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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

WA Lege Day 37: if it looks like a tax…

OLYMPIA -- A proposed charge on court filings to help pay for publicly financed state Supreme Court races is more like a fee than a tax, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen just ruled.

That is likely to make it difficult to pass a Senate bill that would have added $3 to the cost of court filings. Why, because a tax currently needs a two-thirds majority to pass, while a fee needs only a simple majority.

Debate over Senate Bill 5912 came to a halt earlier today when Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, raised a point of order about the charge. Seems more like a tax, Benton said, because its levied for a more general purpose, and the "nexus" of the money and the purpose are relatively remote.

After several hours of staff study, Owen sided with Benton. Setting up publicly financed judicial campaigns may be an overall benefit to society, he said. But paying for campaigns seems only remotely connected to a charge on court filings. It is more properly considered a tax.

Further action on the bill is pending.

The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.