Friday, December 18, 2015

Remote testimony being used in a galaxy far, far away (and Olympia)

If anyone still doubts the importance of allowing remote testimony during the legislative session, let me offer Exhibit A from WSDOT's I-90 cam . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Congress wraps sales tax Christmas present for Washingtonians

We now know why U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is growing a beard - he is getting in the spirit of Santa Claus for Washington state taxpayers. Last night Ryan announced that Congress had come to a deal on major tax legislation. Included in the agreement is an issue long on Washington state taxpayers' Christmas list - making permanent the deduction for state sales taxes . . . READ MORE

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Supreme Court releases reason for allowing vote on I-1366

The State Supreme Court today released the legal reasoning behind its unanimous decision to allow the voters to consider I-1366. The voters approved I-1366 this month. On September 4, 2015, the Supreme Court issued a brief order unanimously allowing Initiative 1366 to appear on the 2015 general election ballot. Opponents had attempted to keep the proposal for voters claiming the policies proposed exceeded the scope of the initiative power . . . READ MORE

Saturday, November 7, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court rejected challenge to state tax restriction

With approval of I-1366, is Washington (once again) on the path to becoming the 18th state in the country with a supermajority for taxes restriction? Currently 17 states have some form of tax increase restriction. Among them is Colorado which has the strictest one requiring voter approval of all tax increases at the state and local level . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Are lawmakers ready to represent the people or will they continue to rule over them?

Based on the initial results for I-1366, voters want the opportunity to add to the 20 plus supermajority restrictions already in Washington's constitution. If the vote trend holds, I-1366 will represent the sixth time since 1993 voters will have approved the policy of a supermajority restriction for tax increases. The other times were in 1993, 1998, 2007, 2010, and 2012 . . . READ MORE

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Governor Inslee receives open government award

Earlier this month the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association awarded Governor Inslee with its Walter C. Woodward Freedom’s Light Award. This award recognizes commitment to open government and freedom of the press . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Transportation package (bonds) required supermajority vote

Despite receiving support from voters on five separate occasions, most recently passing statewide in every county, in 90% of legislative districts, and with 64% support in 2012, lawmakers have yet to provide voters the opportunity to place a supermajority vote restriction for taxes in the state constitution . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Will state Supreme Court open floodgates for income taxes?

How important are five votes out of seven million Washingtonians? The vote of just five state Supreme Court Justices could be the difference between Washington maintaining its competitive advantage of not imposing state income taxes and the eight decade old dam of legal precedent preventing these types of taxes being torn down . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Has the state Supreme Court ever reversed one of its opinions?

The state Supreme Court has granted a request to extend the deadline to October 23 for motions for reconsideration for its highly controversial 6-3 charter school ruling. The Attorney General, however, still plans to file his motion on September 24. The Attorney General said in a press release announcing his plans to request reconsideration . . . READ MORE

Monday, September 14, 2015

District elections would increase competition for Supreme Court races

After several recent controversial decisions by the state Supreme Court the Seattle Times this weekend took a closer look at the electoral competition, or rather lack thereof, for the Justices. According to the Times . . . READ MORE

Friday, September 11, 2015

What are the possible outcomes if Initiative 1366 is approved by voters?

Overshadowed by last week's shocking and controversial charter school decision by the Supreme Court is another important ruling by the court to allow the public to vote on Initiative 1366 ("Taxpayer Protection Act"). On September 4, 2015, the Supreme Court issued a brief order unanimously allowing Initiative 1366 to appear on the 2015 general election ballot . . . READ MORE

Thursday, August 27, 2015

State Supreme Court issues landmark public records ruling on text messages

In a 9-0 decision this morning the state Supreme Court ruled that the text messages of government employees that relate to official business, even on their private phone, are public records. From the ruling . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

State rejected WFSE request to pay employees for not crossing strike picket lines

Now that the 2015-17 state budget has been signed into law the public is able to request details from last summer's secret contract negotiations between state employee unions and Governor Inslee's office. I just received the first batch of public records (more to come in October) with some of these details. One of the interesting contract demands the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) made was to add this language to Article 49 concerning strikes (emphasis added) . . . READ MORE

Friday, August 21, 2015

Take 2: Is Initiative 1366 a constitutional amendment?

