January 6, 1995 in City

Gop Pulls Plug On Democrat Health Bill Washington House Republicans Also Promise Cuts In Taxes And Spending

Lynda V. Mapes Staff writer

House Republicans unveiled a legislative agenda Thursday that would reverse much of what Democrats have pushed through in the last two years, including the landmark health care reform bill.

The GOP will introduce bills Monday to rewrite the health care bill from top to bottom, roll back business and property taxes and limit welfare recipients to two years on the dole.

The bills are intended to implement the GOP’s “Contract with Washington” state.

Democrats blanched at some of the proposals but generally remained upbeat, promising a productive and cooperative legislative session.

But some of the GOP’s proposals leave little room for compromise, particularly health care reform.

The GOP wants to eliminate the employer mandate, kill the Health Services Commission outright, can the uniform benefits package, remove the cap on insurance rates and undo the requirement that health insurance be provided through managed care plans.

Humor was the only recourse for some of health care reform’s true believers. “It was a nice idea,” said Leslie Thorpe, spokeswoman for the Health Services Commission.

In contrast, GOP lawmakers’ enthusiasm could have lighted a room. They burst into cheers at the end of a press conference announcing their legislative program. And House Speaker-designee Clyde Ballard, R-Wenat-chee, spoke with delight about watching his GOP role models in the U.S. House of Representatives work late into the night to launch their own “Contract With America.”

“People are fed up with a government that has grown out of control, overstepped its bounds, usurped power and in too many instances become an enemy to the citizens of Washington,” Ballard said. “We believe they are right, and we are committed to taking strong action to change the way government operates.”

Republicans also promised to roll back the state portion of the property tax on both residential and commercial property by 5 percent. That would cost the state treasury $92.7 million and save the average homeowner $19 a year on a $100,000 house.

Ballard called the savings symbolic but “a step, finally, in the right direction.”

House Republicans also committed to a $180 million rollback of business and occupation tax increases enacted in 1993. The rollback would drop the tax on professional services provided by lawyers, accountants and engineers from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent of gross receipts, at a cost to the state of about $48 million.

The B&O; tax on all other business services would drop from 2.09 percent to 1.83 percent, at a cost of $95 million. The tax on financial and insurance services would be cut from 1.7 percent to 1.6 percent at a cost of $48 million.

Rep. Brian Thomas, R-Renton, new chairman of the House Finance Committee, said tax cuts would be paid for entirely with cuts in spending.

“We are the party of smaller government. When government spends less, you can tax less,” Thomas said.

The state expects a $450 million surplus this biennium, but Thomas said none of that should be spent for tax cuts because it’s a one-time surplus while the cost of tax cuts would be ongoing. Instead, the surplus should be used on a one-time expenditure, Thomas said, such as retiring state debt or boosting the school construction fund.

House Republicans also committed themselves to passing the Hard Time for Armed Crime initiative, which would increase sentences for crimes committed with guns. They also promised to pass Initiative 164, a property-rights proposal that requires government to compensate property owners when regulations erode their property rights.

And they promised to cut red tape with regulatory reform and spend more school dollars at the local level and in the classroom instead of on state administration.

Even some GOP favorites from last year may come back from the dead: Rep. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, new chairman of the House Law and Justice Committee, vowed to revive an anti-pornography bill passed last session. It was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Mike Lowry, who called it a censorship bill.

“I am hopeful we will have a veto-override,” Padden said. “I’m strongly committed to it.”

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