The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

Legislative Commentary

 


The end of the 2018 legislative session is less than two weeks away.

The session hasn’t produced a lot of positive things for the people of our state, but being an eternal optimist, I can point to one.

Olympia’s new ruling party has less than two weeks left to impose its liberal special-interest agenda on the families and employers of our state, before we adjourn for the year.

My favorite visitors for the week were my three grandchildren, for the Senate’s observance of Children’s Day.

It snowed more than once at the Capitol this past week, which is unusual, and that meant the annual Beef Day took place against a wintry backdrop, which is just as unusual.

Democrats keep Inslee energy tax
 alive and moving

Governor Inslee made it clear in Switzerland last month that he wants our state to have America’s first carbon tax, that’s a quote, and his Democrat allies who control the Legislature this year are pulling out all the stops to make that happen.

This past week, a majority of my colleagues on the Senate Ways and Means voted to move the latest version of Senate Bill 6203 forward.

I think it’s unconscionable to support a $1.2 billion energy tax, which is what the “carbon” tax really is, when we know state revenues are coming in more than $2.4 billion ahead of expectations, and I said as much before the vote.

It’s no mystery what is going on here.

Some well-financed, so-called “progressive” special interests out there are in love with the idea of a carbon tax. They don’t care that it would increase the cost of energy, without any truly measurable improvement in air quality.

And the liberals in the Senate are more than willing to provide a loophole for the industries that would normally be in line to pay the most tax on carbon emissions. More exemptions, less opposition.

The bottom line is that they want the tax for the sake of having the tax.

It doesn’t matter that hardworking Washington taxpayers will pick up the tab. That they will face higher home heating and cooling costs and an immediate increase in the cost of a gallon of gas.

Inslee’s Department of Commerce admits to 10.6 cents, I think it’s closer to 12 cents, and the cost would go up yearly until it’s up 30 cents per gallon.

None of that money would go to maintaining roads, but some of it would go to reducing the cost of car tabs for low-income Washingtonians.

It’s a case of pure politics at work.

Senate majority’s budget misses the mark

The new Senate majority has adopted the supplemental budget that makes changes to the two-year operating budget we adopted in June.

It’s good that they changed their minds about basically ignoring the law requiring budgets to balance across the next four years, not just the next two. Other than that, the Democrats’ approach is underwhelming.

They would tap the rainy-day fund to offer one-time property tax relief, but not until 2019.

That means no timely relief from the “spike” in property taxes happening this year, despite the unexpected billions in revenue that are coming into the treasury.

Also, the Democrats’ budget sides with Governor Inslee in refusing fair treatment to the non-aerospace manufacturers across our state.

The budget adopted by the full Legislature in June, when Republicans led the Senate, would have phased in the lower business-and-occupation tax rate for aerospace, adopted in 2013, until it applied to all manufacturers in Washington. Inslee had vetoed that tax fairness, even though we had provided for it in the 2017-19 budget.

Before voting no on the Senate Democrats’ budget, which includes sinking $700,000 into another study on the pros and cons of creating a state bank, I voted yes for the alternative proposed by our Senate Republican budget leader.

It would have provided nearly $1 billion in property tax relief and cut tuition for community and technical college students while making historic investments in mental health treatment, and supporting tax fairness for manufacturers, all while leaving our reserves intact.

House Democrats pushing 
for state tax on income – again

The House Democrat budget proposal would extend tax fairness to manufacturers in most of Washington, but at a slower (and too slow) pace.

On top of that, counties with larger population densities would not qualify (Spokane and Benton, for example), and the state’s oil refineries wouldn’t either, which probably pleases the environmental activists.

The bill Governor Inslee vetoed last year would have equalized tax rates by 2022; the House majority wouldn’t get there until 2024.

Any offer of tax fairness is more than offset by the fact that the House Democrats would impose a 7 percent tax on the income from capital gains. Not only would it be the first state tax on income, if approved, but I’d expect an immediate court challenge.

Seattle’s city income tax didn’t survive a challenge, and I doubt this would either. But that isn’t the point? With so much new revenue coming in from the strong state economy, pushing an income tax is as irresponsible as pushing an energy tax.

Let’s see if the House majority even brings the income-tax part up for a vote, because that alone would be a first.

More bills passed doesn’t mean better government

Another milestone on the 2018 session calendar has ticked by, with the end of Senate policy-committee work on bills passed by the House. The two budget committees have until Monday to act on House bills, then we move back to the Senate chamber for “floor action” for the duration of the session.

Recently I was critical of the Senate majority’s focus on moving bills through the Senate, as my Democrat colleagues suggested quantity is more important than quality.

Now we can look at the actual numbers: 226 Senate bills were passed off the Senate floor by the Feb. 14 deadline this year; during last year’s “long” session the corresponding deadline fell 21 days later, yet we passed only 183 Senate bills through the Senate.

That’s remarkable – and not in a good way.

Supplemental capital budget
 adds to investment in area parks

The 2017-19 capital budget makes significant investments in the state parks in our 9th Legislative District, but it didn’t go as far as I hoped.

The supplemental capital budget adopted this past week adds to the investments coming into our district and has an important new appropriation for Lyons Ferry, which reopened in 2015 thanks to an appropriation in an earlier budget. Here are the recreation-related budget items: Lyons Ferry State Park, $400,000; Fields Spring State Park, $58,000; Steptoe Butte State Park, $23,000; Palouse Falls State Park, $11,000; and Pioneer Park, $25,000.

 

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