Testimony in support of SB 5224 to end Eyman’s Anti-Tax Push Polls

Testimony in support of SB 5224 – concerning advisory votes 

 Eliminating Eyman’s push poll tax advisory votes from the ballot

Washington State House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations

Steve Zemke – Tax Sanity           March 11, 2019

The Washington State Ballot for the last ten years has been cluttered with nonbinding push poll questions on tax measures passed by the Legislature.

These so called “tax advisory” questions” were put there as part of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 960 as an attempt to increase public resentment to any “tax” measures despite their benefit to  the larger public. The ballot title for each is basically written as an anti-tax push poll based on Eyman’s ballot title language in Initiative 960 that stipulated the polling question wording.

They carry no Legislative weight as they only record voters’ opinions. They are like a public opinion poll paid for by taxpayers. But Eyman tries to use them to build public opposition to funding public services by wording them such that voters will be inclined to respond negatively to any tax increase. Under Eyman’s definition of tax increases he also includes any efforts by the Legislature to repeal any tax exemptions or tax expenditures even if they are no longer needed or are no longer meeting the state priorities of government.

Deciphering Eyman’s ballot title language is very tricky and confusing to voters. They seem purposely written to try to get voters to vote to repeal any tax increase passed by the Legislature.   And unlike initiatives, the write-up on these so-called tax advisory votes in the voter’s pamphlet contain no explanatory statement, no pro and con statements, and no fiscal impact statement.

In fact, the State Attorney General has no real ability to even try to fairly explain the issue in the ballot title since Eyman’s initiative 960 required that the ballot title be worded as he wrote it:

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, (identification of tax and description of increase), costing (most up-to-date ten-year cost projection, expressed in dollars and rounded to the nearest million) in its first ten years, for government spending. This tax increase should be:
Repealed . . .[ ]
Maintained . . .[ ]

Please end this waste of taxpayer dollars to promote Tim Eyman’s anti-tax propaganda and misuse of the public ballot to further his self-serving anti-tax initiative promotion business. Vote to move SB 5224 out of committee to Rules and to the House floor for passage by the full House. Push polls to promote a private business deserve no place on Washington State’s ballot.

Update Information SB 5224 was prime sponsored by Senator Patty Kudder and Senators Hunt, Takko, Keiser, Nguyen, Darneille, Das, Wellman, Saldana, McCoy, Hasegawa, and Pedersen. The bill has been heard in the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations. Please contact your Representatives and urge they vote for this bill by clicking on this link  SB 5224 and then clicking on “comment on this bill.”  Thanks.

Washington State Democratic Party 2019 Legislative Priorities

Washington State Democratic Party 2019 Legislative Priorities

Washington State Democrats, as citizens of the planet, place the well-being of the people as our highest priority. We believe in the values of community, empathy, equality, tolerance, opportunity, and the common good of the
interdependent world we share.

These are our 2019 Washington State legislative priorities.

Climate Action & Environmental Protection
• Protect our salmon, orcas, and tribal fishing rights by speeding up removal of barriers to fish passage
• Mandate a transition to a one hundred percent clean electric grid by 2045
• Restrict the use of neonicotinoids to save our pollinators from annihilation
• Require single-use plastic bags, straws, and containers to be phased out of stores and restaurants
Fiscal Responsibility & Revenue Reform
• Levy a capital gains tax on the wealthy to fund K-12 schools and higher education
• Develop a fair and equitable property tax code to replace Eyman’s I-747 and the 2017 levy swipe scheme
• Create the Washington State Investment Trust so we have our own publicly-owned state bank
• Abolish indefensible corporate tax loopholes and impose accountability measures for those that remain
Healthcare
• Create the Washington Health Security Trust to bring single-payer healthcare to all Washingtonians
• Adopt legislation to address prescription drug cost transparency
• Provide help to those struggling with opioid addiction by expanding substance abuse treatment programs
• Make substantive mental and behavioral health investments to end the practice of psychiatric boarding
• Ensure everyone has affordable and equitable access to reproductive and sexual health care, including  contraception and abortion, regardless of gender, gender identity, citizenship status, or income
Technology
• Reduce the “digital divide” in Washington State authorizing public utility districts and rural and urban port districts to provide retail ISP and telecommunications services
• Adopt the Washington Internet Privacy Protection Act
• Strengthen our state’s digital defenses to protect critical data like our voter rolls
• Secure public cyber resources and means of gathering public input against abuse by bots
Economic Security, Labor, and Corporate Accountability
• Increase monetary penalties for crimes committed by corporations
• Empower local governments to fight homelessness and protect renters by investing in affordable housing
• Strengthen fines for wage theft and bolster employment and training standards
• Protect good jobs and voter-approved Sound Transit 3 projects by fully replacing (on a 1:1 basis) any revenue lost due to vehicle fee formula changes
Public Safety
• Advance human rights and community safety by abolishing the death penalty
• Implement recommendations of the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing task force, including the establishment of crisis intervention response team pilot projects • Increase funding for geologic hazards mapping plus earthquake, tsunami, and landslide readiness
• Create a civilian review board to implement sentencing reforms
Education
• Fully fund special education and ramp up our investments in early learning and preschool
• Enact the Washington Promise free community college tuition initiative
• Amend the State Constitution to lower the threshold for passage of school bonds to a simple majority
• Empower schools to offer more vocational training opportunities and better civics courses
• Establish disciplinary protocols that eliminate the practice of educational exclusion for children of color
• Track the impact of RCW 28A.600.015 and its effect on the school to prison pipeline (rates of suspension and expulsion) in the state of our schools
• Enact Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) legislation to ensure Washington’s deaf and hard of hearing children have a fluent first language by the time they start kindergarten
Electoral Reform
• Improve Washington’s presidential primary so it protects our First Amendment right to free assembly
• Repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls (erroneously called advisory votes)
• Make postage-free ballot return envelopes permanently available to all Washington voters
• Increase funding for the PDC and expose dark money with tough new transparency laws

