Friday, March 30, 2012

If a High Minimum Wage can Kill a Sandwich, Imagine What it Does to Jobs

Washington Policy Center has long warned that a high minimum wage reduces job opportunities and increases the cost of living. The economics of it is simple. The minimum wage is a price control that requires employers to pay workers a higher hourly wage. That means they can afford to hire fewer workers, or they pay the inflated wages and pass the increased costs onto the customer, or a combination of both . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Losing $1 million a day without a budget?

That's what a visibly irritated Governor Gregoire said during a March 15 press conference. According to the Office of Financial Management, however, that figure was based on the Governor’s November budget being implemented as proposed. With changes in caseloads, the revenue forecast and actions taken in December the savings lost figure isn’t that high but there is a cost with each day’s delay without a budget . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Playing "Carnac the Magnificent" on the budget

Today marks day 188 since Governor Gregoire called on lawmakers to balance the budget. Based on this report from the Associated Press, surpassing 200 days without a balanced budget doesn't seem too far fetched: "The special session is now more than half over, and legislative action thus far has been 'pro forma,' meaning no floor votes or committee meetings have taken place, and most of the lawmakers are not at the Capitol." . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is proposed $238 million accounting change a budget deal breakthrough?

As we enter day 11 of the budget balancing special session a new proposal to end the logjam has emerged. According to the Tacoma News Tribune: "An accounting maneuver being considered at the state Capitol might allow Democrats and Republicans to cast aside the biggest point of contention in their ongoing budget negotiations . . .The proposal would keep the money in the general fund until the end of the month, transferring it into the other account just before it needs to be sent out to local governments. That would provide about $238 million more cash on the state’s balance sheet at the end of the month" . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Balanced budget clock: Day 181 and counting

It has been 181 days (and counting) since Governor Gregoire's September 22 press conference last year calling on lawmakers to balance the state's budget. Today marks day 10 of the 1st Special Session of 2012 to balance the budget (this is the fifth special session since 2009 for budget work). Already Governor Gregoire is hinting at the prospect of yet another special session as noted by the Spokesman Review . . READ MORE

Monday, March 19, 2012

McKenna hints at need for new open government initiative

Last week was National Sunshine Week, when open government defenders worked to highlight the need for government officials to be transparent and accountable to the citizens they serve. Among those writing about the need for more transparency reforms was State Attorney General Rob McKenna. McKenna's first piece was a blog post honoring State Auditor Brian Sonntag for his tireless work to improve government accountability . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pension reform wish list

The Legislature is currently considering major pension reform (SB 6378) to help bend the cost curve and improve the affordability of the state’s pension system. The following is from our 2010 Seattle Times op-ed discussing the need for pension reform . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Takeover in Senate Brings Religion to Legislature but Conversion to ‘Transparency’ Doesn’t Run Very Deep

Two weeks ago, when Republicans stood the Legislature on its end, picked up three Democratic votes for a budget in the Senate, and triggered 10 hours of some of the angriest debate ever witnessed in the statehouse, you might have gotten the idea that lawmakers had finally discovered religion. After years of complaint from conservative think-tanks, open-government advocates and Republicans, the majority Democrats appeared to embrace the daring concept that the Legislature ought to play by its own rules . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Let the bidding begin on Washington's liquor stores

Washington state opened a public auction online Thursday of its state-run liquor stores, beginning the process of privatizing a booze industry the state has tightly controlled since the end of Prohibition. Within hours, more than 30 bidders had entered the fray. Nearly a dozen offered to buy rights to all of the stores, though most bid on individual store locations. The minimum bid: $1,000 . . . READ MORE

House gets it (mostly) right on introduction of HB 2817

Lawmakers in the House this week helped put to doubt the claim that "title only" bills are indispensable to the legislative process. We've been told that lawmakers have to use "title only" bills (a.k.a. blank bills) due to the restriction in Article 2, Section 36 of the state Constitution on introduction of new bills with less than 10 days to go in session unless two-thirds of lawmakers vote to hear the bill. To circumvent this constitutional restriction, lawmakers resort to introducing "title only" bills before this cutoff date. A bill introduced on March 5, however, as a complete bill is now on the House floor for consideration showing that lawmakers can function without title only bills . . . READ MORE

Monday, March 5, 2012

House set to approve tax exemption sunset referendum

Lost in the excitement of Friday's Senate budget debate was a House Ways & Means hearing at 9 a.m. on Saturday (scheduled on Friday night). At that hearing the House Ways and Means committee adopted several bills including HB 2762 to require all tax exemptions to sunset. Among the amendments adopted in committee was adding a referendum clause to the bill. If the bill is adopted by the House and the Senate, it would not be the first time voters were asked to automatically repeal tax exemptions . . . READ MORE

Comparison of adopted House and Senate budgets

After a historic turn of events Friday night in the Senate, two budgets have now been adopted: A House Democrat budget (supported only by Democrats with three Democrats voting no) and a Senate Republican budget (supported by all GOP Senators and three Democrat Senators). Here is how the Seattle Times describes the events . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 2, 2012

Summary of Senate GOP budget proposal

With the assistance of three Democrat Senators (Sens. Jim Kastama, Tim Sheldon and Rodney Tom) the GOP was able to take over the Senate floor this evening to advance its budget proposal. Here is a summary of the budget recommendation according to a GOP release (in-part) . . . READ MORE

Legislative transparency debate takes center stage in Senate

Today’s historic actions on the Senate floor would not be occurring if lawmakers had been living under the recommendations we’ve made to improve legislative transparency. They include . . . READ MORE

Legislators routinely set aside principles of open government

Listening to some legislators wax rhapsodically about transparency in government is a lot like listening to octo-husband Mickey Rooney extol the sanctity of marriage. The virtue of their message gets lost in the reality of their behavior.This year marks the return of two annual rituals in the Legislature: the majority party’s blatant refusal to promote public involvement in government, and Jason Mercier’s dogged crusade to expose the hypocrisy of it all . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wash. Legislature: As Pace Picks Up, Complaints About Lack Of Transparency

An insider’s game. That’s how open government advocates describe the Washington legislature as it heads into its final days. They complain of last minute public hearings, so-called “ghost bills” with only a title and no details, and quick votes on deals negotiated behind-the-scenes. These shortcuts save time. But critics say they effectively shut the public out of the process . . . READ MORE