Saturday, January 16, 2010

Washington State City and County Taxes in Context: Short Term Help for All

On Tuesday the Washington State House Finance Committee will have a hearing, and take testimony, on at least three bills that are intended to allow local control of limited taxes, for a limited time.
Finance* -  01/19/10  1:30 pm
Full Committee
House Hearing Rm C
John L. O'Brien Building
Olympia, WA
REVISED 1/14/2010 3:16 PM
Public Hearing:  
HB 2650 - Providing local flexibility with existing revenues during severe economic downturns.
HB 2749 - Concerning local government taxation.
HB 2773 - Concerning local excise tax authorities for counties and cities.
Committee Meeting Documents
Note: Documents are not available online until the meeting has begun.

HB 2650 allows cities and counties that collect a tax for new infrastructure for things like parks, libraries, police and fire training facilities, trails, etc., to also allow that money to be used for maintenence of capital facilities.

HB 2749 removes "nonsupplant" language from effected taxes. This allows a city like Spokane, or Seattle, to take a city budget item off thier general fund capital maintenence budget and supplant the state authorized tax sources to pay for this things.

HB 2773 "A county legislative authority may authorize, fix, and impose a sales and use tax until December 31, 2014. To retain or impose the tax after December 31, 2014, the county must submit an authorizing proposition to the county voters at a primary or general election and a majority of persons voting must approve the continuation or imposition of the sales and use tax."

For the followers of SB 6116 these other bills could mean a few things, conflicting things.
You could view this as supporting, and allowing, the City of Seattle, and King County, the ability to solve some of their general fund shortages by redirecting some of these taxes. That is true, to a point. The first two are aimed at non-core government functions.
In a way the first two bills isolate these "wants" from the "must do's". Still, those wants have an impact on may, many, lives.

The last bill is short term funding that has an end in 2014, and requires a public vote of simple majority to extend the tax. SB6116 does this for King County, and so maybe King County does not need SB 6116. On the other hand, try passing SB 6116 for King County and tell the 38 counties they can not do the same.
This could take the urgency out of passing SB 6116, or it could be a segue to cleaning up the laundry list of wants in that bill.

No matter, no other county, or city, can say something special is being given to Seattle and King County, and that may help. Every municipality is struggling right now. Local control over how and what to do about it is a useful context to have right now.

Remember, many hands make light work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It lives

Senate Bill 6116 lives:

Jan 11  By resolution, reintroduced and retained in present status.

So, 5 minutes before the end of the last session ended they recall bills to thier last committee, Rules Committee, and reinstate those bills at the beginning of the session. So, lots of bills were reintroduced, and are back in play.

I have a bill tracker email alert set up, if this moves, I'll find out. You know, this could sit there for 55 days and get sent back to the floor. My guess is that this could be a Christmas Tree

Sunday, January 10, 2010

60 Days of Low Expectations

On New Years Eve I gave my eight 2010 predictions, this one applies here:
6, and 7. The Washington State Legislature's "short session" begins January 12, and runs fir 60 days. Urbanized counties will "horse trade" levy equalization in "tax poor" rural school distrcts for broader taxing authority in the "tax rich" districts. A lot hangs in the balance for Dow Constantine here, and he will show leadership here.
ManyWordsForRain, Predictions for 2010.

If anything is done that benefits KeyArena, it would be purely by accident. Accidents do happen, you just can not depend on them.

I will be watching and reporting. Tomorrow is day one of sixty.
Off topic, Onion Head Monster should be on Adult Swim!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Joe Zarelli, "Washington lawmakers should meet soon to deal with state budget imbalance"

Special Session, or not to have a Special Session, that is this week's question. The economy has reached a bottom and the reality of the demand on public services, and reduced revenues, are realized.

Two weeks ago Washington State Senator Joe Zarelli pressed for a Special Session, writing in the Opinion pages of the Seattle Times:
The math is straightforward: Each dollar saved in January is equivalent to a cut of $1.50 in July. Put another way, $67 million in reductions effective in January will erase a $1.2 billion gap in 18 months, when the 2009-11 biennium ends; if lawmakers wait until July, the cuts must be 50 percent deeper, or $100 million per month.

If serving our most vulnerable citizens is truly important, acting early — preserving $33 million worth of services every single month — makes sense.
There's time for legislative leaders and budget writers to prepare a spending-reduction package to take effect Jan. 1. New state caseload and revenue forecasts are due Nov. 13 and 19, respectively, and assuming they don't significantly shrink the budget gap, Gov. Chris Gregoire or the Legislature itself can call a special session for early December. Legislators will be in Olympia already for committee meetings. It would cost no more to convene quickly, bring the cost-saving package forward and adopt it.
. . .
Trouble is, soon there will be nothing to force lawmakers to reduce spending, because this year's budget punt ran enough time off the clock to send I-960 off the field.

Under our constitution, it takes a two-thirds legislative vote to amend initiative-based laws enacted less than two years earlier. Initiative 960 took effect in December 2007, so when the Legislature convenes Jan. 11, the majority party can do what it could not in 2008 or 2009: toss I-960 and raise taxes all on its own. No vote by the people, no bipartisan support or "public conversation" required, just one late-night legislative roll call and those tax-hike protections vanish.

History says bet on it. In 2002 and 2005, the majority suspended limits on government taxation and spending created by the people, most recently to allow $500 million in tax increases.

Sen. Joseph Zarelli of Ridgefield is Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and a member of the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.
From the Seattle Times, Op-Ed, Joe Zarelli, "Washington lawmakers should meet soon to deal with state budget imbalance"

His points are true, he may be right, but he is in the minority party. His influence is opinion based, he does not have the power to call a Special Session, the majority party does.
Posted in the yesterday was this report:
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Higher costs for government services have driven the state's projected budget shortfall to about $2 billion, Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget office said Friday.

And that's not all: The deficit is likely to grow even larger next week, when state economists issue a new forecast of expected tax income for the current budget period, which runs through mid-2011.
. . .
House Ways and Means Chairwoman Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, said the Legislature will have to be open to all options, including the elimination of some state services. The Legislature largely avoided those kind of cuts last session, instead opting for across-the-board reductions and one-time budget fixes.

"Now we're down to: Do we do the service, or do we not do it?" Linville said.

The Statehouse's minority Republicans still see room for savings through a major restructuring of how the state delivers services. The GOP also says the Legislature should make those moneysaving moves quickly, rather than spending money for months on programs that will eventually have to be cut.

"Timing is everything," said Senate GOP budget chief Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield.

Linville agreed with Zarelli's push for quick action, and said her colleagues in the House have spent the summer compiling lists of moneysaving ideas.

She and Zarelli also agreed that the majority may look first at closing some tax loopholes, rather than straight-ahead increases of the state's sales, business, or property taxes. By CURT WOODWARD, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER, Washington budget short about $2B through mid-2011

The next bit of news should show up on November 19th, when the revenue forecast comes out.

It is still unlikely that a Special Session happens, but not impossible. What should be clear is that the legislature is at work, and should be ready to go on cutting some things, and working to find ways for local governments some options.
Allowing King County, and Seattle, to extend existing hotel taxes would allow both governments to shift non-core costs off core revenue streams.
Let's hope.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

Sent from my iPhone
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Joe Mallahan, "I will work hard... to come to an investment plan that can get that accomplished"

Candidate Joe Mallahan gave the most complete and supportive answer to resolving the KeyArena issue that either candidate has articulated thus far in the race for Mayor of Seattle.

This was his response durring a Reader Q and A session hosted by the Seattle Times Newspaper today.
Andrew from Seattle asked: Would you support bringing professional basketball back to Seattle?

Joe Mallahan answered: The SuperSonics were and are a big part of our culture, and professional sports are critical to a vibrant economy. Over 20,000 jobs were tied to the Sonics, and their loss had a major impact on Lower Queen Anne. The NBA won't consider Seattle unless we are committed to providing an appropriate facility. I will work hard with the City Council, the State, and the business community to come to an investment plan that can get that accomplished, and not solely on the backs of Seattle Taxpayers.

A snap of the Sonics sweatband to Brian Robinson at SonicsCentral for the find.

To this point both candidates for mayor, Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn, have said that they support a levy for Seattle Center in 2010 or 2011. Both have said they would look at the issue of what to do to revive KeyArena, but Joe Mallahan is the only one to articulate an understanding of the situation and his support to solving it.

I have no idea how Mike McGinn can claim to intend to work hard with all levels of government he intends to fight to force his surface solution onto as the replacement of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct.
In a close race, as soon-to-be former Mayor Greg Nickels found out in the primary, every vote counts.

Can Joe Mallahan count on the Save Our Sonics faithful?

Endorsements? SOS?

I made mine yesterday.