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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Office of Financial Management

Fiscal note on I-1185 stands, judge rules

OLYMPIA — The fiscal note on the latest initiative requiring a supermajority in the Legislature for tax increases will remain in the voters pamphlet, even though it is different from a nearly identical initiative that passed in 2010, a judge ruled today.

That might not have much effect in the upcoming election, but could be a point of contention in next year's Legislature if Initative 1185 passes, sponsor Tim Eyman said

The fiscal note prepared by the Office of Financial Management for Initiative 1185 — requiring a two-thirds legislative approval of any tax increase and a legislative vote on fee increases — says passage may cost the state between $22 million and $33 million in lost toll revenues in 2017 and some other costs in other agency fees.

Eyman challenged that assessment, arguing that I-1185 merely continues the initiative voters passed in 2010, so it doesn't change anything. Calling the fiscal note a “gross injustice” stemming from “a complete lack of accountability,” Eyman, who is not an attorney, represented the initiative's sponsors in a hearing on a request to have the fiscal note removed or altered.

I-1185 has the same ballot title as I-1053, he told Thurston County Superior Court James Dixon. It should have the same fiscal note, which in 2010 said I-1053 had no direct fiscal impact.

But since 2010, a pair of attorney general's opinions that looked at I-1053 concluded that the new law could require addiltional authorization by the Legislature for certain fees,  Steve Dietrich, a deputy attorney general said. OFM had to take those opinions into account when it made its assumptions about the effect of continuing the law.

“This isn't the same situation they faced when they wrote (the fiscal note for) 1053,” Dietrich said.

The Legislature might have to authorize new fees, but that doesn't cost anything, Eyman countered. At the very least, the voters pamphlet should contain a line that says the fiscal note is disputed by sponsors, he said.

Eyman's arguments were “largely political” not legal, Dietrich said. State law allows for someone to challenge the wording of an initiative's ballot title, but doesn't  provide a mechanism for challenging the fiscal note for an initiative, he added.

“You simply don't have the power to order OFM to rewrite in the way he would like,” said Dietrich told the judge.

Dixon agreed the order Eyman was seeking, a writ of mandamus, didn't apply to the case. If it had refused to write any fiscal note, that option might be available, but OFM has the discretion on how it prepares a fiscal note, he said. If it came up with conclusions that were “arbitrary and capricious”, the court might also be able to step in.

“It is not arbitrary and capricious to review a law and come up with new conclusions,” Dixon said.

After the hearing, Eyman said he didn't know how much effect the fiscal note will have on voters, and many probably won't study it. “I think voters have seen this issue before, so they're pretty well-educated on it.”

But politicians do pay attention to things like the fiscal note, and Eyman and other initiative supporters will raise the part of the analysis that talks about the Legislature needing to approve at any opportunity during the next session.

The campaign has no plans to spend money on ads to rebut the fiscal note, he said. But the court challenge was important for creating a record of the sponsors' objections, if questions about the fiscal impact come up in debates or interviews.

Spokane stays ahead of Tacoma in population

OLYMPIA — The honor of the Avis of Washington population goes once again to Spokane.

The state Office of Financial Management released its annual population estimates today, which show overall population is up slightly, pretty much all around the state.

Seattle, of course, is the largest city. Spokane is No. 2, with an estimated 210,000. Tacoma is third at 199,600. For more numbers, check out this story on the main webpage.

The race to place sometimes sets off a competition between some newspaper columnists in the two cities. Spin Control has not engaged in denigrating Tacoma in the past, and will refrain from doing so now. But we can't speak for some of our ink-stained brethren.

More booze outlets, but ‘not the Wild West’

OLYMPIA — Washington would go from having the second fewest liquor stores per capita to the fifth fewest if voters approver a ballot measure this fall, a new study concludes.

Initiative 1183 would likely result in a four-fold increase in the  number of retail liquor stores, the Office of Financial Management has said, and an increase of about 5 percent in total liquor sales. That would mean there'd be about one liquor store for every 4,709 persons, rather than one store for every 20,502 persons as it is now, the Washington Policy Center study concludes. That would be fewer stores per capita than any other western state.

“The bottom line is that the number of retail liquor stores would increase in Washington under I-1183 but this would not result in the state becoming the wild, wild west of liquor retail stores or sales,” the center's Jason Mercier writes.

I-1183 is this year's attempt to end the state's monopoly control of distribution, wholesale and retail liquor operations. It is backed by Costco, Trader Joe's and Safeway, Inc. Unlike I-1100, which voters rejected last year, I-1183 sets minimum size requirements for retail liquor stores that in many communities would confine sales to supermarkets, discount stores and other larger retail outlets and exclude mini-marts.

Washington is currently second only to Utah among 11 western states in terms of liquor stores per capita. Idaho, which also has state controled liquor stores, is fifth. It has 163 stores, but spread over its population that's one store for every 9,600 Idahoans.

OFM estimates the number of liquor stores in Washington would jump from the current level of 328 to 1,428 if I-1183 passes.. Sales would also go up slightly, based on the experience of Alberta, Canada, when that province ended its monopoly.

But Washington would have fewer stores per capita than Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado or Hawaii — other western states that don't have state-run liquor stores, the policy center concludes.

Figure out cuts of 5% and 10%, agencies told

OLYMPIA – State agencies will prepare plans to cut their budgets by as much as 10 percent as Washington braces for the prospect that the next state economic forecast could be worse than the last one.
Orders were sent Monday to agencies that rely on the state’s general fund to identify what they would cut if their budget was reduced by 5 percent, and what they would cut if it was dropped another 5 percent beyond that.
Marty Brown, director of the Office of Financial Management, said the instructions are indirectly related to the ongoing federal debate over raising the debt ceiling. But the fact they came on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 600 points was a coincidence, he added.
“I wish we were that well-prepared,” Brown said when asked about a link to the stock market plunge…
  

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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.

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