Last month we posed this question: Is Initiative 1366 a constitutional amendment? The answer to this question will determine whether voters will have the opportunity to pass their own judgement on the policies proposed by the ballot measure. A week ago King County Superior Court Judge Lum ruled that I-1366 is a constitutional amendment that exceeds the power of initiative but refrained from keeping the proposal off the ballot saying . . . READ MORE

Friday, August 14, 2015

Should Washington follow New Jersey's response to Court K-12 sanctions? Fuhgeddaboudit

Yesterday the State Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling took the unprecedented step of fining the state (i.e. taxpayers) for the Legislature's failure to adopt a detailed plan showing how lawmakers plan to meet certain K-12 funding goals by 2018. WPC agrees with the brief filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson that the contempt sanctions should have been vacated after the historic investments in K-12 by the Legislature this year. Unfortunately the Court disagreed . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rob McKenna issues reminder that teacher strikes are illegal

On the eve of a strike vote by teachers in the Pasco School District, former Attorney General Rob McKenna posted this reminder . . . READ MORE

Friday, August 7, 2015

Budget reforms needed to remove threat of government shutdown

During the last two biennia Washington has come dangerously close to a state government shutdown. The current 2015-17 budget was signed just 18 minutes before a shutdown (signed at 11:42 p.m. on June 30) while the 2013-15 budget was approved a few hours before the new budget cycle (signed at 4:20 p.m. on June 30, 2013). In both cases revenue was increasing substantially meaning these threats of government shutdowns were occurring with budgets growing significantly, not due to deficits . . . READ MORE

Monday, August 3, 2015

WPC joins amicus defending people's right to enact fiscal restraints on lawmakers

Washington Policy Center (WPC) is a strong defender of the people's right of initiative as well as their power to enact fiscal restraints on lawmakers to help promote sustainable budgeting. This is why we are happy to sign on to the amicus brief in the case of Kerr v. Hickenlooper currently before the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration at the direction of the U.S Supreme Court . . . READ MORE

Friday, July 31, 2015

Is Initiative 1366 a constitutional amendment?

Initiative 1366, the "Taxpayer Protection Act," has qualified for the November ballot. Here is the official ballot title and summary for I-1366 . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2015-17 tax debate: From "buck up" for $1.4 billion to $180 million adopted net revenue increase

Although Governor Inslee campaigned on the promise in 2012 to not propose new taxes, the 2015 session started and ended in perfect symmetry with him calling for tax increases. The size of those desired tax increases, however, changed significantly from December 2014 to when the 2015-17 budget was finally signed in July. Let's review how the tax debate unfolded . . . READ MORE

Monday, July 13, 2015

Evolution of 2015-17 budget proposals

After a record 176 days, the Legislature was finally able to adopt all the pieces necessary to put in place a balanced 2015-17 operating budget. The focus of this post is not to review the process used to enact the budget or policies funded in it but instead to provide a timeline of where the tax and spending debate began last December with Governor Inslee’s budget proposal to where it ended with adoption of the final 2015-17 budget . . . READ MORE

Monday, July 6, 2015

Could rule changes strengthen state's balance budget requirement?

