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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Ways and Means Committee

Hill: Lobbyists get “a hall pass”

OLYMPIA — Faced with 16 bills up for a hearing and 27 that need a vote in executive committee, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Andy Hill suggested lobbyist stay seated, and quiet.

“You can tell your employers I said you couldn't testify,” Hill said at the start of this afternoon's hearing. “I'm giving you a  hall pass.” 

Anyone who testifies was only getting a minute to talk, anyway, he said. And it was a fiscal hearing, not a policy hearing, so they need to stick to money issues, he said.

Anything that doesn't get out of committee today is pretty much done for the year.

The list of bills is inside the blog.

Hargrove: Coalition isn’t sharing power

Sen. Jim Hargrove shows charts that indicate where state government has reduced spending on some social programs.

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats don't know yet whether they will accept an offer to lead six legislative committees in the coming session, Sen. Jim Hargrove said today.

The Hoquiam Democrat, who is the chamber's longest serving legislator, said they'll  meet next week to discuss their options. But Hargrove said the coalition of 23 Republican and two Democrats who formed a coalition majority with a plan to run the Senate is not really offering to share power by letting Democrats run six committees and be co-chairmen of three others.

“It's not a power-sharing offer. It's a structural offer,” Hargrove said.

Whether it results in more bipartisan cooperation isn't clear, he added. “Our expectation was that everything was going to have to be bipartisan.”

Part of that strategy for Democrats was appointing Hargrove, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate to be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which is arguably the most powerful committee becaue it handles the budget. But that was last month, when it looked as though they had a 26-23 majority. After Democrats Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Tim Sheldon of Potlach decided to form a new majority with the 23 Republicans, that group named Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, to head that committee.

Democrats will meet next week to discuss possible reassignments.

“That's all up for discussion, but as of this point I think I'm the minority leader (of Ways and Means)” Hargrove said.

Regardless of who is in charge of the committee, it was almost certain to write a budget without a tax increase while looking for options to cut government spending, he said: “It's pretty clear that the public is not interested in any more taxes.” 

WA Lege Day 94: Senate budget hearings

OLYMPIA — The Senate will hold a hearing in its Ways and Means Committee this afternoon for the general operating budget released Tuesday evening.

The budget is 462 pages long, but folks who stayed up all night to peruse it should be well versed in it by the time the panel starts at 2:30 p.m. There is a bit of a hurry, after all, because there are only 11 days left in the 105-day session…one of which is Easter Sunday. (Another is April 22, Good Friday and April 19, the start of Passover , but what are we, a calendar company?)

House Ways and Means Committee also has a hearing, starting at 3:30 p.m., on several bills needed to implement its budget, which passed Saturday. Among them is the consolidation of many arts and heritage programs into a single state agency which would have control of — and money for — the Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane. The Senate budget doesn't call for that consolidation, but one never knows which spending plan will hold sway on the varioius points of difference.

In the meantime, both chambers have work to do on “concurrences” — bills that both houses have passed in some form or another, but now have to be reconciled into a form acceptable to both.

And if anyone asks “Where's the beef?” today, there could be multiple answers. Budget writers are likely to point to their spending plans. But the more literal answer would be on the west campus, where the Washington Cattleman's Association is serving up lunch in its annual barbecue.

And no, those aren't the Blues Brothers in the picture above. Democratic Sens. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver and Steven Hobbs of Lake Stevens donned shades during floor debate Tuesday on changing laws for embalmers.

Don't ask.

WA Lege Day 54: Tax package out of committee

OLYMPIA – Despite warnings of wrath from voters in November, Senate Democrats moved a step closer to a vote on some $890 million in tax increases to fix the state’s budget hole.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved 12-10 a three-year increase in the sales tax and a series of changes to tax laws and loopholes designed to help fix a projected operating budget shortfall of $2.8 billion. They also are proposing cutting about $829 million in programs and using federal funds or transferring money out of other accounts to cover the rest.

The 21-part tax package would extend the sales tax to bottled water, cut exemptions for some equipment on wind and solar energy, raise the business and occupation tax on service businesses and raise taxes on out-of-state firms with representatives who sell directly to Washington customers.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said the full Senate could debate the tax plan as early as today.

It does not include a recent proposal to ask voters in November if they want to cut back on the sales tax in favor of an income tax on people who make more than $200,000 a year. That could come up in a separate bill before the Legislature adjourns Thursday – if it can gather enough support, Brown said.

“There’s time (to pass the income tax bill) but there has to be willingness in both houses. On that, I’m not sure,” she said.

For almost every part of the 21-point tax package, Republicans offered amendments to strip or pare back a new tax or restore an exemption, then had separate amendments to put each tax change on the November ballot for an advisory vote.

“I think it is important to let people know who is doing what to whom,” Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, said in asking for an advisory vote on changes to rules that establish when an out-of-state company is subject to Washington taxes.

At one point, the arguments became so repetitive that Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, merely said “Same speech, Madame Chair.” Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, ordered a vote, which got the same result, and the amendment failed.

WA Lege Day 54: Tax hearing recesses

OLYMPIA — Between Democratic confusion over how to treat tax exemptions for a coal fired power plant in Lewis County, and Republican amendments that demanded public advisory votes on practically every tax Democrats want to change, a Senate committee had to recess Friday afternoon without voting on the main tax package.

The Ways and Means Committee members had to return to the floor to vote on other items. Chairwoman Margarita Prentice said they’ll be back a half hour after floor action, which probably won’t be until this evening because of the rush to pass bills out of chamber before a deadline.

Stay tuned.

WA Lege Day 47: House budget moves without tax numbers

OLYMPIA — The House committee that oversees spending passed a Democratic plan to fix the $2.8 billion gap in the state budget Friday. But that bill had a gap of its own.

It calls for some $857 million in new tax revenue, but doesn’t specify where it comes from.

“We are the Ways and Means Committee, and this budget is going to require some new taxes,” Ranking Republican Gary Alexander of Olympia said. The ways to spend money are spelled out, but the means are not, he said.

Democrats acknowledged it was unusual to pass a budget without taxes in it, but that information will be added eventually.

“This is not the budget we’re going to vote on before March 11 — God willing,” Chairwoman Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, said.

Budget writers are still trying to craft a package of tax increases that can get the needed support within their caucus.

“We don’t have a revenue package completed yet. I’m disappointed in that, too,” Vice Chairman Mark Ericks, D-Bothell said.But if the taxes were spelled out, he doubted  Republicans would have voted for it, anyway.

The House budget proposal moved out of committee on a 12-10, party-line vote.

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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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