Wednesday, December 11, 2013

House Finance Committee discusses B&O reform

The House Finance Committee continued its important interim work discussing the state's tax structure by holding a work session yesterday on ways to reform the B&O tax. Earlier this year the Committee discussed what the principles of the state's tax system should be. I had the opportunity yesterday's to give a presentation on WPC's proposal to modify the state's current B&O tax to a Single Business Tax, or gross-receipts margins tax . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2014 supplemental budget will need to keep state spending limit in mind

After going through multiple special sessions to adopt the state's 2013-15 budget, the last thing lawmakers will want to do is fight about a 2014 supplemental budget. State agencies, however, have already submitted their 2014 supplemental budget wish list requesting a combined increase in spending of $895 million and 806 new FTEs . . . READ MORE

Monday, November 11, 2013

No more ludicrous speed lawmaking

Now that lawmakers have saved the state's Boeing "destiny for a generation" (pending a Wednesday vote by Boeing unions), let's hope we can get them to commit to abandoning future "ludicrous speed" lawmaking. As noted by NFIB's (National Federation of Independent Business) testimony earlier this week, if a legislative proposal is good public policy it will still be good policy after the public has a chance to read, understand and comment on the proposal . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tax exemptions, transparency, and a hotel bill

I was supposed to be on the road to Olympia this morning for a Thursday House Finance Work Session to discuss tax exemptions and WPC's recommendation to eliminate targeted tax exemptions and instead replace the B&O tax with a revenue neutral single business tax. With the Governor calling a Boeing Special Session for Thursday at 9 a.m., however, the House work session has been understandably canceled . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Look for election results tonight, tomorrow, and in the weeks to come

For most election races we will probably know the outcome sometime tonight. For those close races, however, it will take a few more days and perhaps weeks to know the victors. That is because that although Washington is all vote by mail, ballots aren't due on Election Day but simply need to be postmarked. For our neighbors in Oregon, however, their ballots are actually due on Election Day . . . READ MORE

Monday, November 4, 2013

I-517: Win or lose, lawmakers should consider next steps

Tomorrow Washingtonians will head to the drop box or mailbox and turn in their ballots passing judgment on I-517 and the changes proposed to the state's initiative system. Depending on the outcome lawmakers will be faced with a couple of options . . . READ MORE

Friday, November 1, 2013

Support grows for public disclosure constitutional amendment

On October 17, the State Supreme Court created a Grand Canyon sized loophole in Washington's public records law by granting the Office of Governor (at the request of former Governor Gregoire) an exemption from public disclosure based on a President Nixon-styled executive privilege . . . READ MORE

Monday, October 21, 2013

State Supreme Court considers $1.3 billion pension case

The State Supreme Court will hear a pension case this Thursday at 9 a.m. brought by various unions that could cost taxpayers an additional $1.3 billion at the state and local level during the 2015-17 biennium and billions more in the future. At issue is whether lawmakers had the legal right to make changes to what they thought were conditional pension benefit increases . . . READ MORE

Thursday, October 17, 2013

State Supreme Court grants prior Governor's office request for shroud of secrecy

Channeling former President Nixon, the state Supreme Court today showed Washington State isn't that different from Washington D.C. after all by granting the Governor's office the claim of executive privilege to deny citizens access to public records. The decision stems from a Freedom Foundation lawsuit against former Governor Gregoire that argued her claim of executive privilege over nearly 500 records was a violation of the state's landmark public records law since there was no exemption from public disclosure in the law for the broad claim of executive privilege . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Editorial boards pan I-517 and I-522

Are the state's editorial boards reflective of the general voting public? We'll know after the votes are counted on Initiative 517 and Initiative 522. Based on the near consensus of the editorials to date, supporters of the proposals may be feeling a bit nervous. Here's a roundup . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Principles of a good tax system

The House Finance Committee held a work session yesterday reviewing the state's tax structure and how it compares nationally. I had the opportunity to present on the principles of a good tax system. I encouraged the committee to focus its tax reform efforts around the following fundamental building blocks of a good tax structure . . . READ MORE

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Revenue forecast helps grow budget reserves

While those following the state's monthly revenue receipts expected state revenue collections to continue to grow, the amount of yesterday's increase was a bit of a surprise. According to the state's economist, Dr. Steve Lerch, revenues are now projected to grow by another $345 million for the current budget and $342 million for the 2015-17 budget . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Coalition requests performance audit of I-937

