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