Approved by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee on September 16th, 2018

Require Presidential Candidates to Release Their Tax Returns

Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns during the 2016 Presidential Election has spurned a lot of attention and effort to require future candidates running for President to release their tax returns. Below is some relevant background material on the status of efforts to change this in 2020 and beyond.

“In polls, the populace wants disclosure of the president’s tax returns 67%-24% with some polls showing that 64% of Republican’s desire disclosure.”

Forbes, President Trump and Tax Return Privacy, April 5, 2018

Candidates who won’t disclose taxes shouldn’t be on ballot, Lawrence H Tribe, Richard W Painter, and Norman L Eisen, CNN, April 14, 2017

Sign Here – Change.org petition – We want to see Trump’s tax returns.

Can States Ban Trump From the Ballot If He Doesn’t Release His Tax Returns?  New Republic,  March 7, 2018

Maryland Senate Bill 256, March 1, 2018 passed State Senate

Md Senate Passes Bill Requiring Presidential Candidates to Release Tax Returns, NPR, March 6, 2018

Rhode Island -2018 – S 2612 Substitute A June 19, 2018 passed State Senate

Rhode island latest state to try and fail to force Trump to release his tax returns, CNN Politics, June 22, 2018

New Jersey – 2017 – S 3048, passed 2017 by Legislature, vetoed by Governor Christie

Christie vetoes Trump-inspired bill to require tax returns, Matt Friedman, Politico, May 1, 2017

Oregon – Proposed Law would make Trump reveal his tax returns to be on Oregon’s 2020 ballot, Oregonlive.com, Jan 24, 2018

California – California’s Brown Vetoes Requirement that Presidential Candidates Release tax Returns , Common Cause, Oct. 16, 2017

Trump Insanity on Methane

 

Trump is pushing weakening rules regarding trying to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

The New York Times in Sept noted that:

“The Trump administration, taking its third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change, is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere.
Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases, routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome.”

A recent article in Reuters noted that:

“Methane, the primary component of natural gas, leaks from oil and gas wells during drilling. It accounts for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and has more than 80 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it escapes into the atmosphere.
The oil and gas sector is the largest single source of U.S. methane emissions, according to EPA data.”

The Washington Post  pointed out that :

“A new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, written by Solomon and colleagues Kirsten Zickfeld of Simon Fraser University and Daniel Gilford of MIT, underscores the fact that even greenhouse gases that don’t last long in the atmosphere — methane, for instance — can have centuries-long impacts on the expanding oceans. So although the atmospheric warming they cause may taper off comparatively quickly after their emissions are halted, their effects in the oceans are much longer-lived.”

Members of the public have until Dec 15, 2018 to respond opposing the weakening of the rules on methane.

Urge that they do not weaken rules to reduce methane emissions but look at ways to further reduce emissions. Short term “profits” while producing long term climate change impacts is a bad deal.

Go to the website to submit comments on The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Proposed Rule: Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration

Click on Comment Now.

Indivisible – Moving Beyond the 2018 Election

The following is an excerpt from a November 9, 2018 article in the New Yorker entitled Indivisible, an Early Anti-Trump Group, Plans for a Democratic Future by Obysita Nwanevu.   You can read the full article by clicking on the link.