A coalition of lawmakers and business groups sent State Auditor Troy Kelley a letter yesterday requesting a performance audit of I-937 (Energy Independence Act). From the letter . . . READ MORE

Monday, September 16, 2013

Questions on I-517

On Thursday we published our analysis of Initiative 517. This led to several questions from the Yes on I-517 campaign. Their first question was wondering how we came to the conclusion that the measure would impact private property rights. Here is my explanation . . . READ MORE

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Summary of I-517

In November the people of Washington will vote on Initiative 517. The measure would make several changes to state law concerning signature gathering for initiatives and referendums. Initiative 517 would increase the time period for gathering signatures, require that proposals that receive an adequate number of valid signature proceed to the ballot, change the penalties for interfering with signature gathering, and increase the number of locations, both public and private, where signature gathering can occur. After reviewing the text of I-517 and various legal cases relating to its provisions, here is the conclusion of our study analyzing the proposal . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Governor kicks off "soft" launch of Results Washington effort

Today Governor Inslee put his stamp on the state's long track record with performance management efforts with a "soft" launch of Results Washington. As noted by his press release . . . READ MORE

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review of 2013-15 Operating Budget

Now that we've had time to review and digest the state's new 2013-15 budget, how did lawmakers do? As with all budgets there are good and bad items included, though the biggest policy success was that lawmakers allowed the 2010 “temporary” tax increases to remain temporary and to expire as promised on July 1st. The enacted budget also includes revenue and spending projections that balance in compliance with the state’s new four-year balanced budget requirement . . . READ MORE

Friday, August 23, 2013

I-517: What is a public building for purposes of signature gathering?

Among the provisions of Initiative 517 is the requirement to allow signature gathering “inside or outside public buildings such as public sports stadiums, convention/exhibition centers, and public fairs.” Public buildings, however, is not defined by the measure. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Department of Enterprise Services, and the Attorney General’s Office there is currently no standard rule for signature gathering on public property though most public entities provide some opportunity for signature gathering with certain restrictions . . . READ MORE

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Farmer for a Day

What do you get when you add more than a dozen lawmakers, beautiful weather, an irrigated desert, policy wonks and the efforts of the Franklin County Farm Bureau, Washington State Potato Commission and Washington State Farm Bureau? A successful "Farmer for a Day" program in Pasco . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

American Legislative Exchange Council considers Washington’s new tax preference transparency law

This year we worked with Washington lawmakers on language that eventually was included in SB 5843: Strengthening the review of the legislature's goals for tax preferences. That proposal eventually became SB 5882 during the 2nd Special Session and was signed into law by Gov. Inslee after overwhelming approval by lawmakers. Among the bill’s provisions is a requirement for the legislature to identify explicit legislative intent and expected performance outcomes for tax preferences. With one of Washington Policy Center’s priorities being to help government official improve the transparency and accountability of the legislative process and budget, we thought this would be a good idea to share with lawmakers across the country . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Evolution of tax increase proposals for 2013-15 budget

Despite projected revenue growth of $2 billion for the 2013-15 biennium, proposals for significant tax increases dominated the budget debate and contributed to the Legislature going into two special sessions to finish its work on the budget. The final tax increase package included in the 2013-15 budget was a fraction of what state Democrats initially proposed. Below is a breakdown of how the tax increase proposals evolved . . . READ MORE

Monday, July 22, 2013

Does I-517 interfere with private property rights?

One of the most contentious debates about I-517 (Concerning initiative and referendum measures) is whether its provisions would run roughshod over businesses' private property rights. There is at least one prominent attorney that believes it does. Former Attorney General Rob McKenna is concerned I-517 doesn't comply with constitutional property right protections for businesses . . . READ MORE

Friday, July 19, 2013

House Democrats Tout Washington’s “Nonexistent Income Tax”

The House Democrats today posted a blog dismissing the idea that policies increasing the burden on businesses are “job-killers.” To prove their point, they say recently ranked Seattle as the #2 startup city in America. says one of the measures earning Seattle that ranking is the state’s lack of an income tax . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Did liquor privatization increase DUIs and alcohol related arrests?

