of Education Voters to file a lawsuit to overturn the four-time voter approved 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases. Today Governor Gregoire filed a legal brief urging the Court to rule on this issue. From her brief (in-part) . . . READ MORE

Thursday, January 12, 2012

WA Supreme Court hears oral arguments on tribal gas tax case

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the tribal gas tax case. Washington Policy Center filed an Amicus Brief on this case encouraging the court to accept direct review (which they did). WPC also conducted a statewide study that found tribal gas stations use their unfair tax advantage to undercut the price of fuel at private gas stations. Washington drivers lose about $30 million per year in gas taxes to Indian tribes . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

History of tax ballot measures in WA since 1932

If history is any guide, lawmakers intent on going to the ballot with a tax increase proposal will face more problems than simply trying to fit their proposal on the election calendar. With the exception of targeted sin taxes in 2001, 1994 and a 911 tax in 1991, voters haven't been kind to tax increases proposals on the ballot. In fact, tax increases specifically earmarked for education went down in flames in 2010 (64% no), 2004 (60% no), 1989 (66% no), 1975 (67% no) and 1973 (77% no) . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Transportation tax increase? Not so fast...

In today’s State of the State address, the governor is expected to give more details on a possible transportation tax package. Washington Policy Center offers five recommendations for lawmakers to consider before preparing a statewide transportation tax increase in 2012 . . . READ MORE

State budget outlook: Not good

Yesterday marked the beginning of the 2012 Legislative Session. Greeting lawmakers was a presentation by the Office of Financial Management on the state's 6-yr budget outlook. Bottom line - we've some serious structural problems. Here is a presentation by Stan Marshburn (Deputy Director of OFM) discussing the projections that show multi-billion dollar deficits going forward . . . READ MORE

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Governor proposes B&O tax streamlining

Governor Gregoire today announced her proposal to streamline administration of state and local B&O taxes. This is one of WPC's long standing recommendations. As we noted in our recent B&O reform proposal . . . READ MORE

State's "checkbook" now online

The state's searchable budget transparency website (www.fiscal.wa.gov) has a new feature: Washington's "Vendor Checkbook." This is the equivalent of the state's checkbook. Here is how this new resource is described . . . READ MORE