Indivisible’s ideas for what Democrats should do with their new House majority begin with what Levin and Greenberg call a democracy agenda: a new voting-rights act in response to Republican voter suppression, along with larger reforms to the federal government, including statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

“A healthy democratic body would’ve rejected Trump the same way a healthy body rejects a virus,” Levin said. “That didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen because of a conscious effort by conservatives that is decades old to undermine democracy—disenfranchising young people and communities of color in order to entrench their power. And the way that we get all the nice things we want, whether it’s environment or taxes or immigration or reproductive rights, is by fixing the system so it actually responds to the will of the people.”

Of course, none of this will happen under Trump. But Levin and Greenberg say that Democrats should start building support for these ideas and crafting a long-term policy agenda now. “This is the time when you have those conversations within the Party,” Greenberg said. “So that, when you’re actually in power, you’re ready to go and you have a consensus solidified around the approach.”

She added, “You’re going to have to move beyond ‘We’re the party that cares about preëxisting conditions.’ ‘We’re the party that doesn’t want things to get worse’ is not an acceptable message for 2020.”

Re-elect Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez is on the November 2018 ballot. He is running for re-election. The media has paid very little attention to this race. As a result many voters do not know who he is. He is running against an opponent who has been rated as unqualified. A statewide poll earlier this year commissioned  by the Northwest Progressive Institute noted that the public was not familiar with either of the candidates.

The following e-mail was sent out by the Friends of Steve Gonzalez Committee. We are reprinting it here for your benefit. Please vote for Justice Gonzalez.

I have sent this message out to my contact list in support of Justice Steve Gonzalez and ask that you consider doing the same. I am concerned about the recently released poll showing that most voters are uninformed about the race. Every vote counts, and we know that the most effective means of getting people to vote is a message from someone they trust.

I strongly urge you to vote to retain Justice Steve Gonzalez on Washington’s Supreme Court. His reputation as a trial judge and a Supreme Court justice is outstanding. Justice Gonzalez is smart, thoughtful and hardworking, He devotes himself to serving the public, first doing the work of a justice, and also speaking to community groups, mentoring students and younger attorneys, and teaching civics to young people.

Justice Gonzalez is a man of unquestioned integrity, and a devoted husband and father. He has presented himself to all of the bar associations in the state and has been rated exceptionally well qualified by each of them. Before becoming a judge, he prosecuted terrorism, hate crimes and domestic violence. He also was a business attorney and worked for free for people who could not pay.

In sharp contrast, his opponent has no judicial experience, and has avoided ratings by bar association and legal rating organizations. He is being sued by the Attorney General for campaign finance violations and was found by the King County Bar Association to have violated its Fair Campaign Guidelines.

Please vote to retain Justice Steve Gonzalez on our Supreme Court. Washington needs his experience, dedication to fairness and his good judgment.

Please forward this information to your contact list and share the post on Facebook to ensure we have a strong, trustworthy Justice re-elected to Washington’s Supreme Court.

My best,

Judge Deborah Fleck (Ret.)

King County Superior Court

Paid for by Friends of Justice Gonzalez
Friends of Justice Gonzalez
603 Stewart St, #819
Seattle WA 98101 United States
additional information links:
Supreme Court Challenger Leads in Poll, Runs From Camera – KIRO7, Essex Porter, October 26, 2018
Campaign limitations, racial biases, and a Washington State Supreme Court race, Washington State Wire, Sara Gentzler, October 29, 2018

Updating Washington State RCW’s to remove 2/3 vote to raise taxes

Dear Representative Javier Valdez,

Thanks for agreeing to look into this and push to update the current RCW’s to reflect the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 that it is unconstitutional to require a 2/3 vote as needed for the Legislature to raise taxes. It is amazing that 5 years after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled, that the RCW’s have not been updated.  Anyone looking at them to get guidance on Washington State law would assume that the 2/3 vote is still required to raise taxes. One has to wonder how many other Washington State laws have not been updated to reflect Washington State Supreme Court decisions.

I would urge Representative Pollet and Senator Frockt to join you in an effort to update our RCW’s to reflect current law and remove language that has been declared unconstitutional by our Washington State Supreme Court. I know they support this effort and Senator Frockt was instrumental in helping to get the Washington State Supreme Court decision  but 5 years is a long time since the Supreme Court declared the 2/3 vote requirement as unconstitutional.

Thanks again.