No. Based on the latest numbers, the alcohol infused Armageddon that we were warned about if voters approved I-1183 ending the state's nearly 80 year old-liquor monopoly was more of a scare tactic than based on the actual experience of the 33 states across the country with private liquor sales . . . READ MORE

Monday, July 15, 2013

Will proposed Tri-City aquatic center soak taxpayers?

On a hot summer day what could sound better than a state of the art indoor/outdoor aquatic center and water park to cool off in? How about one that doesn’t require permanent and ongoing taxpayer subsidies, even under the best case financial projections, to stay afloat . . . READ MORE

I-517: Should all initiatives with adequate signatures go before voters?

Our prior blog posts on I-517 have addressed the provision adding a new anti-harassment protection for signature gatherers to law as well as a quick glance at some of the former statewide elected officials that have gone on the record in opposition of I-517. In this post we'll take a look at I-517's requirement that all initiatives that receive an adequate number of signatures to qualify actually go before voters for consideration. Currently some proposals at the local level have been blocked from the ballot for various legal reasons . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Public records fail

Life is full of teachable moments. Consider the following exchange between the Mayor of Coulee Dam and the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WPC serves on the WCOG board) as an example of how a government official should NOT respond to a public records request . . . READ MORE

Monday, July 8, 2013

2013 statewide ballot will include non-binding tax increase advisory votes

As reported by the Spokesman Review, statewide initiative efforts went 0-84 this year with none qualifying for the ballot. This means the 2013 statewide ballot will only include two initiatives to the Legislature that lawmakers didn't act on (I-517 and I-522) and a handful of non-binding tax increase advisory votes.
Although the State Supreme Court struck down the longstanding voter-approved supermajority for taxes requirement, other provisions of the law remained in place, including the requirement for non-binding advisory votes if lawmakers increase taxes while preventing a referendum on them via an emergency clause . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Inslee Vetoes Environmental Effectiveness Budget Studies

The budget passed by both chambers of the legislature last week contained a few hopeful signs toward measuring the environmental effectiveness of government policies. When Governor Inslee signed the budget on Sunday, however, he vetoed three sections of the budget that would have helped assess and promote the effectiveness of the state's environmental policy . . . READ MORE

Legislature requires Tax Performance Statement for new tax preferences

Sometimes in the darkest moments of the legislative process a flickering light can begin to grow bright. Consider the case of SB 5882: Creating, expanding, or extending tax preferences. Originally introduced as a Title Only Bill on March 19, SB 5882 saw a fast-tracked public hearing (more accurately described as a lobbyist hearing) on June 28 to provide new flesh to its mere title. The lack of details available on the new text when the hearing began left one testifier apologizing for perhaps not commenting on the right details since he didn't know for sure what they were . . . READ MORE

Monday, July 1, 2013

Governor vetoes several budget provisos

Perhaps being one of only a handful of people provided the time to actually read the 2013-15 budget before making a decision, Governor Inslee did not sign the state budget without first making several changes via vetoes. Among the vetoes was honoring the request of State Auditor Troy Kelley to maintain at least some of the intent of I-900. Kelley wrote the Governor requesting a veto of several legislative directed performance audits which threatened to interfere with the independence of the State Auditor's Office. Kelley wrote . . . READ MORE

Friday, June 28, 2013

Environmental Effectiveness in the Proposed Budget

There are some promising signs that legislators are beginning to demand environmental effectiveness when funding projects designed to protect Washington's natural resources. In addition to the clause in the Governor's climate bill requiring projects to be prioritized based on carbon reductions per dollar spent, there is budget language requiring a similar approach in other environmental arenas . . . READ MORE

2013-15 Budget: From 'light years apart' to light speed legislative action

By the time you read this the Legislature will have likely already approved the 482 page 2013-15 operating budget first publicly released around 12:56 a.m. this morning. Don't feel bad if you haven't had a chance to read it; you're in good company. It's doubtful many lawmakers have either. The disappointingly opaque process aside, here as some of the tidbits I've been able to pull from the budget thus far . . . READ MORE

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Budget announcement in tweets

As you can see from the below tweets of reporters, the just concluded press conference with Governor Inslee and budget writers announcing the details of the 2013-15 budget agreement leaves lots to the imagination of what exactly lawmakers are being asked to vote on and have on the Governor's desk by 5 p.m. tomorrow (of course they'll read it first) . . . READ MORE

Recommendations on a Transportation Tax Package

Late in a second special legislative session, House and Senate leaders are pushing different transportation tax proposals. People in Washington have continually voiced opposition to tax increases in the past, and officials should focus on the needs of the public when proposing another. WPC has compiled five policy recommendations that lawmakers should include in any legislation that is funded by a tax increase, to ensure any new transportation bill improves mobility and serves the public interest . . . READ MORE

I-517: Are new harassment protections needed for signature gatherers?

