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Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: Attempt to recall Inslee faces even longer odds than recall of Newsom

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to the media about government-imposed COCID-19 restrictions, June 30 at the Pavilion in Riverfront Park.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to the media about government-imposed COCID-19 restrictions, June 30 at the Pavilion in Riverfront Park. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

With the national media’s almost unabated attention to the attempted recall of California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week, several alert readers wrote to ask about something closer to home.

That is, isn’t there an effort to recall Washington Gov. Jay Inslee?

The answer is, technically, yes. But for practical purposes, not so much.

A group seeking Inslee’s ouster began talking about a recall in January, about two weeks after he was sworn in for his third term after handily defeating Republican Loren Culp the previous November. It began collecting money almost immediately, and filed its “Charges” with the Secretary of State’s office in May.

They include actions Inslee took last year to stop the spread of COVID-19, including his “stay home, stay healthy” order, the eviction moratorium, suspension of public meetings requirements and limits to the number of people at certain gatherings.

The effort hit a major roadblock in June, when Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy dismissed the charges as being insufficient to trigger a recall. The group has since filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court, but the high court hasn’t said yet if it will take the case.

Judicial review of alleged charges is one of the things that makes recalls in Washington more difficult than in California. Here, the recall must cite instances of possible misfeasance or malfeasance that a judge must review as sufficient reasons for a recall before signatures can be gathered.

In California, the petition is basically “Hey, do you want to recall this guy?”

Washington requires people trying to recall a state official to get valid signatures from registered voters equal to one-fourth of the number of votes cast for the office in the last election. For governor, that would be a little over 1 million signatures based on the 2020 results. They’d have nine months.

California requires signatures from 12% of the voters in the last election, which was about 1.5 million for Newsom, elected in 2018. Supporters managed to do that in the required 160 days.

In Washington, if an elected official gets recalled, they get replaced by the next in line, which in this case would be Lt. Gov. Denny Heck. In California, would-be replacements file for the job and are on the ballot. The person with the highest number of votes takes the seat, even if they get a small plurality of the total vote.

All of those differences make it more difficult to recall an elected official in Washington. Not impossible, of course. Spokane voters recalled Mayor Jim West in 2005. That didn’t take a sophisticated political organization, just a determined single mom who was disgusted by reports of West’s use of city equipment to search internet dating sites for underage partners.

At this point, the chances of an Inslee recall are somewhere between remote and nonexistent, but the campaign hasn’t given up. It continues to raise money – more than $2,000 last week, perhaps a result of attention to the Newsom recall – sell merchandise, and stage gatherings and sign-waving events. The group maintains a Facebook page, which is partly a repository for anti-vaccine discussions. They have put out a call for supporters to attend a “Rally for Health Freedom” Saturday in Riverfront Park.

Want to talk taxes?

To Benjamin Franklin’s observation that there is nothing more certain than death and taxes, we might add a footnote. In Washington, there is nothing more certain about taxes than talking about how to change them.

The Tax Structure Working Group, set up by the Legislature to review and possibly suggest how to revise the state’s tax structure, is holding a series of six regional hearings, starting this week.

Eastern Washington residents get to go first, with a pair of 90-minute Zoom meetings that start at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. You can sign up for either session at taxworkgroup.org/tax-town-halls.

The state has a tax structure that Rube Goldberg might’ve designed, with high sales taxes on some things but no sales taxes on others, plus a business and occupation tax with different rates for different industries and so many exemptions a special committee is needed to review them regularly.

The state has seen many groups make many recommendations for tax overhauls that involve some version of an income tax often paired with a lowering or removal of some other taxes. They’ve crashed and burned.

It’s a system that places a higher burden on the poor than the rich. But it’s also a system that delivers an increasingly higher river of cash to state coffers.

Without being too negative, one could easily predict that reaching a consensus on major tax revisions might be difficult for the work group. The Democratic legislators named to the group are among the state’s more progressive wing, where the calls for a more equitable tax system and an income tax are the loudest. The Republican legislators are among the state’s more conservative, including those who regularly push for tax cuts and strongly oppose an income tax.

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