The Spokane Valley City Council will take a position on splitting Washington in two to create the new state of Liberty.
Liberty would be the name for Eastern Washington, under a proposal recently filed by three Republican state representatives, including Spokane Valley’s Matt Shea and Bob McCaslin.
Spokane Valley Councilman Ed Pace won support Tuesday night for the city to take a position on the plan by adding it to the council’s advanced agenda. A vote isn’t scheduled but will happen as early as January.
Pace said starting from scratch with a “fresh state government” might be the right thing to do.
“I don’t want our lobbyists to work on it,” Pace added, before asking staff to find out how much money Eastern Washington and Spokane Valley receives from Olympia, and how much this side of the state sends back in the form of taxes.
Pace’s proposal drew groans from the audience, and some comments on the dais about how much staff time it would take, before the meeting was called back to order by Mayor Rod Higgins.
Pace said some city somewhere should provide some push back against the state, which prompted Higgins to say “that’s akin to fighting windmills.”
But with support from Councilmen Caleb Collier and Mike Munch, Pace had the votes he needed. Pace said he didn’t think it would take that much staff time to find out how tax dollars flow to and from Eastern Washington.
City manager Mark Calhoun said he didn’t feel like the city has the luxury of time in this situation so studying the tax flow would be a priority for staff.
Similar efforts to split the state have been mounted as recently as 2015, and as long ago as 1915. East Side legislators often complain their constituents’ issues get short shrift in Olympia. But most proposals to split the state generate statistics from West Side Democrats that most Eastern Washington counties currently get more in services than they pay in taxes, so a new state would have to tax more, or provide less.
State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said last year in response to another proposal to split the state in two that annual accounting of the money coming into the state coffers and going out in services consistently show that nine counties usually pay more in taxes than they get back in services, and most of them are in Western Washington. The other 31 get more in state services and programs than the state collects in taxes, and almost all are in Eastern Washington.
In other news from the council:
Councilman Sam Wood asked to have a discussion about term limits added to the advance agenda. There are no term limits on the Spokane Valley City Council and Wood shared no specifics.
“I’ve waited and waited and waited, but now I’m going to ask to have this put on the agenda,” Wood said.
Spokane City Council members only are allowed to serve two consecutive terms.
Economic Development Director John Hohman asked the city to formally sponsor a food event to be held over Father’s Day weekend at CenterPlace.
Hohman said the city would partner with Vision Marketing and Spokane Chef Adam Hegsted to put on Northwest Savor which would be similar to Feast Portland.
Hegsted recently gained the catering contract at CenterPlace.
The city’s sponsorship would be $50,000 which could be paid in in-kind contributions. Rent for CenterPlace and surrounding areas would be $22,000.
“This could become a signature event for the Valley,” Hohman said, adding that there already are economic development funds that would be appropriate to spend on a project like this.
The City Council was supportive, especially if the city’s contribution could be made in in-kind services and donations.
“I don’t think government should be in the business of funding things like this,” Collier said, “but I do like the idea.”