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More on the porn tax…

From an interview last night with Rep. Mark Miloscia, who’s proposed tacking on an extra 18.5 percent sales tax onto adult videos, cable shows, etc.

“Somebody brought this to me and I said `Wow. Well, why not?’” said Miloscia, D-Federal Way.

His bill is actually a nearly-verbatim copy of a 2004 proposal from Sen. Val Stevens: SB 6741. That bill never even got a hearing.

Unlike a lot of business taxes, Miloscia said he’s not worried about hurting the business climate for porn.

“My constituent, while they care about Microsoft or Boeing, I don’t think the adult entertainment industry is an industry that my constituents would worry about going out of state,” he said. He also said that in a decade in the statehouse, this is the first tax bill he’s ever prime-sponsored.

He gives his own bill “low odds” of passing.

“Tax increases tend to be the issue that people do not support,” he said. To improve its odds, he’s willing to have a statewide vote on the proposal. He said he’s confident that voters would approve.

But even if it passed, one big loophole would remain: Internet pornography.

“The Internet is really tough to tax,” said Miloscia. “The Internet is wild west.”

He spent much of Tuesday fielding calls from reporters about the proposal.

“I didn’t think it was going to get as much attention as it has,” he said.

Brown, Chopp say they’ll fight for GA-U funding…

From the print paper this morning:

A few years ago, a homeless woman named Lee Ann Winters was nearly run over by a car while walking across a downtown Spokane intersection. She yelled at the driver, saying she was in a crosswalk and had a green light.

“What does it matter?” she recalls the driver yelling back. “You’re homeless!”

Now 52 and living in her own apartment, Winters is worried that the homeless will be dismissed the same way by state lawmakers looking to cut spending.

A program called General Assistance for the Unemployable that once provided Winters a critical lifeline – health care and $339 a month – is among budget cuts that state officials are considering.

GA-U now benefits about 21,000 people statewide, including about 1,400 in Spokane County, who are deemed too physically or mentally disabled to hold a job. The program is intended to provide short-term help for people transitioning to long-term and largely federally funded assistance programs.

In December, Gov. Chris Gregoire suggested that state lawmakers eliminate the program, which would cost taxpayers $411 million over the next two years, saying the state must solve its budget mess without raising taxes…

 

(snip)

…As the Legislature tries to write a budget for the next two years, GA-U has two key allies in Olympia: Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp, the two most powerful lawmakers in the state, both with roots as anti-poverty activists.

“We’re going to make it a high priority to preserve that funding,” said Chopp, D-Seattle. “It is a matter of life and death in many cases.”

Brown, D-Spokane, says it would be foolish to throw people off the program only to see them on the streets and turning up for expensive last-resort care in emergency rooms, shelters and jails. There may be reductions, she said, but “we’ll try to moderate it.” She’s floated the idea of saving money by changing the way the health coverage is administered.

The big question, however, is whether the state’s budget problems will override legislative leaders’ hopes to keep the program going. November’s state revenue forecast stunned lawmakers, slashing nearly $2 billion from what was expected. Similar forecasts are scheduled for March, July and September.

Click on the link above for the complete story.

Living within your means…

As my son rejoices at the closure of school for the day, I am thinking about the people in the homeless shelters and using food banks, and the families who created the longest line ever for the Christmas Bureau sponsored annually by the Spokesman-Review. 

So begins a recent blog post by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, who’s clearly worried about what the $5.7 billion (or more) budget shortfall will mean to struggling people and families.

Brown was muted in her criticism yesterday of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s all-cuts budget proposal for the next two years. Among those cuts: eliminating adult day health programs that help senior citizens and disabled adults remain in their homes, doing away with $339-a-month checks and health coverage of thousands of people deemed “unemployable” due to mental or physical problems, and a 42 percent cut in state-subsidized health coverage for the working poor.

But the former Senate budget writer also implies that a budget written by the Senate will look a lot different. Brown writes:

I respect the principle behind the Governor’s admonition to the legislature (prompted by press inquiries about alternatives to an all-cuts budget) that “we’ve got to live within our means”.  But something sticks in my throat when I think about the contrast between the high-flying corporate executives and the mentally and physically challenged people living one step up from the streets on GA-U. How do they live within their means if we completely eliminate them?

Detailing the cuts…

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s two-year budget plan, released Thursday, suggests closing a $5.7 billion budget shortfall with deep cuts.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest cuts, local cuts, and some new local spending:

Education:

-do away with cost-of-living raises for teachers and other school staffers for the next two years: $349 million.

-eliminate a variety of school pilot programs, including the reading corps, civics curriculum, and math helping corps: $23 million.

-”suspend” about a quarter of the money for class-size reduction: $178 million.

Higher Education:

-across-the-board cuts of up to 13 percent at four-year colleges and 6 percent at community and technical colleges. The colleges can decide what to cut, although effects may include cutting faculty, cutting support staff and offering fewer classes. Savings: $342 million.

-doing away with faculty and staff cost-of-living raises at community and technical colleges: $33.4 million.

Human services:

-do away with the Adult Day Health program, which serves about 1,900 elderly and developmentally disabled people: $20 million.

-reduce nursing home reimbursement rates by 5 percent: $46 million.

-shrink mental health funding for Regional Support Networks: $31 million.

-toughen accountability for welfare recipients and push them into jobs quicker: $30 million.

Health care:

-stop buying vaccines for children not covered by Medicaid: $50 million.

-cut the state’s Basic Health Plan for the working poor by 42 percent and shrink the things it will cover.

-halt plans to let parents buy state-subsidized health coverage if they’re between 250 percent and 300 percent of poverty level. For a family of 4, that’s $53,000 to $63,600 per year. Savings: $6 million.

-eliminate General Assistance for the Unemployable, which provides health care and issues checks of up to $339 a month to thousands of people. Savings: $251 million.

-cut hospital reimbursement rates by 4 percent: $47 million.

Natural resources:

-close 7 fish hatcheries: $7 million.

-close 13 state parks, plus other parks during off-peak seasons: $5 million.

Law enforcement:

-shortening probation and eliminating probation supervision for misdemeanors and low-risk felonies: $69 million.

-shrinking drug and alcohol treatment: $11 million.