Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Red light cameras disturb me because they put an automatic, mechanical element between the people and law enforcement. The cameras appeal to government because they are cheap, easy to operate, and efficient law-enforcement. But they isolate government from those they govern.
The Bellingham city council made the right decision.
From The Newspaper.com, March 27, 2012
The city council in Bellingham voted 6-1 Monday night to respect the wishes of voters and pull out of a red light camera and speed camera contract. The city entered an agreement with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) in May 2011 to install the devices, ignoring local activists who had been collecting signatures for a ballot measure opposing camera use.
After a long and drawn out legal battle, the camera ban was placed on the ballot as an advisory measure in November and earned 68 percent of the vote. The same election replaced then-Mayor Dan Pike, the man responsible for the camera contract, with Mayor Kelli Linville who said during the campaign that the cameras were a mistake.
"I think that the mayor and the city council need to pay a lot of attention about what the public thinks about this," Linville said during an October 21 debate. "I personally don't think that it's a good way to generate revenue. The studies show it's not necessarily a good way to make them safer."
Linville and the council approved a settlement that gives ATS $100,000 to break the contract.
From the Bellingham Herald.com March 27, 2012
The money paid to ATS will come from the general fund reserves, but staffing changes she instituted in the mayor's office will save more than that amount each year, Linville said. The dollar amount was a product of negotiations, she said, with the city starting with a lower number and ATS starting with a higher number.
Bellingham would have paid ATS more than $450,000 per year for the cameras. Linville said ATS was willing to approve the new deal because several communities in Washington state have had problems installing and keeping the cameras, and the company knew she didn't support the program. ... "I believe the approach we have crafted together is fair to both parties and, most importantly, supports our citizens' wishes," Linville said in the release. "In working through this matter, American Traffic Solutions has acted as a responsive, respectful vendor and I appreciate the company's willingness to work with us."
Thursday, March 22, 2012
The following front-lines report is from Cary Condotta.
We are in the second week of the special session. The plan is for legislative budgetwriters to meet most of this week to see if some type of agreement can be reached. There are a lot of rumors circulating, which isn’t uncommon when not much is happening. There is plenty to speculate on, especially when the key players are meeting in closed quarters.
Among the things we are hearing:
- The majority party is waiting to see if the courts overturn Initiative 1053 decision so they could raise taxes with a simple majority. You can read more about the status of the lawsuit in The Seattle Times story: King County court hears tax initiative lawsuit. Some believe if the court overturns the initiative, it would give the majority a small window to pass some revenue (tax and fee) bills to generate additional monies to make up for the shortfall.
- The governor has come up with a proposal that would keep sales-tax revenue collected on behalf of local governments in the state’s general fund longer. That could free up $238 million for spending elsewhere. You can read The Olympian article: Legislature considers new maneuver for fixing budget.
What we do know is that the Senate already passed a budget with a philosophical majority – the 22 Senate Republicans and three Democrats. The support for that budget may have increased since they have adjusted their spending plan, particularly the increase in spending on education and higher education.
House Republicans unveiled their own all-priorities budget on Feb. 17 and there are many similarities to the Senate Republican budget. I don’t think the Senate Republican budget is perfect but it is something we can certainly work off of and we only need eight votes from across the aisle in the House. That isn’t many, but House Speaker Frank Chopp has to be willing to consider all ideas and let philosophical majorities come together. And, his caucus is the only one that doesn’t seem to be at the table or willing to budge from their spending plan.
The taxpayers deserve a fiscally responsible budget that addresses our shortfall within existing revenues and doesn’t push the debt into future biennia.
From Rep. Cary Condotta (R-Wenatchee)
Friday, March 16, 2012
- Senate Coalition Takes Battle Public, and Governor Retaliates at Bill-Signing
- Gang of 25 Says House Dems Won't Talk, May Force Vote on New Budget Plan
- Furious Gregoire Threatens to Veto Hostages
OLYMPIA, March 15 — A legislative impasse over the budget escalated to Defcon-4 Thursday as frustrated Senate coalition forces went public with a new budget proposal and threatened to run over the Senate Democratic Caucus a second time. A furious Gov. Christine Gregoire retaliated by threatening to hold bills hostage and execute them one by one.