You wouldn't know it from the fact that the days old 2015-17 budget has never been balanced and was signed into law with a $2 billion hole but Washington has one of the strongest statutory balanced budget requirements in the country. Per RCW 43.88.055 "The legislature must adopt a four-year balanced budget . . ." Now while the House did manage to pass a balanced budget, the Senate did not with most Senate Democrats refusing to vote for the suspension of I-1351 (unfunded class size reduction) as assumed by the 4yr outlook that was part of the budget deal . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

$2 billion hole blown in brand new 2015-17 budget

Around 11:30 p.m. last night (30 minutes before a government shutdown) Governor Inslee signed the state's 2015-17 budget. Though the new budget is only a few hours old, there is already a $2 billion cloud hanging over it. Although the House kept up its end of the budget deal by suspending the unfunded class size reduction initiative (I-1351), around 6 a.m. this morning the Senate Democrats failed to live up to the deal by refusing to vote for the suspension unless the Senate passed a different bill first . . . READ MORE

Legislature approves budget/transportation package; averts government shutdown but work still to be done for budget to balance

With just hours to spare before a partial state government shutdown, the legislature overwhelming adopted the state’s 2015-17 budget. By a vote of 38-10 in the Senate and 90-8 in the House, lawmakers approved a $38.2 billion biennial budget ($79 billion all funds). This represents a 13% increase in spending from the 2013-15 budget. It is also the largest state spending increase since the 18% increase adopted for the 2005-07 budget. Both of these large spending increases were facilitated by lawmakers suspending/changing the state’s spending limit . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Not Olympia's finest hour for government transparency

It is wonderful news the state won't be facing a government shutdown and that a major transportation investment package with good reforms is moving forward but the last week, the past 72 hrs in particular, have been very embarrassing for the cause of an open and transparent legislative process . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

3 states without budget using continuing resolution to avoid government shutdown

South Carolina, North Carolina and New Hampshire are in the same boat as Washington with a major budget fight threatening a government shutdown on July 1. Those three states, however, are using a continuing resolution to keep government open while budget negotiations continue . . . READ MORE

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Don't forget the full context for proposed capital gains taxes in Washington

I know I’ve already written about the proposed capital gains tax several times but I keep seeing the same phrasing used to discuss it without the context of what it would mean for the state in both legal and competitive purposes . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Acting State Auditor fights for dedicated performance audit funds

Both the most recent House and Senate budget proposals continue to raid the voter-approved dedicated I-900 performance audit funds for the State Auditor. The House budget transfers $6 million from the performance audit account for general spending. The Senate budget appropriates nearly $11 million of the dedicated funds to be spent by other agencies . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Notable budget dates

With the first special session winding down here are a few dates to pay attention to as lawmakers work to adopt the state's 2015-17 budget . . . READ MORE

Thursday, May 21, 2015

New collective bargaining reform bill introduced

Today a new bill has been introduced to help bring more transparency, accountability and fiscal discipline to the negotiating process used for future state employee contracts. SB 6126 (Addressing collective bargaining) is an omnibus bill that includes many of the reform provisions from prior bills heard earlier this year. The bill has been scheduled for a public hearing on May 26 at 1:30 p.m. in Ways & Means . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Will $415 million increase in forecasted revenue break budget logjam?

With not much progress to date on budget negotiations during the special session, yesterday's $415 million increase in forecasted revenue may just be what lawmakers need to wrap up their work. According to the state's Economic Revenue Forecast Council . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Collective bargaining reform receives attention in special session

Today marks day one of the "special" session and public hearings are already scheduled. Among the bills up for consideration today is SB 6098: Defining financial feasibility for collective bargaining agreements. According to the bill report . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is a capital gains tax an excise or income tax?

With discussions continuing of imposing the first in the nation capital gains tax for a state without an income tax, questions have been raised about whether this would be an excise tax or an income tax. This distinction is very important since an income tax exceeding 1% would be unconstitutional in Washington . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Statement from Brian Sonntag on importance of public trust in State Auditor

Brian Sonntag, former 20 year State Auditor and current Washington Policy Center Board member, issued this statement today on the importance of public trust in State Auditor . . . READ MORE

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Is 2002 state collective bargaining law constitutional?

