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

By State Senator Mark Schoesler
Ninth District 

Legislative Commentary: June 6, 2019

 


Dear Friends,

It’s been a little more than a month since the Legislature adjourned. I was back at the Capitol about 10 days ago for a meeting of the Select Committee on Pension Policy, but for the most part I’ve been able to stick pretty close to the farm here in Adams County – or at least stay within the 9th District.

An appointment in Pullman recently gave me an opportunity to drop in at the Pullman chamber and visit with executive director Marie Dymkoski. Earlier this week I split a day between the “Partnership on the Palouse” tour, coordinated by the Palouse Conservation District and Palouse River Watershed Conservation Partnership Program and Coordinated Resource Management Program, and a get-together organized by the Lewis-Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce. As a farmer, I always appreciate how these trips also give me a chance to see what’s being grown where, and how far the crops are along.

While my attention is on farming, there are still things coming out of Olympia that deserve comment. It’s no surprise that they involve all the unnecessary new taxes and the unsustainable, record-sized budget recently signed by Governor Inslee.

Governor is wrong to tap taxpayers for additional security costs

This week we got a new look at the costs of the “executive security” that the governor and his family are entitled to under state law. For March 2019, the first month after Inslee announced he would hunt for a new federal job, the cost of his traveling Washington State Patrol security detail set a new one-month record – $344,703. For comparison, that’s up a whopping 88% from the same month in 2016, which was before he started jetting around the nation and globe to talk about the climate, and for trips related to his leadership positions within a political group (the Democratic Governors Association).

Over Republican objections, the majority Democrats included an extra $3.474 million solely for executive protection in the new state operating budget. This is on top of what is already in the WSP budget for his security detail, and clearly relates specifically to his out-of-state job hunting. Governor Inslee should have vetoed that when he signed the budget May 21, but didn’t.

Judging from remarks he made to reporters after we tried to pull that extra perk from the proposed Senate budget in early April, Inslee wants people to think he has no control over how, when and where he is provided security and protection at public expense. However, the law (RCW 43.43.035) in no way forces the governor to accept taxpayer-supported security unconditionally. Inslee has the authority to decline this entitlement and the ability to use private funds to cover security costs for what is clearly a private venture, and that’s what he should do. This is a moral question, not a legal one, and ought to be an easy call to make. The governor made the wrong call.

Session rates a 3 on a scale of 1-10

One of the worst sessions I’ve been through was in 2010, when Democrats controlled the entire lawmaking process and still needed a month of overtime to agree on nearly $2.5 billion in tax increases. The new taxes set a record and plugged a self-inflicted budget deficit caused by continued overspending even though the “Great Recession” was already well along.

This session was worse because unlike 2010, there was no budget hole – far from it, with about $500 million on the plus side when legislators arrived at the Capitol in January. We could have a new budget that maintained services and programs at today’s levels while investing even more in priorities like special education and behavioral health, all within existing revenue. However, the governor set the tone by calling for a $10 billion hike in spending, and a boatload of new taxes. His Democrat allies in the Senate and House approved an $8 billion increase, and $1.1 billion in additional taxes to balance it. That new tax burden will climb to $4 billion over a four-year period, because a payroll tax will kick in, and the 10-year cost will reach almost $25 billion once you factor in the higher local school-tax rates that were endorsed this year.

The problems with the tax changes go beyond the fact that they’re increases, or how quickly they’re approved (like the tax on banks). Is it right that Amazon and Microsoft are able to cap what they will pay as the “advanced computing businesses” described in the new HB 2158 law, and have so much say about how that money will be spent? The veterinarians and accountants and other professional-service providers hit by the same law don’t get that kind of consideration. This is one of the many reasons I told the Tri-City Herald a couple of weeks ago that it hadn’t been for the progress made on behavioral health care, this year’s session would have been the worst in history. I rated it a 3 on a scale of 10.

One of the taxes Inslee wanted but didn’t get is a new state income tax – which would begin by taxing the income from capital gains. However, one of the few majority Democrats known to oppose that tax just resigned from his Senate seat, and the odds-on favorite to succeed him (now a House member) isn’t believed to be as reluctant. Could we see a sequel to the “Taxapalooza” in 2020? The threat already is more real.

 

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