Meanwhile, the party that may be more responsible for the standoff than any other – the House Democratic Caucus – wasn't saying a word. On a day when seemingly every political figure and interest group in the state had something to say about the situation, the House Ds made no statements to the press. House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, remains as mysterious as the Sphinx.
The Republicans and centrist Democrats who took over the Senate two weeks ago say House Democrats refuse to negotiate, possibly a political strategy aimed at waiting them out. Evidence suggests they are correct. That's why the coalition that now governs the Senate abandoned backroom negotiations Thursday and held a news conference to announce a budget proposal that meets the Dems halfway. Next week, if Chopp's Democrats don't budge, coalition members say they'll pass their budget bill in the Senate and possibly force the House Democrats to negotiate.
But the governor, also a Democrat, says she wants to keep a lid on it. With steam almost visible from her ears, Gregoire told reporters that the Senate coalition is going to have to play it her way. That means they’ll have to do their talking in her office – and no negotiating in the press.
To prove her power, Gregoire canceled bill-signing ceremonies for 26 of the 32 bills that were on her Thursday afternoon agenda. Another 23 bill-signing ceremonies scheduled for Friday have been canceled. And the governor threatened to get tougher. She has until March 28 to sign bills that passed in the final days of the regular legislative session, but if lawmakers don’t start talking in her office, on her terms, she promises to whip out her veto pen. “Maybe that will get their attention,” she snapped.
It was a remarkable day, and one that was made for fingerpointing. State Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Bellingham, drove six hours back and forth from his home district for a bill-signing that never happened. “I think the governor is throwing a temper tantrum,” he said.
Bitter Feelings Behind Impasse
Lawmakers Thursday were in the fourth day of a special legislative session in which nothing appears to be happening, no substantive progress is being made on the budget, and only a handful of members are actually at the Capitol. Most remain at home, on call for when their votes are finally needed.
But in a Legislature where budget disputes are a frequent occurrence, this is no ordinary breakdown. Bitter feelings remain after the extraordinary takeover that occurred in the Senate the night of March 2, when three Democrats broke with their party and voted with 22 Republicans for a fiscally conservative spending plan that won’t leave the state in the red. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate favor a different approach to the state's billion-dollar shortfall. They would stave off deeper cuts by shunting $330 million in current school district expenses into the next budget period, thus ensuring that next year’s Legislature will run short by more than $2 billion.
That 25-24 vote in the Senate two weeks ago flipped the Capitol upside down and ejected Senate Democratic leaders from the driver’s seat. Democrats remained in control of the House.
The problem is that the House Democrats haven’t recognized that control has shifted, said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla. It is as if they are “in total denial,” he said.
A One-Sided Compromise
Coalition leaders say the silence from the House Democrats requires them to take charge. At their news conference Thursday, attended by seven Senate Republicans and the three rebel Democrats, the Gang of 25 released a budget proposal they say offers their best guess about what it will take to settle the argument. Hewitt said that early next week the coalition may pass the budget in the Senate using the same parliamentary tactic that overrode the Senate Democratic leadership on March 2.
Depending on how the coalition does it, the tactic could force negotiations between the House and the Senate, in the form of a conference committee. That would leave the governor with no direct role in the negotiations, although Gregoire still would hold the veto pen.
When one side won’t talk, you can only guess what it wants, said Senate Republican budget chief Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield. But the angry speeches by Democrats since the takeover left at least a vague impression.
“We are prepared to kickstart this thing,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer the public and the press would expect us to sit here and not start making ground. So we have presented a proposal to the House as a way to get home. That is what we are doing today.”