On the eve of budget negotiations, Governor Inslee's budget office (Office of Financial Management) sent lawmakers a letter expressing concern with several provisions of their budgets. Among the concerns expressed . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Whether to raise taxes to fund state employee contracts sticking point in budget debate

Now that the House and Senate have approved their versions of the 2015-17 budget, legislative budget negotiators will be hard at work trying to come to an agreement before the end of session on April 26. While both budgets are fairly close on overall education and social service spending, the major difference is whether to raise taxes as proposed by the House to fund in-part the state employee contracts secretly negotiated behind closed doors last summer by Governor Inslee. The House would approve the contracts and pay for them with tax increase while the Senate rejects them and instead provides a capped amount of funding within available resources for the Governor and unions to renegotiate within . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Quick review of House and Senate budgets

The budget cards are now on the table. Now we'll see if House and Senate budget negotiators can find a winning hand to get out of Olympia with a budget agreement by April 26. We're still reviewing the details of the proposals but here are a couple of first impressions . . . READ MORE

Friday, March 27, 2015

Citizens to have unprecedented time to review House budget before public hearing

Today was going to be like just any other budget rollout day in Olympia. A short press conference highlighting a summary of a budget proposal running hundreds of pages long and spending billions of dollars (not to mention potential new tax increases being proposed). Then just a few hours later Washingtonians were to be expected to have read, digested, and traveled to Olympia to offer public testimony on the proposed spending plan for their tax dollars. This facade of budget transparency and public testimony would have allowed a box to be checked for involving the citizens and then permit the budget debate to move forward . . . READ MORE

Monday, March 23, 2015

80 plus years is long enough for a "temporary/emergency" tax

On March 13 the House Finance Committee held a public hearing on HB 2150: Reforming the business and occupation tax to provide fairness and administrative simplicity. This proposal is a variation of the Single Business Tax reform that Washington Policy Center first proposed in a 2010 study . . . READ MORE

Thursday, March 12, 2015

State employee contract negotiations to remain secret

This Sunday (March 15) is the beginning of National Sunshine Week. The motto for this national celebration of government transparency is "Open government is good government." Based on the untimely death of SB 5329 (Requiring public employee collective bargaining sessions to be open meetings) this week in the Senate, however, state employee contract negotiations will continue to be conducted under a total eclipse of secrecy with the public kept in the dark . . . READ  MORE

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Choose Washington" - No Capital Gains Taxes

To help market the state of Washington to potential businesses the Department of Commerce runs a website called "Choose Washington." Under the tab "Why Washington" you can select "Our Strengths." Under that tab you will find a page called "Pro-Business." Had you visited the "Pro-Business" page a few weeks ago, you would have seen this statement as to why Washington was a good place to locate your business . . . READ MORE

Will the Senate vote to enforce its rules?

On the first day of session the Senate, using the powers granted to it by Article 2, Section 9 of the state Constitution, adopted rules to govern its proceedings. Among the rules adopted was Rule 64 to require a supermajority vote to move a bill creating a new tax from second to third reading. Yesterday Lt. Governor Owen, who serves as President of the Senate, issued rulings in response to two point of orders raised concerning Rule 64. While the first ruling was debatable, the second was a shocking break from precedent . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Should volatile capital gains taxes be relied on to fund the state's "paramount duty"?

In our prior blog post we looked at the volatility of capital gains taxes and how California adopted a constitutional amendment to force more savings of its revenue from that source versus spending it to reduce the state's rollercoaster budgeting. As we noted, rather than dedicate any of the revenue from his proposed capital gains tax to protected savings, however, Governor Inslee’s plan takes the opposite approach by preventing the funds from going into state’s constitutionally protected reserve account created by voters . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Are capital gains taxes "secure and stable" or highly volatile?