Steve Zemke

https://q13fox.com/2013/02/28/state-supreme-court-overturns-23-vote-to-increase-taxes/

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article26261110.html

Here is what comes up when I searched for current RCW:

https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=43.135.034

RCW 43.135.034

 Tax legislation—Two-thirds approval—Referral to voters—Conditions and restrictions—Ballot title—Declarations of emergency—Taxes on intangible property—Expenditure limit to reflect program cost shifting or fund transfer.

 (1)(a) Any action or combination of actions by the legislature that raises taxes may be taken only if approved by a two-thirds vote in both the house of representatives and the senate. Pursuant to the referendum power set forth in Article II, section 1(b) of the state Constitution, tax increases may be referred to the voters for their approval or rejection at an election.

(b) For the purposes of this chapter, “raises taxes” means any action or combination of actions by the state legislature that increases state tax revenue deposited in any fund, budget, or account, regardless of whether the revenues are deposited into the general fund.
(2)(a) If the legislative action under subsection (1) of this section will result in expenditures in excess of the state expenditure limit, then the action of the legislature may not take effect until approved by a vote of the people at a November general election. The state expenditure limit committee must adjust the state expenditure limit by the amount of additional revenue approved by the voters under this section. This adjustment may not exceed the amount of revenue generated by the legislative action during the first full fiscal year in which it is in effect. The state expenditure limit must be adjusted downward upon expiration or repeal of the legislative action.
(b) The ballot title for any vote of the people required under this section must be substantially as follows:
“Shall taxes be imposed on . . . . . . . in order to allow a spending increase above last year’s authorized spending adjusted for personal income growth?”
(3)(a) The state expenditure limit may be exceeded upon declaration of an emergency for a period not to exceed twenty-four months by a law approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature and signed by the governor. The law must set forth the nature of the emergency, which is limited to natural disasters that require immediate government action to alleviate human suffering and provide humanitarian assistance. The state expenditure limit may be exceeded for no more than twenty-four months following the declaration of the emergency and only for the purposes contained in the emergency declaration.
(b) Additional taxes required for an emergency under this section may be imposed only until thirty days following the next general election, unless an extension is approved at that general election. The additional taxes expire upon expiration of the declaration of emergency. The legislature may not impose additional taxes for emergency purposes under this subsection unless funds in the education construction fund have been exhausted.
(c) The state or any political subdivision of the state may not impose any tax on intangible property listed in RCW 84.36.070 as that statute exists on January 1, 1993.
(4) If the cost of any state program or function is shifted from the state general fund to another source of funding, or if moneys are transferred from the state general fund to another fund or account, the state expenditure limit committee, acting pursuant to RCW43.135.025(5), must lower the state expenditure limit to reflect the shift. For the purposes of this section, a transfer of money from the state general fund to another fund or account includes any state legislative action taken that has the effect of reducing revenues from a particular source, where such revenues would otherwise be deposited into the state general fund, while increasing the revenues from that particular source to another state or local government account. This subsection does not apply to: (a) The dedication or use of lottery revenues under RCW 67.70.240(1)(c), in support of education or education expenditures; (b) a transfer of moneys to, or an expenditure from, the budget stabilization account; or (c) a transfer of money to, or an expenditure from, the connecting Washington account established in RCW46.68.395.
(5) If the cost of any state program or function and the ongoing revenue necessary to fund the program or function are shifted to the state general fund on or after January 1, 2007, the state expenditure limit committee, acting pursuant to RCW 43.135.025(5), must increase the state expenditure limit to reflect the shift unless the shifted revenue had previously been shifted from the general fund.
2015 3rd sp.s. c 44 § 421; 2013 c 1 § 2 (Initiative Measure No. 1185, approved November 6, 2012); 2011 c 1 § 2 (Initiative Measure No. 1053, approved November 2, 2010).]
NOTES:
Effective date—2015 3rd sp.s. c 44: See note following RCW 46.68.395.
Intent—2013 c 1 (Initiative Measure No. 1185): “This initiative should deter the governor and the legislature from sidestepping, suspending, or repealing any of Initiative 1053’s policies which voters approved by a huge margin in 2010. The people insist that tax increases receive either two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval and fee increases receive a simple majority vote. These important policies ensure that taxpayers will be protected and that taking more of the people’s money will always be an absolute last resort.” [2013 c 1 § 1 (Initiative Measure No. 1185, approved November 6, 2012).]
Construction—2013 c 1 (Initiative Measure No. 1185): “The provisions of this act are to be liberally construed to effectuate the intent, policies, and purposes of this act.” [2013 c 1 § 7 (Initiative Measure No. 1185, approved November 6, 2012).]
Short title—2013 c 1 (Initiative Measure No. 1185): “This act is known and may be cited as “Save The 2/3’s Vote For Tax Increases (Again) Act.”” [2013 c 1 § 9 (Initiative Measure No. 1185, approved November 6, 2012).]
Contingent effective date—2011 c 1 §§ 2 and 3 (Initiative Measure No. 1053): “Sections 2 and 3 of this act take effect if, during the 2010 legislative session, the legislature amends or repeals RCW 43.135.035.” [2011 c 1 § 9 (Initiative Measure No. 1053, approved November 2, 2010).]
Intent—2011 c 1 (Initiative Measure No. 1053): “This initiative should deter the governor and the legislature from sidestepping, suspending, or repealing any of Initiative 960’s policies in the 2010 legislative session. But regardless of legislative action taken during the 2010 legislative session concerning Initiative 960’s policies, the people intend, by the passage of this initiative, to require either two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval for tax increases and majority legislative approval for fee increases. These important policies ensure that taking more of the people’s money will always be an absolute last resort.” [2011 c 1 § 1 (Initiative Measure No. 1053, approved November 2, 2010).]
Construction—2011 c 1 (Initiative Measure No. 1053): “The provisions of this act are to be liberally construed to effectuate the intent, policies, and purposes of this act.” [2011 c 1 § 6 (Initiative Measure No. 1053, approved November 2, 2010).]
Short title—2011 c 1 (Initiative Measure No. 1053): “This act shall be known and cited as Save The 2/3’s Vote For Tax Increases Act of 2010.” [2011 c 1 § 8 (Initiative Measure No. 1053, approved November 2, 2010).]