Coalition Proposal Balances Budget
The budget plan outlined by the Senate coalition Thursday comes quite a bit closer to the last known position expressed by the House Democrats, a budget proposal they passed a week ago. The new proposal from the coalition restores about $140 million in items that were cut in its previous budget bill. Most significantly, there would be no cuts to K-12 and higher education programs. Nor would the budget shift the school-district payment to the next biennium. The Senate coalition gets the money by reducing the ending fund balance from roughly $600 million to $440 million.
Where the coalition won’t budge, however, is on its plan to skip a public-employee pension payment in conjunction with long-term pension reforms. Critics say the skipped payment of $133 million is as much a gimmick as the deferred school district payment, because it would cost the state an additional $400 million over the long haul, but Zarelli notes that other long-term pension changes contained in the budget would produce a net savings to the state of $1.9 billion.
The coalition plan also cuts the Disability Lifeline, the state’s medical-aid and housing-voucher program for unemployable adults – a longtime favorite of the House Democrats. And perhaps as a bargaining chip, the budget proposal tosses an idea back into the mix that was shot down earlier this year by the governor and Democratic leaders – a now relatively modest scheme to launch 10 charter schools in poor-performing school districts.they'll pass their budget bill in the Senate and possibly force the House Democrats to negotiate.
The key thing, Zarelli said, is that the Senate coalition plan will allow books to balance this year and next. So no $2 billion in red ink for 2013.
Some Talk, No Action
What infuriated the governor Thursday was the idea that the Senate coalition is making an end-run around budget negotiations that she has been trying to organize herself. She called legislative leaders into her office the first three days of this week. Then she called budget-writers into her office Thursday morning. The way she sees it, the first rule of Negotiating Club is you don’t talk about Negotiating Club.
“I’m trying to be restrained,” she said. “I’m disappointed. I am frustrated. This is no way to get a budget through the Washington state Legislature.”
It is unclear whether the governor’s approach stands any chance of success, however. “It’s been a mixed bag,” she admitted. And if the talks are supposed to be secret, Hewitt says his side was incensed to see that Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown discussed details Wednesday with the Seattle political website PubliCola.
If anything has been accomplished in those backroom talks, it doesn’t sound like much. So far, say Hewitt and Zarelli, there hasn’t been any discussion of the nitty-gritty details of budgeting. The public silence from the House Democrats accentuates the mystery.
Hewitt said the coalition has tried to operate in good faith since the time of the takeover. He presented reporters with a copy of a formal letter he sent to Chopp on March 5. In his letter, Hewitt said he would like to include the Senate Democrats and the House Republicans in the conversation. “Please let me know at your earliest convenience when negotiations can begin,” it said.
Chopp never responded, Hewitt said. Instead, the House passed its latest budget bill on the final night of the regular session, 53-45, incorporating a few of the ideas the Senate Democrats had proposed – essentially another one-sided compromise, just like the one the Senate coalition proposed on Thursday.
No More Ms. Nice Guy
Gregoire was sharply critical of the Senate coalition forces for taking the battle out of her office, but she said her fury knows no partisan bounds. A close look at the 26 bill-signings she put on hold Thursday shows it was a two-handed slap – 13 are prime-sponsored by Democrats, and 13 by Republicans.
She said vetoes are the next step.
“I have given them a message today. My message is I’m not signing their bills. If you keep making no progress, I will not sign your bills, and then time will run out, and I won’t have any time to do anything but [veto]. I’m telling you the truth.”
And she said she is expecting rank-and-file members and lobbyists to begin putting pressure on legislative leaders. Gregoire said she has had it with a Legislature that should have passed a budget months ago. “We should have had a budget, in my opinion, in December. How is that for where my frustration level is? I have been restrained. I have been complimentary. I have negotiated in good faith. Time is up.”
At the very least, that anger is beginning to trickle downhill. Buys wasn’t the only one who made a useless trip to Olympia Thursday. State Rep. Jan Angel came down from Port Orchard. State Rep. Larry Haler came all the way from the Tri-Cities – and because of snow on the pass, he had to go the long way, through Portland.
