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Eye On Olympia

One Two Washingtons…

For a dead bill, Sen. Eric Oemig’s SB 6291 apparently touched a nerve.

The bill, a tongue-in-cheek poke at conservative rhetoric, would have withheld state utility project money from rural communities unless local voters acknowledge that the money is “government welfare.”

The Kirkland Democrat said he wanted to highlight the fact that places like central Puget Sound — particularly in regards to real estate tax, which pays for the utility work his bill covers — subsidize other parts of those state. He maintains that the locals would be more accepting of local tax measures if they knew the kind of help they were really getting.

“I think in the case where we’re ever doing any kind of subsidies or welfare, the best thing we can do is show people a path to self-reliance,” he told lawmakers at the bill’s one hearing before it died.

But several Eastern Washington lawmakers aren’t amused.

Rep. Lynn Schindler, R-Otis Orchards, called the bill “mean-spirited and divisive” and said that Spokane residents have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars more in transportation projects over the past 16 years than they’ve gotten back. The vast majority of that money, she said, was spent in King County.

Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, blasted the bill as an “insult” to much of the state. Maybe Eastern Washington’s wines, crops and electricity should be considered “welfare” for Puget Sound, he said.

“Eastern Washington families have a lot of kitchen-table issues to grapple with, such as paying their growing property tax bills and putting food on the table,” Kretz said in a press release today. “…My constituents want to know we’re working to ensure their safety and security, not berating them and calling them `welfare recipients.’”

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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