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OLYMPIA — In what may be the most unusual alignment of political bedfellows of the session, anti-tax initiative maven Tim Eyman told supporters they may need Gov. Jay Inslee to save the state from a massive tax increase proposed by Senate Republicans.
Since April Fool's Day was 22 days ago, this might need some 'splaining.
Eyman is joining the chorus of critics of a plan from members of the predominantly Republican Senate Majority Coalition Caucus to change the way property taxes are collected and distributed for some school costs, like teacher salaries. They are proposing what is generally short-handed as a "levy swap" in which the state levy on property taxes would go up while the school district on property taxes would go down, and the extra money coming into the state coffers would go back out to the schools to pay salaries, which the state Supreme Court has said is a cost of basic education and thus a constitutional responsibility of the state.
Yeah, that's pretty dense and your eyes are starting to glaze over. But stay with us here and we'll get to the politically interesting part.
Senate Republicans unveiled their plan last week describing it as "revenue neutral", which is legislative speak for it doesn't cost more money. But there's a caveat. It's net neutral statewide. Taxes in some districts would go up, in some districts they'd go down. Senate Democrats, who have a different plan to handle this court mandate, crunched some numbers and said about 60 percent of residents would pay more in this swap, so for them, it's a tax increase.
Definitely a tax increase, Eyman declared sent in a fund-raising missive to "our thousands of supporters" that also doubles as a fund-raiser. He also pointed out that when Inslee was running for governor in 2012, he was definitely opposed to such a levy swap, which was being proposed by his Republican opponent, then-Attorney General Rob McKenna.
"Will Governor Inslee come riding to the rescue when it comes to the Senate Republicans' bill, which does exactly what he ridiculed?" Eyman asked "Inslee despised it as a candidate, will he stop it as governor? Can we count on him to protect us from this massive property tax?"
Apparently yes, although maybe without a trusty steed to carry him to the damsel in distress.
At a press conference today, Inslee called it a "very significant tax increase" in some parts of the state. And in those districts, he said, pulling out his best trump card: "It would raise taxes on widows and World War II veterans because you want to protect millionaires." He prefers the Senate Democrats' plan for a capital gains tax of investment earnings above $250,000, but was quick to say that wasn't out of jealousy of millionaires, who "ought to be hailed as heroes", but because it was more fair.
Eyman, not surprisingly, does not go along with Inslee on that score. He's against any tax increase, which he thinks Democrats will try to foist on the state by other means. Which, he says making the pivot, is why the state needs a constitutional amendment to require two-thirds super majorities in the Legislature for any tax increase. Raising money for his latest plan to enact such a restriction was the closing appeal of the e-mail.
OLYMPIA — The Senate turned down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required a two-thirds majority to raise taxes, failing to give it that same two-thirds approval on the vote.
Supporters insisted "the will of the people" dictated that the Senate pass the amendment onto the November ballot because voters had repeatedly approved such a restriction by initiative.
Opponents countered that it would actually create a "super-minority" that could control any legislative discussion of taxes because as few as 17 senators could block any tax measure.
The proposal by Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, received a 25 - 21 vote, but it needed at least 33 yes votes under requirements for amending the state constitution.
An attempt to amend the amendment, allowing the Legislature to repeal tax exemptions with a simple majority while keeping the supermajority for new taxes, failed on a 20-26 vote.
Among Spokane-area senators, Republicans Brian Dansel, Mike Padden and Mark Schoesler voted yes, Democrat Andy Billig voted no. Republican Mike Baumgartner was excused.
Joe Korbuszewski addresses the group protesting a new tax on microbreweries Friday on the Capitol steps.
OLYMPIA – The Legislature looked at raising a wide array of taxes Friday — on beer, gasoline or bottled water, on doctors, lawyers or janitors or on nonresidents who come to Washington to shop.
Some people told legislators it was the right thing to do, either to help schools or protect jobs. Others told them it was the wrong thing to do, because it will hurt businesses and destroy jobs.
Legislators didn't vote Friday on any of the proposals to close exemptions, end special rates, extend surcharges or make temporary taxes permanent. Their fate hinges on upcoming budget negotiations between the House, where the tax increase bills now reside, and the Senate, where a coalition that controls the chamber has vowed not to raise taxes. . .
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OLYMPIA — A plan to end a tax exemption for large banks and extend tax breaks for some other businesses passed the Senate over objections from some of the chambers more conservative Republicans and more liberal Democrats.
The bill, which removes an exemption for large banks for first mortgages, required a two-thirds majority because it is a tax increase. Some senators tried to split that out from the revised tax exemptions for newspapers, food processing operations and server farms, which by themselves only require a simple majority.