One of the major focuses of Initiative 517 is to provide harassment protection for signature gatherers. The Yes on I-517 campaign has posted a 1995 letter by then Secretary of State Ralph Munro that says (in-part) . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

You know what's in the pending 2013-15 budget, right?

With a 2013-15 budget deal "imminent" one of the remaining questions left to be answered is whether lawmakers and the public will be provided adequate time to review the details before a vote on final passage occurs. We believe at a minimum the time provided for budget transparency should be at least 24 hrs. Based on his comments during yesterday's press conference, however, Governor Inslee seems to believe the public already knows what's going to be in the final $33 billion plus budget running hundreds of pages long . . . READ MORE

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Heavy hitters line up against I-517

One of the ballot measures voters will decide this year is I-517: Concerning initiative and referendum measures. The proposal is an initiative to the Legislature but lawmakers did not approve it meaning it will be placed before voters to pass final judgement. According to the ballot title for I-517 . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

State revenue up another $231 million - $2 billion more for 2013-15

Good news for state budget writers - today's revenue forecast has further increased projected revenue for the current and next budget by a combined $231 million for a total increase of more than $2 billion for 2013-15. From today's Revenue Forecast . . . READ MORE

Monday, June 17, 2013

State may want to keep those death tax refunds on hand

Lawmakers may have thought they dodged a bullet last week when passing a retroactive death tax "fix" to a state Supreme Court ruling which would have required refunds but with additional litigation pending due to the retroactive nature of the tax increase the state may still end up paying those court ordered refunds. Here is the Washington State Bar Association's testimony about such retroactive tax increases likely being unconstitutional. While saying we don't want to be like the other Washington (D.C.), policy makers appear to have taken a page out of the Congressional playbook by utilizing retroactive tax policy. But even for Congress (which is no stranger to retroactive taxes) making retroactive tax changes apply longer than during the current fiscal year is tempting fate . . . READ MORE

Friday, June 14, 2013

While you were sleeping - Senate passes/Inslee signs retroactive death tax increase

Beating a Friday morning deadline to keep the Department of Revenue from issuing court ordered refunds, the Legislature yesterday approved HB 2075 - a retroactive change to the state's death tax. The new law undoes a unanimous State Supreme Court ruling which required death tax refunds to certain estates. The House approved HB 2075 early Thursday with the Senate voting late last night and the Governor immediately signing the bill into law utilizing an emergency clause. Though responding prospectively to the Court ruling was never in doubt, it is a bit shocking to see the Legislature make retroactive changes to the state's tax law . . . READ MORE

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tax increases for compensation enhancements?

Though various reform bills proposed by the Senate have been pointed to by state Democrats and Governor Inslee as holding up a budget deal, the real sticking point continues to be whether to increase taxes despite the fact state revenues are currently projected to increase by $2 billion for the 2013-15 biennium (and may increase more at next week's Revenue Forecast). The Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate has gone on record saying they'd agree to some tax increase if the House acts on the reform bills but it is likely Senators would readily agree to a no-new-taxes budget even without the reforms . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Olympia's Retroactive Tax "Twilight Zone"

Today is the last day of the 1st Special Session for lawmakers to finish work on the 2013-15 budget. So where do we stand? Here are the thoughts of House Majority Leader Rep. Sullivan (D) as quoted in The Olympian: “We are still pretty far apart,” Sullivan said, noting that Gov. Jay Inslee had said last month that the chambers were light years apart. “I would say we are still somewhere out in space.’’ With budget negotiations apparently "Lost in Space" and a 2nd Special Session around the corner, another strange phenomenon is manifesting in Olympia - "The Twilight Zone" of retroactive tax policy . . . READ MORE

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New budget due on June 1 under state law

With it being all quiet on the Western Legislative Front, there is one date to keep in mind concerning the ongoing state budget negotiations: June 1. While there are rumors that lawmakers may wait for the June 18 Revenue Forecast to see if the recent improvement in state economic activity can help bridge the budget divide, state law may make waiting that long a bit tricky . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Senators may meet via teleconference during special session; remote testimony options for citizens next?