Buys’ bill has no impact on the budget. If it ever takes effect, it will change the number of members on the state Dairy Commission. And Buys said, “Just because she’s not getting her way, she’s holding bills hostage that have nothing to do with budget negotiations, bills that have to do with people’s lives. Saying ‘I’m not going to do this because I’m upset – that’s kind of childish.’”
-- END --
Thursday, March 15, 2012
From Rep. Cary Condotta (R-Wenatchee)
The Legislature adjourned on March 8, but the governor called us back a few days later because there is still no solution in place to address our approximate $1.1 billion shortfall. Of course, if you were in Olympia you wouldn’t know we are in a special session because the only legislators who are here are those involved in budget negotiations. Leadership from each chamber and budget writers continue to meet, but right now those at the table are far apart.
I have talked about the frustration of special session before, but this one may be the most frustrating one of all. Not because everyone has known since May we would need to address our fiscal situation, not because a special session was called in November to take care of it, not because we debated a variety of social issues and other legislation for about 30 days before the budget received much attention, but because there is a bipartisan solution on the table. We are now in our fifth special session in two years.
There were actually four budgets introduced during the session - one by each caucus in both the Senate and House, and the Senate Republican budget passed with bipartisan support. Nothing is perfect, but enough senators agreed on the proposal and chose principles over partisanship. I feel like we would have bipartisan support for our House Republican budget or even the Senate budget if we could bring it to a vote in the House, but Speaker Frank Chopp insists on the House Democrat budget.
I mentioned in my previous update there are two significant concerns with the Democrat budget. First, it delays education payments until the next biennium. Our own Democrat State Treasurer Jim McIntire called it a “felony gimmick.” It basically writes a $300 million IOU and there is no guarantee the next Legislature will pay it. Instead of potentially using those dollars to fund all-day kindergarten, class size reductions or teacher salary increases, the next Legislature will first need to pay off the $300 million.
Second, the Democrat budget leaves us with a $2 billion budget problem in the future. It solves nothing. The majority has been unable and unwilling to make difficult decisions and long-term reforms related to state spending. One-party control in Olympia has been ineffective and all ideas from both parties should be considered as the Legislature works to resolve our budget shortfall. Review the comments below from the three senators who voted with Senate Republicans in support of a bipartisan budget. It sounds like they are tired of continuing down the path of unsustainable budgets and uncontrollable spending.
- Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue: “Today I stood with a bipartisan group of legislators to support an operating budget and a series of government reforms that will put our state on a strong fiscal footing ... Since before this legislative session began, the message from my constituents has been loud and clear. Another budget that is unsustainable, relies upon accounting gimmicks and sets our state up for a perennial deficit is simply unacceptable.”
- Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup: “The status quo is that we come back every single year and we cut, cut, cut ... There is a time to campaign for what you want and there is a time to govern with what you have.”
- Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch: “…it gives the conservative voice a chance to negotiate ... We have to reduce our spending. That’s what families are telling me in the 35th District. They have got to live with what they have and they want to see government do that as well.”
At this time, it is difficult to predict what will happen in the special session. However, I am hopeful if we take some of the reforms and ideas from the House and Senate Republican budget proposals and work across party lines we can reach a bipartisan agreement and leave Olympia with a balanced approach. It is time to put principles and priorities over partisanship and politics.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
HB 2791, to fund all-day kindergarten for everyone passed out of Ways and Means Committee on party line vote. If enacted, spending will increase $243,507,000 over ten years.
The interesting part is the funding source for this daydream is the proposed repeal of the nonresident retail sales tax exemption. In other words, state visitors will pay sales tax. This bill proposes that will be enough for Olympia to take over kindergarten. Kindergarten is presently an option in some school districts.
When state government teeters on bankrupting itself, it is probably not the time to start state wide kindergarten. Elementary arithmetic shows Olympia should settle other bills first.