"This is a bad precedent (mixing) tax breaks for some and tax increases for others," Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, argued. "I assure you this will find its way to the courts."
But the bill passed 35-10, two votes over the required super majority.
Among Spokane-area senators, Mike Baumgartner and Lisa Brown voted yes, Mike Padden and Mark Schoesler voted no. Bob Morton was excused.
North Idaho Sen. Steve Vick wants Idaho to enact a constitutional amendment to require two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate to pass any tax or fee increase. Vick noted that 16 states have such requirements; all were enacted by voters through initiatives or referenda. “I think that any time you raise taxes you take a little bit of people's freedom,” Vick said. “I just think it should be a little harder to do.” Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, told the House State Affairs Committee this morning, “What you need to know is that these kinds of things are very popular with the voters.” Committee members had lots of questions about Vick's proposal, however. “Idaho is different,” said Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake. “We aren't out there raising taxes as much as some of these states”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Do you support a two-thirds vote in House and Senate to pass any tax or fee increase?
OLYMPIA – A coalition of House Democrats and education advocates are asking the courts to void the supermajority required for tax increases, arguing that it’s an unconstitutional limit on legislative authority.
State Republicans and the sponsor of initiatives that have repeatedly resulted in voters imposing that two-thirds majority quickly denounced the lawsuit as ignoring the will of the voters.
Tim Eyman, who had another such initiative certified Monday for this November’s ballot, said the suit could boost that measure. It could also provide campaign fodder for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, who as state attorney general will have the task of defending the supermajority requirement in the courts.
“This is going to bode well for us,” Eyman said of Initiative 1125. “It’s an extraordinary gift they’ve given to the McKenna campaign.”
OLYMPIA – A special legislative session to address the state’s budget problems will continue until one side or the other blinks on the sales tax.
On one side: A majority of Democrats who control the Senate want to increase the sales tax as part of their plan to raise about $800 million in taxes as a balanced plan to close a projected $2.8 billion budget gap.
On the other side: A majority of Democrats who control the House of Representatives, and Gov. Chris Gregoire, who want to raise that money with other taxes.
To read more tax talk, click here to go inside the blog
OLYMPIA — The Senate approved changing state law to allow taxes to be raised this year and next with a simple majority.
After a lengthy debate and a time out for parliamentary measures, the Senate voted 26-23 to suspend the provisions of Initiative 960 that requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. The supermajority would return after July 1, 2011.
All Republicans voted against the bill, as did five Democrats, among them Sen. Chris Marr of Spokane. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, voted to pass the bill which is generally regarded as a step toward raising some taxes to help close the state’s projected budget gap..
It now goes to the House of Representatives.
OLYMPIA — Sen. Cheryl Pflug says of the 1,001 letters she’s received, only six approve repealing the supermajority to raise taxes
If you do this, many of you will return to a wall of rage at home” Pflug, R-Maple Valley, warned. “People are hurting, and you are hurting them more.”’
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, “What is it about the will of the people that worries you? What does it really mean? I believe we have to listen. I think we’re seeing that (wall of rage) all across the country. Now we see the same kind of arrogance that caused many of us to run for public office. And now here we are, seeing it again, amongst us. Are we in tough times, of course we are. Is it going to be hard to reduce the budget, you bet. We can do this without (the bill) We don’t need it, we don’t have to circumvent the will of the people.”
Sen. Tracy Eide, D-Des Moines: “We are in unprecedented times. How many of you have lived through a time like this? How many of you have family members who are unemployed? I do. I have friends who have business that they are cut way back. I had a 401K that now is a 101K. We are in a crisis. We need to think logically. And who do the people of this state turn to when they need help? They turn to us. A wise man told me last week ‘Tracy, those of us who have, have to help those of us who have not.’ I’m voting for this bill to keep our options open. We need to step up to the plate and help them.”
OLYMPIA — A Republican amendment described as an attempt to fix technical problems with the title is being discussed.
“Enough is enough,” Sen. Rodney Tom, a Democratic vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee argues. “It’s time to vote” on the bill itself.
Amendment fails 22-26, like the previous ones, with all Republicans and Democrats Tim Sheldon and Chris Marr voting yes.
OLYMPIA — Arguing against changes to the state’s supermajority for tax increases continues, and some senators are attempting to usie t to their best advantage
“The citizens voted their conscience. Now we’re throwing that away. We’re ignoring the will of the people,” Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, who recently announced he was running for the U.S. Senate, said while looking straight into the television camera. “Shouldn’t we ask the people who put it in place if they feel the current situation warrants gutting the protections they put in place?”
Turns out the camera wasn’t on, but a candidate running for higher office needs all the practice they can get