While there isn't much news coming out of Olympia since the Special Session started on Monday there is one development that could hold huge implications for citizens going forward. At a media availability on Monday Senate Republican Leader Sen. Schoesler said that Senators may meet via teleconference to help keep cost down for members living out of the area . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Don't forget to include the public in the "sanctity" of budget negotiations

A few lawmakers kicked off the first 30-day Special Session yesterday to finish work on the 2013-15 operating budget. At a press conference Governor Inslee said some progress had been made concerning the assumptions in the various budgets but that he was not in a position to disclose those assumptions needing to keep the "sanctity" of close-door budget negations intact . . . READ MORE

Monday, May 13, 2013

Five Items Lawmakers Should Include in the 2013-15 budget

Governor Inslee has called a 30-day Special Session to begin on May 13th so that lawmakers can complete their unfinished work on the 2013-15 state budget. One of the major sticking points in ongoing budget negotiations is the House’s controversial decision to propose more than $1 billion in job killing tax increases. This despite an estimated $2 billion increase in forecasted revenue growth, voters’ 64% statewide approval for the fifth time of the requirement for tax increases to receive a 2/3 vote, and Governor Inslee’s campaign promise that he would not seek tax increases. With that in mind, here are five things lawmakers should focus on as they work to finish the budget . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

State Auditor releases financial management performance audit

Prior to leaving office State Auditor Brian Sonntag sent a letter to then Governor-elect Inslee encouraging him to focus on reforms to the state's antiquated financial management system. Today State Auditor Troy Kelley released a performance audit which found . . . READ MORE

Friday, April 26, 2013

House shows title only bills unnecessary

The House is about to demonstrate that resorting to title only bills is unnecessary. Two bills that were introduced within the last 10 days of session were just added to the floor calendar (HB 2056 and HB 2058). According to Article 2, Section 36 of the state constitution this means a 2/3 vote will be required . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Targeted budget special session or another regular session?

With just four days to go in the 2013 Regular Session, lawmakers and the Governor are discussing the framework for the inevitable specials session(s). One difference this year from previous special sessions may be how tightly focused state officials' efforts and attention are . . . READ MORE

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tax preference review bill on House agenda tomorrow

Not to be lost on tomorrow's House Finance Committee agenda is SB 5843 (tax preference review). The Senate version of the bill was unanimously approved back on March 7. After the Senate approved the bill WPC encouraged the House to consider also . . . READ MORE

Public gets chance to weigh in on House tax increase package tomorrow

Though we have serious concerns about the impact of the House Democrat's $1.3 billion tax increase proposal on the state's economy and jobs (nearly 10,000 private sector jobs could be lost), at least the public will actually have a chance to weigh in on the proposal . . . READ MORE

Senate considers revenue forecast reform

With a special session all but guaranteed for the Legislature to finish its work on the 2013-15 budget, a simple bill being considered by the Senate Ways and Means Committee today could have a fundamental impact on future budget debates. Introduced on Monday and heard for a public hearing on Tuesday, SB 5910 would move up the state's March revenue forecast to February in long sessions. The bill is scheduled for executive action in the Senate today . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Budget negotiations begin in earnest

Last Friday the House approved its 2013-15 state operating budget proposal on a party-line 54-43 vote. The only lawmaker to cross-party lines was Rep. Stonier (D) who voted against the budget saying . . . READ MORE

Olympian calls for more legislative transparency

Looks like editors at The Olympian decided to declare April 16 as "Legislative Transparency Day." The capital city newspaper ran two editorials today highlighting our recommendations to improve the public's access to the legislative process. The first editorial calls on lawmakers to provide the opportunity for Washingtonians from the far corners of the state to utilize remote testimony options . . . READ MORE

Friday, April 12, 2013

Brian Sonntag inducted into "Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame"

Former State Auditor Brian Sonntag has been inducted into the "Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame." According to a press release by the National Freedom of Information Coalition . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

House budget will require supermajority vote for approval

Place this in your irony file, after fighting to have the voter-approved supermajority vote requirement for tax increases ruled unconstitutional, the budget proposed today by House Democrats will require a supermajority vote for approval . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

