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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

No tax hikes, but fees will rise

Richard Roesler

OLYMPIA – The state budget, slated to be signed into law early next week, includes no new state tax increases. Lawmakers were unable to get a two-thirds vote, even a for a 25-cent increase on your phone bill to pay for better emergency-call-handling.

Fees, however, are a different thing. State law doesn’t require a two-thirds vote for those. And up they went.

Lawmakers approved increases in 48 different fees, totaling $87 million this year and $186 million next year.

Who will pay more? Lots of people. Electricians and plumbers will pay more for their licenses, as will doctors, dentists and Christmas-tree growers. So will most businesses, nurseries, Realtors, funeral homes and architects.

The vast majority of the increases, however, involve higher education. These include tens of millions of dollars in higher tuition, operating fees and a long list of other college-related charges: student and activities fees, a building fee, and lab and class fees.

As clock ticks, a delay for “everything but marriage” foes

Opponents of a new law granting domestic partners most of the rights of spouses rushed to Olympia last week to file paperwork to put the measure on the ballot in November. They want voters to overturn it.

The group, comprised largely of conservative Christian organizations, has until July 25 to get the more than 120,000 signatures it takes to put a referendum on the ballot.

On Monday, however, they learned that they’ll have less time than they’d hoped for. Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office said that the ballot title and summary – both of which are needed for the petitions – won’t be issued until Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the bill into law. Since Gregoire doesn’t plan to sign the bill until Monday, that means another week lost before Referendum 71 filers can start printing up petitions.

(On the other hand, the decision also means that the Christian groups won’t face the risk of spending thousands of dollars printing up petitions, only to see them all rendered moot if Gregoire vetoes some section of the bill.)

The groups are also downplaying West Side pastor Joe Fuiten’s suggestion that now is not the time for such a fight. In a much-publicized e-mail, Fuiten and dozens of others argue for a better-organized initiative next year.

But Gary Randall, president of the Faith and Freedom Network, says that the group’s own survey shows few misgivings. More than 90 percent support pressing ahead now, he said.

If the measure gets on the ballot – and a similar one failed to in 2006 – it will be a pretty heated fight. Proponents of the rights for same-sex couples expected the challenge.

Lots of contenders for Don Cox’s Statehouse seat

State Rep. Don Cox, two years after retiring from the Legislature, was drafted for another round in January after the death of Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa.

Cox, 69, said Tuesday that he won’t run for re-election this fall. And plenty of people have already said they’d like the job.

Who’s filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission so far?

•Hailey’s widow, Mesa rancher Pat Hailey,

•Schweitzer Engineering’s Susan Fagan, who scored an early coup getting Attorney General Rob McKenna’s endorsement,

•Washington State University’s Darin Watkins, who’d previously applied to replace departing state Rep. David Buri,

•And Lamont’s Arthur Swannack, who has been president of the Washington State Sheep Producers.

All are Republicans.

Meanwhile, in local races …

Locally, there’s already some interest in city council seats. A quick run through Public Disclosure Commission files shows that:

Tom Towey is running for a Spokane Valley City Council seat. Towey’s a Spokane Valley planning commission member, longtime Rosauers manager and former write-in candidate for council against councilman Steve Taylor.

Spokane Valley Mayor Richard Munson (who appointed Towey to the commission) is also running for re-election. Munson’s a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and retired stockbroker.

Brenda Grassel already has a Web site up for her run for Spokane Valley City Council. She and her husband own a manufacturing company, Precision Cutting Technologies, and have rental properties.

Spokane attorney Steve Eugster is running for Spokane City Council against Councilman Michael Allen, a 2007 appointee and former Eastern Washington University official who’s running for re-election.

Eugster was on the council at a more contentious time, departing six years ago, and he has uttered what is so far the best quote of the 2009 campaigns: “This ‘Era of Good Feelings’ is putting us all to sleep.” (Eugster’s political resurrection prompted actual rejoicing from S-R columnist Doug Clark.)

Still, judging by Allen’s former job, Eugster’s probably facing a formidable fundraiser. Allen was director of EWU’s corporate and foundation relations.

Spokane City Councilman Gary Schimmels is running for re-election. He’s a longtime construction company owner who’s owned Affordable Lock Express since 1998.

Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin’s running for re-election. She’s a co-owner of a kitchen and bathroom remodeling company.

Challenging McLaughlin is Karen Kearney, a women’s and children’s advocate and the former campaign chairwoman for Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

Amber Waldref is running for Spokane City Council in District 1, for the seat currently held by Councilman Al French. She’s works for the Lands Council, a Spokane-based environmental nonprofit group.

And he wasn’t kidding …

Lastly, a quote from Seattle city attorney Tom Carr, who proved on Tuesday that he knows how to whip a disorderly committee into shape.

“If all the committee members don’t sit down,” Carr threatened, “I’m going to start singing ‘Moon River.’ ”

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or at richr@spokesman.com. For more news from Olympia, please see www.eyeonolympia.com.
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