State Recreation/Discover Pass
E2SHB 2373, about the state's mismanagement of its recreational resources, ("Discover Pass"), shortens free parking from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, display of a Discover Pass exempts the vehicle. The Discover Pass is $30 per year.
Beginning July 1, day-use visitors at state parks will need to pay $10 per use or have an annual Discovery Pass.
Attendance is projected to drop even more than it already has in state recreation sites if something is not done. The underlying problem is the Legislature is puzzled that people don't want to pay for something they used to get for free.
The projected income is $15,670,200 over 10 years -- wishful thinking.
Friday, March 2, 2012
Here we go:
SB 6548 imposes an income tax on "high earners" (later to be expanded to everyone). The stated purpose is to fund education.
HB 2766 imposes an excise tax on the receipt of adjusted gross
income above one million dollars. The concept of defining personal income as sales proceeds is identical to the initiative 1098, turned down by the voters in 2010.
HB 2486 is a monster tax package. It introduces something called the "Corporate Privilege Tax", combined with a personal income tax. The stated purpose is provide for education.
Backers claim sales tax and property tax would be reduced -- thus reducing overall revenues to the state $7,487,420,000 over an 8 year period.
SB 6550 is the Senate version of HB 2486, and is nearly identical.
HB 2744 would replace the business and occupation tax with a flat rate tax on corporate net income. The present business and occupation tax is based on gross business income.
SB 6495 would be a massive personal income tax of $71,666,712,000 over 8 years (the projection runs out that far, but the tax would go on until modified). Backers claim sales tax and property tax would be reduced, reducing the overall tax increase.
HB 2563 - A special category of income tax is capital gains tax. HB 2563 proposes to tax capital gains income at 5%. This state tax is in addition to the federal capital gains tax, currently 15% or 35%, depending on term. See Wikipedia for more on this tax.
Proponents of capital gains tax always insist taxing capital is "more fair." They insist no one works for capital gains - vile calumny. A person who risks his savings by investing, and thus building the economy, is going to sweat, doing a kind of work no tax-crazed politician will ever understand.
A capital gains tax actually reduces capital available to fuel growth, and thus jobs. Leftist politicians desire to control the people's chance to work, and therefore lust over private capital gains. These politicians are aware of the misery they can cause with their excessive taxation, but they don't care.
The sales tax and other so called "regressive" in Washington State probably helped moderate some of the impact of the current depression. Sales taxes are applied to consumption, which inhibits waste.
Income tax and other so-called "progressive" taxes tax production. A depression like the current one is a drop in production, which had the nasty side effect of making workers unusable. If the state was taxing income from the remaining productive companies, those companies (and their workers) would have faced a dangerous and unfair burden to their future employment.
The best solution to Olympia's current funding problems is to make the tough choices and reduce state spending.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
The big money is behind homosexual marriage. The powerful elites of the "Democratic" Party back homosexual marriage. The power and sweep of this fashionable change of social laws must be well financed and backed. So this is a done deal, right?
Not as long as words have meaning.
"Marriage" means the connubial union of a man and woman, with the possibility of birth of children from a combination of the man's and woman's DNA. A close substitute for first marriage is a second marriage -- the connubial union of a man and woman often for the purpose or bringing up children from an earlier marriage.
Homosexual "marriage" is no similar, natural, expression of love, like child bearing. Homosexuals can be in love, and even want to cohabit. Washington State has recognized this level of same-sex commitment, including right of survivorship. The call for same-sex marriage is simple-minded destruction of the meaning of language.
The out-of-its-mind left thrives on destruction of meaning. (Did you ever notice the left is dominated by lawyers?) No matter the clear meaning of what you thought you said, a lawyer or a leftist can twist the words 'til they mean more power for government and more regulation for society.
400 years ago...
Whatever Hypocrites austerely talk
Of puritie and place and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to som, leaves free to all.
Our Maker bids increase, who bids abstain
But our Destroyer, foe to God and Man?"
- John Milton Paradise Lost (l. Bk. IV, l. 738–749).
Protect Marriage Washington
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