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Spin Control: Another dime for a gallon of gas? We’re unimpressed

Sun., Feb. 15, 2009

Driving past the corner gasoline station each day, watching prices ratchet up a dime at a time, it seems that it may be a curse to have a long memory.

Not as in “I remember when a gallon of gas was a quarter,” although I do. More in terms of “I remember when a 10-cent increase in gasoline was a big deal.”

Twice in the past decade, state voters have been asked to raise gas taxes by about 9 cents a gallon. Opponents spent quite a bit of time discussing how much the tax increases would hurt consumers, redirecting bazillions that they might choose to spend elsewhere in the state’s economy to those wastrels in state government.

It was a great campaign line that worked in 2002, but not in 2005. After last summer’s run-up to $4 a gallon, the average consumer might be forgiven if the dime-a-week jump doesn’t create sticker shock yet.

But where is the hand-wringing from those defenders of the consumer and the economy? True, the money isn’t going to the perfidious state bureaucracy. It’s going to organizations that no doubt know how to use it properly: the big oil companies.

That, and other random thoughts, rolled around in my head while filling up my tank.

Random thought No. 2

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation shook loose a copy of the things Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget cutters originally discussed last year when the budget crisis was closing in on Washington state like a cruise missile. The foundation’s leaders deserve a pat on the back for insisting that the document was not exempt from disclosure under the state’s public records law, compelling the state to hand over the document even though it disagrees in principle.

The document shows the state kicked around more than just the massive commission-ectomy Gregoire announced earlier this month. There are some perennials, such as privatizing liquor sales and contracting out some other services.

Someone also suggested combining the three Growth Management Hearing Boards. The state now has one board to handle growth issues in the Puget Sound region, one for the rest of Western Washington, and one for Eastern Washington, and, not surprisingly, each board’s commissioners come from those geographic areas.

Think some folks in Eastern Washington got upset about the idea of combining their Historical Society with the one in Western Washington? Guess what developers from Eastern Washington would say about taking growth issues in front of a board of Seattleites? Or what a Seattle neighborhood might think about appealing to a board made up of Dry Siders?

Perhaps the governor figured she has enough headaches already.

Random thought No. 3

Speaking of historical societies, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, basically said last week that there’s no freaking way a bill to combine the two is going to make it through that chamber. So any possible merger is dead.

No one is making a similar promise about the budget cuts of about $500,000 over two years. So did Coach Gregoire call a play with a move to the basket and a quick pass out to the perimeter for a three? Or am I just watching too much basketball?

Random thought No. 4

Monday is Presidents Day, but it’s a sure bet the president won’t be taking the day off. A co-equal branch of government, the Congress, will. In fact, it will take the whole week off. And not just as a reward or punishment for passing the stimulus package – they do the same thing practically every year.

Of course, most members of Congress won’t say they are taking it off. Rather, they are going back to their states and districts to listen to the people. But getting away from Washington, D.C., these days has to be a vacation. So why is this not Congress Week instead of Presidents Day?

For the rest of us, Monday is a second-tier holiday. Some places, such as schools and banks, are closed; others, like stores and newspaper offices, are open.

But even those who don’t get a day off get something Monday, courtesy of the city of Spokane. City Hall is open, garbage is being picked up, but …

The parking meters don’t have to be plugged.

So if you go downtown, thank your favorite president for leaving some extra coins in your pocket or purse, maybe to pay for that gasoline. It’s change we can all believe in.

Spin Control is a weekly political column written by Jim Camden, who can be reached at (509) 459-5461 or Spin Control is also a blog at

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