Sunday, April 24, 2005

Washington Legislature - the Good, the Bad and the Worst

The Washington Legislature is expected to wrap up today, Sunday. Despite increased tax collections and good projections, the Democrats had made a lot of promises and needed much more. The final numbers are not yet in. But it is expected that spending will increase 12%. 12% is well above the increases in costs and population. The worst of all. The Legislature slapped the voters in the face twice on spending and taxes. In 1993 the voters approved Initiative 601. 601 limits state spending growth to the increase in inflation and population growth. And 601 also requires a 2/3 majority to increase taxes. The Legislature said "we know better than you" and overrode the 2/3 majority requirement by a simple majority vote. And we already saw that in increase in spending is huge. (I don't know what the 601 limit would be.) Jason Mercier of Evergreen Freedom Foundation observed them put the pieces in place in March. The good is mostly bills that didn't pass. The Democrats and Governor pro tem Gregoire pushed a big-government agenda. So the big fights were to stop nanny-state interference and the huge growth. Good bills that passed:
  • Update: Not so sure about this. Voting - requiring identification to vote. Of course, like buying cigarettes or flying.
  • "Empowering" the Secretary of State to purge voter rolls of felons and dead people. It's probably requiring it. But Sam Reed is the Times' favorite Republican and they didn't want to report that the Legislature is telling him to do his job. Oh, just kidding. But... could be!
  • Update: Not so sure about this. Performance audits of all state agencies. Good! We have been fighting for this for years. But it saddles the state auditor with an oversight committee. That is an unnecessary requirement, because the auditor is elected state-wide and is personally responsible for the audits he conducts. The only reason for the oversight is to interfere with his audits.
Good that these did not pass:
  • Paid family leave. An irresponsible proposal. It would pay you to take time off work to care for a family member. Paid by the state; supported by an income tax. The claim is that it wouldn't cost that much. But that is on the assumption that you and I won't accept time off supported by the taxpayers. I will, won't you? As soon as the program started it would be broke and require a tax increase. But the sponsors don't forsee what people will do. And they have good intentions.
  • School levies to pass with a simple majority. I would support this if the school vote were at the November general election. But they will never agree to that; they have their own little election in February when the turnout is low.
  • Ban on cellphone talking while driving. We already have that law - reckless driving is illegal.
  • Seattle Sonics - tax support for the multi-millionaires. An absurd request for a huge facility with a large fan store. College admissions based on race. The voters made this illegal by voting for Initiative 200 a few years ago.
  • Phony clone-ban bill. The bill purported to ban human cloning. But it had an imaginative definition that accomplished the opposite. It allowed cloning, but didn't allow full development. It required killing the fetus before birth, therefore the clone was not born.
  • Encouraging voting by mail. Mail voting is the easy way to cast a ballot when you are not qualified or to vote 2 or 3 times. This is a step backward - sponsored by Sec. of Sate Sam Reed.
  • Mental-health parity. Requiring equal coverage for mental illness. It is well established that every time the government places a restriction on medical insurance, the insurance gets more expensive and people lose their coverage.
  • Prescription drugs from Canada. This is the way to reduce the research for new medications that provide relief never before available. Less research and fewer new medications, because it is in the US that most of the research takes places. Irresponsible.
  • Apprenticeship required. 15% of all work on major public-works projects would be done by apprentices. Another plum for the labor unions. If this were a good idea they wouldn't have to force it by a law.
  • Public records. Public agencies can now deny the public access to records by claiming "attorney-client" privilege." Oh? Who is the client? I thought you public servants worked for us. But now when the Attorney General advises you his person is "your" personal attorney. Smells bad.
  • Life Sciences Discovery Fund. The pet project of now-Governor Gregoire. Remember the state's settlement with the tobacco companies. We needed big cash for medical expenses and education. The Legislature raided it 2 years ago and Gregoire did it again to support biotech research.
  • 9.5 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax. This passed on Sunday, so I don't have full information yet.
  • California emissions standards for new cars. This will cause an increase in prices and quite likely fewer choices. I will buy in Idaho.
  • Unemployment insurance roll back. Two years ago Washington decided to get more competitive and get its unemployment insurance not so far above the national average. They rolled it back for seasonal workers in construction and farm work. Great deal - work half the year, then get your next-door neighbor to pay you.
  • Tax increases. Everywhere for everything. But the one that hurts most is the Death Tax. Families have to sell the business they built in order to pay estate taxes. Local examples: a highly regarded company you might not have heard of: Frank Russell Co. is a 70-year old investment company overseeing $2.3 billion in Tacoma; the family had to sell it due to estate taxes. And Ben Bridge Jewelers, same story. The Supreme Court ruled against Washington's estate tax, so they did it again.
If things change tonight or they go into an extended session we will keep watching.

No comments: