All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Washington state Supreme Court fines legislature?

The Washington state Supreme Court earned a lot of attention this week for its ruling on sanctions against the Legislature, which the Court previously found in contempt of court. The Court’s fine of $100,000 a day is eye-popping, but from a practical standpoint is actually small potatoes compared to the billions our state spends every year on K-12 schools.

Curiously, the Court backtracked this week on a central tenet of the original McCleary ruling (for an explanation on this and other issues, see “Supreme Court ruling on education is a head-scratcher”). In the original 2012 ruling, the Court said that K-12 funding needs to be “ample”, “uniform”, and “stable”. Now the Court seems focused only on “ample provision” and said it has “no opinion” on whether levy reform is needed to make school funding uniform around the state.

The News Tribune is as confused by this as many others, writing: “The justices might have helped the cause of levy reform by re-emphasizing what they said in 2012. Failing that, they might have at least said nothing. Instead their inexplicable ‘no opinion’ will actively undermine efforts to fix the greatest inequity in Washington public education.” In its role as a clarifier, the Court failed this week. It only made the Legislature’s remaining job more confusing.

-Rob McKenna

Friday, July 17, 2015

Olympia approved a $38 billion operating budget.

On Friday, July 10, after 176 days of session, the Washington State Legislature finally adjourned after completing its official business. The Legislature approved a $38 billion operating budget.

Operating budget - the good
As with any budget compromise, there is going to be good and bad. In the end, I decided to vote for the operating budget because of the historic nature of the spending plan - largest education budget in state history, first-ever tuition reduction, and important funding for our mentally ill. And, when you look at the final product many felt it had a Republican feel to it. Not easy to do when you have a Democratic governor and a Democrat majority in the House led by Frank Chopp, the longest sitting speaker in state history. Here are some budget highlights:
  • invests an additional $1.3 billion in K-12 basic education to meet the McCleary court decision;
  • reduces class size in grades K-3;
  • provides a cost-of-living raise for teachers and state employees;
  • reduces the cost of tuition at the state’s four-year colleges and universities and two-year community colleges, a huge win for students and middle-class families;
  • makes significant investments in treatment and capacity for our mentally ill and preserves our health and human services safety net;
  • increases funding for state parks; and
  • accomplishes these things with NO major taxes increases - capital gains, carbon, cap and trade, bottled water and most B&O tax proposals were taken off the table.

The bad
Some of the aspects of the budget I am concerned with and hope will be addressed in future budget negotiations:
  • takes money out of the state Public Works Trust Fund - the account our local governments rely on for infrastructure and construction projects;
  • it establishes a click through nexus for purposes of collecting B&O and retail sales taxes on internet businesses; and
  • it increases spending more than necessary.
The ugly

I am disappointed the Legislature passed a $16 billion transportation gas tax revenue package. Taxpayers in Washington state will pay about $13.60 in state and federal gas taxes every time they pull up to the gas pump for 20 gallons of gas. It will be the second highest gas tax in the nation when it is fully implemented. It isn't just the gas tax either - we will see weight and license fee increases, and this plan falls disproportionately on the residents in rural areas who commute long distances.
I do not believe the state Department of Transportation has proven efficient enough to warrant this level of spending and debt. We are working on alternative finance options for next year.

Session politics
There was a great deal of frustration from constituents, as well as us legislators, on how long we were in session. However, some things are worth fighting for and it was important we hold the line. Remember in December Gov. Inslee and House Democrats were proposing tax increases of up to $1.5 billion. Instead we got a budget with no major tax increases.

That said, political gamesmanship did rear its ugly head in the last couple weeks. After a budget agreement had been reached, leaders from both parties and chambers stood with the governor to announce that agreement. That agreement should have been honored. I am pleased to see the actions by the Senate Democrats did not go unnoticed by the press:
The Columbian editorial: Senate Dems’ action stinks (July 5, 2015)
  • “As Senate Democrats last week blew a $2 billion hole in the just-approved state operating budget, they exposed the seamy underbelly of political gamesmanship, eschewing compromise and negotiation in favor of extortion. The result is a steaming mess for taxpayers.”
  • “Nobody wins from further delaying the process, save for Democrats who wish to pander to the Washington Education Association, which supports I-1351.”
The Seattle Times editorial: Senate budget breakdown over 1-1351: Get back to work (July 3, 2015)
  • “The whole state has to wait for the Senate Democratic leadership to line up. Disappointingly, that group, led by Minority Leader Sharon Nelson of Maury Island and Deputy Leader Andy Billig of Spokane, reneged on a hard-won budget deal contingent on delaying the implementation of Initiative 1351. Confoundingly, both stood by the governor and their House and Senate counterparts at a June 27 news conference to announce a deal — before working to undermine it.”
The Wenatchee World editorial: A state budget worth the wait (July 5, 2015)
  • “Undermining significant bipartisan accomplishments on the operating budget, using the impossible Initiative 1351 as leverage, only discredits the Senate Democrats.”
  • “The holdouts say they only want attention for a bill to revamp mandatory testing and high school graduation requirements. If so, they choose a tantrum with consequences way out of proportion to their goal. They stand in the way of a budget that is in most ways an important accomplishment for the state and its people. They should step aside.”
- Cary Condotta

Friday, June 26, 2015

$15 per hour - Climbing the ladder to unemployment

by 12th District Representative Cary Condotta

Some lawmakers in Olympia this session want to change the minimum wage law. Unfortunately, they can no more change this law, than the laws of physics or economics. In short, the market will prevail and supply and demand will not be manipulated in the long term even if it sounds good on paper.

Those that support increasing the minimum wage do so under the false pretense that people will make more money, therefore spend more money and stimulate the economy in the process. They tell you it will lead to no change in employment numbers and may actually increase jobs. And last but not least, proponents claim this will decrease the disparity between rich and poor. Once again this flies in the face of economic law that has stood the test of time and will likely continue to do so indefinitely, or until we invent the perpetual motion machine.

The facts are these - unemployment, especially youth unemployment will rise. We already have one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country.

You won’t see any increase in economic activity because no new money is created. For every dollar you add here it has to be removed from somewhere else. And once again, if you increase the cost of something the demand generally decreases. If we raise the price of gasoline by 30 to 40 percent do we buy more?

As far as closing the gap between the rich and the poor, Washington state is a perfect example. We have the highest minimum wage already but our state is not even in the top fifteen states in the nation in addressing income inequality. If a high minimum wage really addressed this issue wouldn’t our state be ranked higher?

Don’t forget an increase in the minimum wage would push all wages up not just the bottom wages. So, if the current minimum wage is about $9.50 and someone is making $11.50, what happens when the $9.50 goes to $12 an hour? To be fair, it would follow that the $11.50 would have to go to $14. This continues up the so-called “ladder” indefinitely creating an instant inflationary effect. In this case, the product most inflated is food products since it is a wage intensive industry. How does this help our fixed income folks?

This also effects the cost of government, specifically labor costs. As the wage ladder ripples through government labor costs it could mean huge tax increases will have to be levied to pay for it. With the most regressive tax system in the United States, those tax increases will hit lower income folks at four to five times harder than the high-income earners.

The result of an increase in the minimum wage is and has been higher costs, lower employment and more wage disparity. We are our own best example. Are there beneficiaries to this policy? Yes, large corporations and conglomerates that can spread the cost and afford mechanization forcing their smaller competitors out of business. So, it is great for the rich and their corporations, but bad for most people in general and small businesses. With an increase in the minimum wage small employers will likely postpone hiring, cut benefits, look to automation, raise the price of their product to cover labor costs or possibly close their doors. So, perhaps it is best we put the “wage ladder” away before we fall from it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Washington Educational Association lies (& more)

  • WEA's claim: State Senate Republicans voted to "shortchange" pay and benefits for teachers and school staff.
    • FACT: The Senate operating budget would bring teacher COLAs to voter-approved levels.
  • WEA's claim: State Senate Republicans voted to increase class sizes - even for kids in high-poverty schools.
    • FACT: The bipartisan Senate capital budget would build 2,100 more classrooms to reduce K-3 class sizes.
  • WEA's claim: The Senate Republicans are likely getting an 11 percent pay increase.

It is worth noting the Senate budget proposal this year gives K-12 the biggest share of spending seen in 30 years. They propose spending $2.7 billion more for K-12 than was spent two years ago. That is about an 18 percent increase.


The whole squabble over funding in fact is about raising taxes. Governor Inslee has proposed a monster tax increase in the name of ineffective carbon cap and tax.  His pet is named SB 6121.  This bill would increase taxes by a total of $ 14,126,118,203 over the next 10 years.

Its worth noting that Washington state citizens already produce 36% less carbon per person than the national average.  Mr Inslee is interested in taking the money, not doing anything for the environment.

Because carbon taxes will fall hardest on the middle class and the poor  --  the rich don't spend the bulk of their income on travel or other carbon uses -- this tax increase will further the elitist/leftist war on the middle class.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New tax proposals

The Washington State House Democratic Party have insisted on substantial increases in taxes, increases of at least 33%, over the next 10 years.  What follows is the short list of their proposed tax increases.

Income tax 1

6114 SB  would impose a Personal Income Tax.  The financial impact would be a tax burden of $ 69,693,000,000 over the next ten years.  The state claims sales tax would be reduced and property tax would be eliminated.

There is presently no information of how much the sales tax would be reduced or how special levies on property valuations would be affected, or when a public hearing will be scheduled.

Income tax 2

HB 1484 would enact an excise tax on capital gains.  The proponents of this bill say it would increase fairness in taxation. 

An excise tax on income from any source allows the legislature to redefine all income as subject to excise tax.  HB 1484 is merely a backdoor attempt to impose a general income tax.

The estimated increase in tax burden of this bill, if left unmodified, is $8,381,000,000 over a ten year period.

HB 1484  is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday, May 13 at 1:30 p.m. in the House Finance Committee at the John L. O'Brien Building, House Hearing Rm A, Olympia, WA

Carbon tax

SHB 1314, which would implement a carbon pollution tax is scheduled for a public hearing by the House Committee on Appropriations.

May 14 at 1:00 p.m.  (Subject to change by the Legislature.), at the John L. O'Brien Building, House Hearing Rm A, Olympia, WA

What other people read on this blog

Effing the ineffable - Washington State elections sometimes have been rigged.

“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
-- Joseph Stalin