House budget on deck

Last Friday night the Senate approved its operating budget with a bipartisan 30-18 vote. The House is expected to release its counter proposal on Wednesday. As with most budgets there are good and bad components of the Senate plan . . . READ MORE

Friday, April 5, 2013

OFM highlights concern with use of dedicated performance audit funds

With the Senate about to take action on its 2013-15 budget proposal, the Office of Financial Management (OFM) is weighing in. OFM said this about the proposed use of dedicated I-900 performance audit funds . . . READ MORE

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Senate budget studies

aving finished reading the 237 page budget summary I'm now digging in to the actual 401 page bill language. At the pace I'm going I'll be reading the Senate "approved" versus "proposed" budget. Despite being only a few pages in some very interesting studies proposed for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). Among them . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Senate 2013-15 budget released

The Senate Majority Coalition released its $33.2 billion 2013-15 blueprint for the state today at a noon press conference with Republican and Democrat budget writers speaking. Joining GOP Sen. Hill and Sen. Parlette were Democrat Sen. Hargrove and Sen. Nelson . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Senate work session focuses on WPC B&O reform proposal

Business taxes took center stage today in Olympia. While the morning started with a work session in the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee on how to reform the state's hated Business & Occupation Tax (B&O), the afternoon began with Governor Inslee's attempt to re-define what a tax increase is. On the last point I'm reminded of this famous exchange from The Simpson's concerning whether a proposed tax increase was a "colossal salary grab" or instead a "temporary refund adjustment." While I'll leave that debate for another day, here is video from this morning's Senate work session on our proposal to replace the B&O with a Single Business Tax . . . READ MORE

So Much for Inslee’s No-Tax-Increase Pledge

Today Governor Jay Inslee reneged on his tough-on-the-campaign-trail promise to not raise taxes.
After a year of pledging that higher taxes won’t be needed to fix Washington’s budget woes, Governor Inslee has broken his campaign promise with his budget that would raise $1.2 billion in new revenue to pay for increased government spending.  Inslee's budget proposes the largest increase in government spending (11%) since Governor Gregoire's increase (18%) in 2005 . . . Read MORE

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The budget speech we should hear today

At noon today the final piece of the state's 2013-15 budget debate will fall into place as the March Revenue forecast is officially released. Due to the impact of the federal sequester, indications are that the currently projected nearly $2 billion increase in revenue for the next budget will be slightly reduced. While this will still mean revenues will be growing, it will likely fall short of funding the projected baseline spending increases and new policy adds Olympia would like to pursue . . . READ MORE

Monday, March 18, 2013

Title only bills used to circumvent state Constitution

Not only are title only bills (essentially blank pieces of legislation) not the most transparent way to introduce changes to state law (or perhaps too translucent) but they are used by lawmakers to circumvent the state Constitution. This is why it is disappointing to see 26 title only bills (13 in the House by Rep. Hunter and 13 in the Senate by Sen. Hill) introduced today. Budget chairs typically introduce title only bills so they "don't get stuck" at the end of session . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 15, 2013

Improving the performance of tax preferences

By a vote of 47-0, on March 7 the Senate adopted ESB 5843: Strengthening the review of the legislature's goals for tax preferences. This bill would require explicit legislative intent for new tax preferences and require performance metrics to help evaluate their impact. These policies reflect the advice I provided the Senate Ways and Means Committee during my testimony on various tax increase proposals on February 14. ESB 5843 has been referred to the House Finance Committee for consideration . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dead, alive and NTIB (necessary to implement the budget)

With yesterday's 5 p.m. House of Origin cutoff date behind us, here is a status report on several of the bills I've been following . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SJR 8205 (Supermajority for taxes) on life support

With just hours to go until today's 5 p.m. cutoff in the Legislature, it isn't looking promising for SJR 8205 (Supermajority for taxes) being brought to the floor in the Senate for a vote. The proposed constitutional amendment would implement the policy adopted by the voters on five separate occasions over the past 20 years (since 1993) that tax increases require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature or voter approval. This long-standing voter requirement was thrown out by the State Supreme Court a few weeks ago . . . READ MORE

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sun rising in House Rules Committee?

