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Spin Control

Archive for April 24, 2013

Eyman, Fagans try new route to 2/3 tax votes

 

Mike Fagan, Tim Eyman and Jack Fagan, left to right,  to file an electronic copy of their new initiative at the Secretary of State's office Wednesday. After several attempts, they wound up submitting a paper copy and paying the $5 filing fee.

OLYMPIA – Unable to ask voters again to approve an initiative requiring supermajority approval of tax increases, a trio of self-described tax fighters will try to prod the Legislature into putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Perennial initiative sponsors Tim Eyman of Mukilteo and Mike Fagan and Jack Fagan of Spokane filed an initiative Wednesday that would require a public vote on any tax increase, a one-year limit on any new tax, and an advisory vote on whether voters should get to vote on a constitutional amendment that requires the Legislature pass any tax increase with a two-thirds majority.

The initiative comes with an “escape clause” which says if the Legislature puts that constitutional amendment up to a public vote, other provisions go away. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

House passes tax bill

OLYMPIA — Democrats in the House pushed through a $900 million package of tax changes they say is designed to improve public schools, but Republicans insisted were job-killers.

On a 50-47 vote, it passed and sent to the Senate a bill that repeals or narrows nine tax preferences and extends a business tax increase on some professional services. The Senate has already passed a general operating budget with no new taxes, so this sets the stage for full-blown budget negotiations over the next four days, and possibly longer.

The 105-day legislative session ends Sunday. If a budget compromise is not reached and passed in both houses by then, a special session will be needed.

Under orders from the state Supreme Court to improve the public schools, House Democrats said they should expand education programs in part by closing or shrinking some tax preferences, credits or exemptions.

“I don't like the business and occupation tax, but what I like even less is is an uneducated work force,” Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, said.

But the state expects to collect some $2 billion more in revenue from existing taxes in 2013-15 than it did over the last two years, Republicans said. It doesn't need new taxes to spend more on schools. But some businesses that rely on those tax breaks are existing on thin margins and may close. 

“The best thing we can do for children who are at risk… is make sure their parents have jobs that support them,” Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, said.

The money raised by the changes in tax exemptions and an extension of what was instituted in 2010 as a temporary tax would go into a trust fund for education programs. The Legislature should have the courage to vote yes for the state's children, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said.

“We could have solved this entire thing if we had funded education first… or if we live within our means,” Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley said.

House takes up tax bill

OLYMPIA — The House is debating a package of tax changes that would raise about $900 million over the next two years by closing or reducing some tax exemptions, credits and preferences.

There are only a few amendments. The first, by Democrats, to give non-residents a change to file for a refund of the sales taxes they pay when shopping in Washington, passed on a voice vote.

The second, by Republicans, to place any taxes on the November ballot through a referendum and remove the emergency clause failed on a 46-51 vote.

The third, also by Republicans, would just remove the emergency clause so that the taxes wouldn't kick in on July 1, when the new budget starts, but 90 days after the session ends (whenever that might be).  It failed 47-50.

GOP: We could still finish on time. Maybe.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature might still finish on time Sunday, even though the House and Senate have two very different budget proposals and disagreements on some key policy issues, Republican leaders of the Legislature and the Democrat who heads up the Senate's majority coalition said today.

“Logjams can be broken,” Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said. “We've seen it before. We could see it again.”

“This place is amazing in the miracles that can transpire,” Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said.

Speaking less than two hours after Gov. Jay Inslee said a special session will likely be needed to reach agreement on several budgets and other policy measures, Tom, who leads the mostly Republican Majority Coalition, and GOP members of the House and Senate, said they believed it might not be necessary.  

The dynamite needed to break the logjam, however, would seem to be House Democrats agreeing to a budget with no new taxes, similar to the one the Senate passed two weeks ago. The House is scheduled to vote this afternoon on a tax package that would generate an extra $900 million over the next two years by eliminating or reducing certain tax exemptions, credits and preferences.

Until that tax package passes, negotiations are difficult because the two sides don't have firm budgets in place for starting points, Sen. Andy Hill, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said.

Tom and legislative Republican leaders made clear that if a special session is needed, they will put the lion's share of the blame on Inslee for not doing enough to help negotiate a settlement.

“He's not as active as his predecessor,” Schoesler said, a reference to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who often would mediate discussions and keep legislators in a room until they'd reach a compromise.

Inslee said earlier in the morning he and his staff have had regular meetings with legislative leadership and individual legislators to try to reach compromises, but he can't impose a solution on the different sides.

“I was elected governor, not dictator,” he said. “I think people are acting in good faith.”

Inslee: Odds favor special session

Gov. Inslee explains why he thinks Legislature will need more time.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee all but conceded the Legislature will need a special session to finish work on budgets and key issues like education.

“I think we'd have to draw to an inside straight to get this done by Sunday night,” Inslee said at a morning press conference called to discuss the current session, which is in the 101st day of a 105-day session.

Legislators should continue to “do everything humanly possible” through Sunday and try to finish as much work as possible, the governor said. But the list of tasks is long, and includes agreements on the state's general operating budget, its basic transportation budget and a possible tax increase for new road projects and more maintenance, a capital projects budget and at least a start on major improvements to the state's public schools to meet a state Supreme Court mandate.

“This is not just a budgetary exercise, there are policy issues also,” he said. He has several items on his list of policies, including the Reproductive Parity Act, the Washington Dream Act, and legislation on gun violence that would include universal background checks for gun sales.

None of those three are in a position where they could pass by Sunday without some extraordinary parliamentary maneuver.

He'd also like more support for education programs that boost science, technology, engineering and math, additional support for early learning and giving schools a letter grade evaluation.

 But he seemed to acknowledge that not everything on his wish list, or any legislator's list will be accomplished, even with a special session: “We're not going to be able to solve all of Washington's problems this session.”

By law, the regular session in an odd-numbered year — which is the year after a state general election — is 105 days long. If the governor calls a special session, it can go for up to 30 days. Legislators can end it sooner if they accomplish everything they believe they need to accomplish.

Inslee said he'd talk to legislative leaders about the topics for a special session, but wouldn't try to limit issues they might discuss. “I can't eliminate people's ideas from the mix.”

WA Lege Day 101: A day of debates and votes?

OLYMPIA — With the session days in triple digits, the Legislature is expected to spend most of the day — and perhaps part of the night — in debates and votes.

The 105th and final day of the regular session will be Sunday, and leaders are not yet saying they will need a special session to complete work. Individual members, however, have been suggesting there's no way they'll be done.

Sen. David Frockt, in discussing a school funding proposal recently, described it as “… at the end of the session — in August or whenever.”

Some members have even been asking reporters when they thought the session would end. Spin Control's answer: We always bet the over, never the under, on such things.

Gov. Jay Inslee was reluctant yesterday to admit the Legislature would need extra innings, although he did allow as how “there's a lot of work to be done.” But when asked about some of his priority bills, such as the Reproductive Parity Act and the Washington Dream Act, which appear dead, he turned philosphically Zen:

“In my view, they have an infinite number of days to do their work,” he said.

Talk about betting the over…

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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