Spin Control

WA Lege SpecSess: Enhanced 911 tax hike passes

OLYMPIA -- Washington residents are likely to pay an extra 25 cents a month next year for every phone line they have, whether it’s a land line, a cell phone or an internet connected system.

The House of Representatives passed an increase Friday in phone taxes to pay for enhanced 911 equipment for the state and local agencies, following action taken Thursday by the Senate.
Enhanced 911 allows a dispatcher to see the caller’s number and location when a call comes in. The state already allows local systems to charge a 50 cent fee for every land line and cell phone to help pay for the enhanced system, and the state charges 20 cents. The proposal raises local fees to 70 cents, and the state fee to 25 cents.

House Republicans denounced the bill as another tax, even if it was for a good cause.

“Here we go again,” Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama said. “At some point you get to the point that breaks the camel’s back. This bill may not be the actual straw, but at what point do you get to it? It is a hardship on people who are struggling.”

Democrats countered that it was really a user fee, going up a quarter a month or $3 a year, to help with an explosion in technology, particularly in cell phones and computer based Voice Over Internet Protocol systems which currently do not pay the tax. Identifying and locating cell phones requires new equipment.

“It’s about technology neutrality,” Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, said. “The 911 system has to work for the wireless phone as well as the landline.”

The bill now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire. If she signs it, the taxes go into effect Jan. 1.

To see how Spokane area legislators voted, go inside the blog.

Senate Bill 6846, which raises the excise tax on a phone line by 25 cents a month to help pay for enhanced 911 systems, passed the Senate 29-12 Thursday and the House 56-34 Friday. Here’s how Spokane-area legislators voted.
Senate
Yes: Lisa Brown, D
No: Chris Marr, D, and Mark Schoesler, R
Bob Morton and Bob McCaslin,  both R, were excused.
House
Yes: Timm Ormsby, D
No: Larry Crouse, Susan Fagan, Joel Kretz, Kevin Parker, Joe Schmick, Matt Shea, all R; John Driscoll, D.
Shelly Short, R, and Alex Wood, D, were excused




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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