Tomorrow (March 10) marks the beginning of National Sunshine Week - a time dedicated to celebrating the importance of the people's right to know and the need for strong open government laws. Judging from rumors in the House Rules Committee, the sun may continue to shine bright on Washington's landmark public records law. The word is Speaker Chopp has placed a leadership hold on HB 1128 (Regarding local agencies' responses to public records requests), keeping the bill from going to the House floor before Wednesday's cutoff date (March 13). HB 1128 was sent to the Rules Committee nearly a month ago on February 12 . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Previous voter-approved amendments adding supermajority requirements to the Constitution

In the aftermath of last week's State Supreme Court ruling striking down the 20 year-old law requiring a 2/3 vote of the Legislature or voter approval to raise taxes, several of the policy's opponents have been trumpeting that the will of the majority will now be able to stand against the "tyranny of the minority."
With this almost single focus on the "evil" of supermajority requirements, it is a little surprising that opponents of the "tyranny of the minority" have not switched their focus yet to repealing the nearly two-dozen supermajority requirements currently in the Constitution . . . READ MORE

Pension reform on Senate floor

The Senate Rules Committee yesterday moved SB 5851 (Creating a defined contribution retirement plan option for public employees) to the Senate floor for a possible vote before cutoff. The bill would create a new optional defined contribution pension plan for current state workers and for new hires. The proposal would save state and local government (taxpayers) an estimated $436 million over the next 25-years according to the State Actuary . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 1, 2013

Time to add to the nearly two dozen supermajority requirements currently in the state constitution

While the vote on the proposed 2/3 for taxes constitutional amendment (SJR 8205) remains in question, should it be approved, the new supermajority requirement would be joining the nearly two dozen currently in the state constitution. The most recent supermajority requirement was added to the constitution by lawmakers and voters in 2007 with the passage of SJR 8206 (Budget Stabilization Account). That measure requires a 3/5 vote of lawmakers to access funds from the Budget Stabilization Account with few exceptions. Here are some of the other supermajority requirements already in the state constitution . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Next steps for the voter approved, but Court tossed 2/3 for taxes requirement

With today's long awaited ruling by the State Supreme Court striking down the five-time voter approved requirement first enacted in 1993 that tax increases receive a 2/3 vote of the legislature or voter approval, what happens next? That depends on our lawmakers . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The day legislative Democrats supported a 2/3 for taxes requirement

Based on the overwhelming support for I-1053 in 2010 and I-1185 in 2012 (both passing with 64%) it is safe to say that Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters across the state support the requirement for tax increases to receive a 2/3 vote or be sent to voters for approval. Despite I-1185 passing in 44 of the state's 49 legislative districts, however, that support does not appear to extend to Democrats in the Legislature (with a few exceptions). Judging from the vote on a bill in 2006, however, this was not always the case . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Legislative public notice for bill hearings starts to slip

Up to this week the Legislature had been doing a decent job of adhering to its rules that require a five-day public notice before a bill is heard in a hearing . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tax preference review bill introduced

A bipartisan bill to ensure tax preferences identify legislative intent and have performance metrics was introduced today by Senators Tom, Billig, Hill, Hobbs and Murray. Here is the intent section for SB 5843 . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Where's the love for jobs?

No matter where your turn the word from the White House to the Governor to our state lawmakers is jobs, jobs, jobs. Despite the professed love of entrepreneurs and growing our economy back to respectability, Washingtonians will be provided a glimpse this afternoon of five tax increase proposals that would cost jobs. I asked the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University to model the impact on jobs creation or destruction of the tax increase proposals being heard today in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Here are the results by bill on jobs (the numbers are the net difference between private sector jobs lost and public sector jobs gained) . . . READ MORE

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tax increase proposals scheduled for public hearing on Valentine's Day

The Senate Ways and Means Committee has scheduled public hearings for various tax increase bills on Valentine's Day next week (2/14). If all the bills were adopted, the projected 10-year tax increase would exceed $38 billion. That's a whole lot of love for taxpayers’ wallets but may not be the love letter Washingtonians were expecting in this tough economic climate. Here are the 10-year tax increase projections for the bills according to the Office of Financial Management . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Senate considers supermajority for taxes constitutional amendments