When releasing his 2015-17 budget plan Governor Inslee said, “We have a very solid, fiscally sound, secure and stable way of financing everything I’ve talked about today." Among the new taxes he proposes to fulfill this statement is a 7% capital gains tax to generate an estimated $798 million. Based on the volatile history of capital gains taxes in other states, it may be wishful thinking to describe their impact as being a “very solid, fiscally sound, secure and stable way of financing” ongoing government spending . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

B&O tax reform bill would exempt nearly 286,000 small businesses from tax

A major B&O (Business & Occupation) tax reform proposal was introduced today by Rep. MacEwen. The proposal (HB 2150) is a variation of the Single Business Tax WPC first proposed in 2010. Under HB 2150 the dozens of current B&O tax classifications and numerous preferences would be replaced with three new rates with every business being provided one of three standard deductions to choose from to determine their taxable margin . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Title only bill would provide every Washingtonian one free drink a week (satire)

While traveling to Olympia to testify on a bill on a holiday may not be a high priority for most Washingtonians, you may want to make an exception for next Monday. The title only bill, HB 2082 (Relating to commerce in liquor) is scheduled for a public hearing and executive action that day. Based on my best interpretation of that blank piece of legislation, it would provide every Washingtonian one free drink a week paid for by the per diem of lawmakers. Who could object to that . . . READ MORE

Monday, February 9, 2015

Senate bill would codify U.S. Supreme Court union ruling

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee held a public hearing today on SB 5671: Addressing the payment of union dues by partial public employees. The bill would fully implement the ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court last June in its Harris v. Quinn decision. According to the Court, individuals called public employees "solely for the purposes of collective bargaining" are not subject to the 1977 Abood decision, which allows public sector unions to collect mandatory agency fees from workers as a condition of employment . . . READ MORE

Friday, February 6, 2015

Should fiscal impact of initiatives be described in ballot title?

Last November voters narrowly approved I-1351 to reduce class sizes. Although the policies proposed by I-1351 are estimated to cost $4.7 billion over the next few years, the ballot measure included no funding source to implement the policy. This means that lawmakers are now looking to suspend or refer I-1351 back to the ballot as they attempt to balance the 2015-17 budget. The slim approval of this budget-busting unfunded mandate has also lead to a robust conversation in the Legislature about potential changes to the state's initiative process . . . READ MORE

Thursday, January 29, 2015

District elections for Supreme Court gets public hearing

This morning the Senate Law & Justice Committee held a public hearing on SJR 8205: Amending the state Constitution so that justices of the supreme court are elected by qualified electors of a supreme court judicial district. The hearing provided an opportunity for Senators to ask questions of the Supreme Court as Justice Debra Stephens offered her thoughts on the proposal. I also had the opportunity to testify remotely via the phone. Here is my testimony . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Senate adopts remote testimony rules - work session from Tri-Cities February 4

The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee has officially adopted rules for the use of remote testimony during the 2015 Legislative Session. As adopted by the F&O Committee . . . READ MORE

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Does the initiative process need fixing?

Washington's constitution doesn't waste any time laying down the law when it comes to who is in charge . . . READ MORE

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Secretary Wyman and Sen. Habib propose new video testimony option for Washingtonians

Testifying before the Legislature, meet the 21st Century. Along with the exciting news we shared yesterday concerning the recent developments for live remote testimony, comes this new bill (SB 5267: Ordering development of processes to allow prerecorded video testimony and written testimony on pending legislation) requested by Secretary of State Kim Wyman and introduced by Sen. Cyrus Habib. According to the bill . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Remote testimony option progressing in Spokane and Tri-Cities

You know it's getting real when a job posting for a Senate Remote Testimony Clerk in Spokane goes out and the President of Columbia Basin College in the Tri-Cities volunteers the school to be a remote testimony location. As reported by KNDU Tri-Cities last night . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Revenue forecast reform proposed

During a budget writing session there are three key dates to keep in mind: The March revenue forecast, June 1, and July 1. It is after the March revenue forecast that budget discussion kick into high gear. June 1 is the date in law by which the budget for the next biennium is supposed to be enacted and July 1 is the beginning of the fiscal year for a new biennium (meaning no budget could mean a government shutdown) . . . READ MORE

Monday, January 12, 2015

Senate considers tax rule change

The 2015 Legislative Session is set up to be on the most historic gatherings of lawmakers in Washington since the founding of the state. Not to disappoint, on the first day a potential fight over Senate rules may unfold. According to a press release . . . READ MORE