Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank those of you who were able to join me and other 39th District residents for my telephone town hall last week. While we had a great time discussing the 2013 legislative session, I have to admit, I was more than a little nervous. I know the citizens in our district are extremely well-informed and involved in their government at all levels. Having been “on the job” here in Olympia for just a few months, I feel like I've been here just long enough to discover how much I don't know!
Once the “community conversation” started, however, I settled in to the familiar discourse of discussing the important issues much I like I would with my neighbors, friends and family. I may not know everything – or have the solution to every problem under the sun – but I want you to know that I'm willing to learn and work hard to represent the views and opinions of my 39th District constituents. We had a fun time and I'm looking forward to the next time we can take advantage of this technology to reach thousands of residents in our area.
During the telephone town hall, I asked people on the line three separate questions to see what folks back home are thinking. Here are the results:
1) House Democrats have proposed a 10-cent increase in the state gas tax. Would you be willing to pay 10 cents more per gallon to help pay for transportation projects in this state?
YES = 14%
NO = 75%
NOT SURE = 11%
2) What issue is most important for you right now?
Jobs and the economy = 42%
The state budget = 17%
Education = 14%
Public safety = 5%
Health care = 15%
The environment = 5%
3) Do you support Obamacare's directive of expanding Medicaid coverage in WA state?
YES = 21%
NO = 69%
NOT SURE = 10%
For more information – both the good and bad – of Medicaid expansion and why it will most likely be included in the final state budget, read this article by my colleague in the House Republican Caucus, Rep. Joe Schmick. He is the ranking member on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
You can't make this stuff up, folks. Six months ago, gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee was finally cornered by the Seattle Times about what he would do about taxes if he were elected governor:
“I would veto anything that heads the wrong direction and the wrong direction is new taxes in the state of Washington.” – Jay Inslee, Seattle Times, Oct. 12, 2012
Last week, his budget proposal included over $1.2 billion in new and increased taxes. His excuse for being caught in this lie? Semantics. Political wordsmithing. He thinks that eliminating certain tax incentives on small businesses and other employers shouldn't qualify as “new taxes.” Well, governor, tell that to the barber, beauty shop owner, janitor, music teacher or veterinarian who will have their taxes go up because of your proposals.
Even Democrat Treasurer Jim McIntire thinks employers are taxed too much in our state. Here's what he said to the Association of Washington Business last week (click here to read the entire article):
“You don't often hear a Democrat say we over-tax business, but we do. I want to be really clear that it's a problem in the state.” – Jim McIntire, State Treasurer, March 21, 2013
Here's a quick snapshot of Gov. Inslee's tax proposals:
MAKING 'TEMPORARY' TAXES PERMANENT:
- 50-cent beer tax, and expanding it to microbreweries ($127 million)
- 0.3 percent Business and Occupation tax on service businesses ($534 million), including:
- barbers and beauty shop owners
- music teachers
- real estate agents
- school bus operators
TAX INCREASES ON:
- vehicle trade-ins when purchasing a new car: $94.8 million
- local residential phone service: $83.2 million
- computer software: $78.5 million
- most state businesses that were given lower rates in order to locate or expand in Washington: $66.2 million
- non-residents who shop in Washington stores: $63.7 million
- bottled water: $51.5 million
- recycled fuel environmental programs at Washington's oil refineries: $40.8 million
- resellers of prescription drugs: $29 million
- long-term rental of commercial land/buildings: $27.8 million
- import commerce: $24.1 million
- farm equipment: $5.6 million
With about $2 billion more in revenue expected to come into state coffers during the next budget cycle (the 2013-15 biennium), Inslee's call for more taxes is a weak one. If $2 billion more isn't enough, perhaps state government is growing faster than it should.
Whatever happened to the Priorities of Government?
When you hear the consistent talk of budget shortfalls and potential tax increases, do you often wonder what the priorities of government are and how they are defined? I read an interesting blog post last week from Jason Mercier who works for the Washington Policy Center. He brought to light an old speech by former governor Gary Locke when he, along with Republicans in the state Senate, initiated a true Priorities of Government budgeting (POG). Here's a small excerpt from Gov. Locke's speech announcing POG to deal with an estimated $2 billion budget shortfall back in November of 2002:
“This year, we decided not to start with current spending to try to meet the forecasted revenue. Instead, we decided to look at how we should be spending our state's money in the first place. We decided to look at our Priorities of Government.
We are looking at what matters most to Washington citizens. We are focusing on results that people want and need, prioritizing those results, and funding those results with the money we have.
As we do this, we are taking an enterprise-wide approach. We are thinking of our state government and all its agencies as a whole. We're figuring out how our enterprise, working as one entity, can achieve the results that matter most to our state's citizens.
1. How much money will we have to work with for 2003-2005?
2. What results do our citizens want most from state government?
3. How much money can we allocate to each result?
4. How best can we spend allocated funds to achieve the results?”
To read Jason's entire blog post with links to the rest of Locke's speech, click here. It would serve us well if budget writers in Olympia remembered the POG process and spent as much time and effort PRIORITIZING spending as some of them do dreaming up creative ways to TAX us. Part of my job in the Legislature is to remind my fellow legislators that there is another way to budget.
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter and for staying involved in your government. It is a privilege and an honor to serve you in Olympia.
436 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7816 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000