The Senate Government Operations Committee will hold a public hearing tomorrow (2/7) on three proposed constitutional amendments to cement the voters consistent support for requiring a supermajority vote to raise taxes. Voters in Washington have enacted or affirmed the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases five times during the past 20 years . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Budget transparency bills introduced

Two bills were introduced in the House today that would improve the transparency of the state's various budgets (operating, capital and transportation). HB 1721 proposed by Representatives Pike, Alexander, Wilcox, Harris, Crouse and Overstreet would create a 72-hour timeout before votes could occur on appropriation bills. According to the intent section of HB 1721 . . . READ MORE

Monday, February 4, 2013

What to do about the state’s B&O tax and various preferences

The Everett Herald ran our op-ed yesterday calling for a Single Business Tax to eventually replace the current Business and Occupation Tax (B&O). From the op-ed . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Senate Ways & Means holds work session on competitive contracting

The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a work session yesterday on the opportunities for competitive contracting. I was invited to participate on a panel along with a representative from the Washington Federation of State Employees. My presentation focused on the need to simplify the state's current competitive contracting process while utilizing performance-based contracts . . . READ MORE

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Emergency clause reform scheduled for public hearing

The Senate Committee on Governmental Operations will hold a public hearing on Monday (Jan 28) to take public comment on SJR 8206: Amending the Constitution to require emergency clauses only be allowed by amendment to a bill and approved by sixty percent of each house of the legislature.
According to the bill report for SJR 8206 the proposal would amend . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Legislative transparency constitutional amendment proposed in California

A constitutional amendment to increase legislative transparency has been proposed in California. According to the Los Angeles Times . . . READ MORE

Monday, January 21, 2013

Supermajority vote proposed for tax breaks; How about tax increases?

Fulfilling the annual rite of session, Sen. Chase today introduced a graduated income tax proposal (SB 5166) and companion constitutional amendment (SJR 8207). Of note from SJR 8207 is section 4 which would require a supermajority vote (3/5) or voter approval for creation of any tax break . . . READ MORE

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Within Hours of Becoming Governor, Inslee Says He May Break His No-Tax-Increase Pledge

In a press conference today, newly inaugurated Governor Jay Inslee began backing away from his tough-on-the-campaign-trail promise that he will not raise taxes. After a year of pledging that new taxes won’t be needed to fix Washington’s budget woes, Governor Inslee now appears prepared to break his campaign promise with his declaration that continuing tax increases that were supposed to be temporary and set to expire is not a tax increase . . . READ MORE

When will Supreme Court rule on 2/3 for taxes?

That's the billion dollar question. Another week has gone by without the State Supreme Court issuing its ruling on the state's 20 year old supermajority for taxes requirement. With each passing week the chances of a decision not coming during the 2013 Legislative Session increase. But will a ruling from the Court really change the options for lawmakers? Not really . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Governor Inslee: "We will provide efficiency, effectiveness and transparency"

Newly inaugurated Governor Jay Inslee delivered his first speech as Governor to a joint session of the Legislature today. His wide ranging speech touched on many issues. Among them was his goal "to bring disruptive change to Olympia." From Governor Inslee's speech . . . READ MORE

Monday, January 14, 2013

Coalition calls on lawmakers to adopt legislative transparency reforms

A coalition of good government, media and business groups have signed a letter encouraging state lawmakers to adopt the Washington Policy Center's proposed legislative transparency reforms. The letter was delivered to lawmakers today on the first day of the 2013 Legislative Session . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

U.S. Government Accountability Office tackles tax exemptions

The debate about tax exemptions and their effectiveness is sure to be raged during the 2013 Session.
Rep. Carlyle, Chair of the new House Finance Committee, wrote this insightful blog about what he hopes to accomplish . . . READ MORE

Friday, January 4, 2013

State Auditor recommends financial management reforms

After 20 years in office it is no surprise to see retiring State Auditor Brian Sonntag continue to fight for good government reforms up to his last day. Yesterday Sonntag released his final annual report highlighting the need for ongoing open government reforms as well as a performance audit recommending improvements to the way Washington State Ferries contracts for ferry construction. The State Auditor's Office is also working on a performance audit for release in 2013 that . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Columbian: Legislators must regain public confidence by emphasizing transparency

The Vancouver Columbian has re-issued its call for state lawmakers to adopt much needed legislative transparency reforms reflecting our recommendations. From the Columbian editorial . . . READ MORE