 

WA Dept of Natural Resources Prevails in Toxic Cleanup Court Fight

Washington voters in 1988 passed Initiative 97 to require polluters, not taxpayers, to pay for cleaning up toxic waste.  Volunteers collected some 215,505 signatures of registered voters on Initiative 97 – as initiative to the legislature. The legislature put a weaker alternative 97-B on the ballot. Voters by a wide margin passed I-97 and not the Legislature’s version. I-97 put in place a .7% toxic substances tax that is still state law today as the Model Toxics Control Act.

Below is the News Release released today by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources

News Release
MAY 24, 2018

Washington Supreme Court sides with state’s Department of Natural Resources

OLYMPIA – Today, in its Pope Resources decision, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and held that the polluting company alone, not the state, is liable for millions of dollars of environmental cleanup costs under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA).

Between 1853 and 1995, sawmill operations were present in Port Gamble Bay, which were operated by Pope Resources (and its predecessor) beginning in 1890. From 1974 to 1995, DNR leased a small portion of Port Gamble Bay to Pope Resources/Olympic Property Group. The operation of the sawmill resulted in deposition of wood waste and wood debris and accumulation of creosote treated pilings. Collectively, these materials resulted in contamination of the tidelands and bedlands of the bay.

In today’s decision, the Supreme Court found that DNR is not an owner or operator of the Port Gamble facility within the meaning of MTCA. This means that Pope Resources/Olympic Property Group alone, not DNR and Washington taxpayers, are liable for environmental cleanup costs at this site under MTCA.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz issued the following statement:

“This is a victory for Washington’s taxpayers over corporate polluters. I applaud the Washington State Supreme Court for holding owners and operators responsible for the pollution that occurs on their watch. This is consistent with the Model Toxics Control Act’s goal of ensuring that polluters pay for the environmental damage they cause.”

MEDIA CONTACT

Carlo Davis
Communications Director
360-902-1101

360-999-9165 (cell)
carlo.davis@dnr.wa.gov

*Majority Rules Note – Steve Zemke, who maintains this site, Majority Rules, was  the campaign director during the signature phase of this initiative effort. The signatures were collected by all volunteers, not by paid signature gatherers as is usually the current practice.

Way Past Time to Pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution

It is disgraceful that the United States still has not passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.  Now in the Trump ERA seems the right time to renew the push to pass the ERA.  It is the right time to mobilize the American people and the energy and outrage at the backward efforts by Trump and the GOP to dismantle many safeguards and efforts of our country  to better the life of our citizens.  It is a question of human dignity and equality to say that All Americans regardless of sex shall be treated equally under the law.

As the New York Times write in an editorial entitled “The Equal Rights Amendment Returns”:

Having a sexist in the Oval Office who curries favor with conservative religious groups is having dire consequences. Health workers in developing nations are preparing for a rise in unsafe abortions due to President Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rule that prohibits federal funding of groups that provide abortion services or referrals. Here at home, his administration has been hostile not only to abortion access, but even to birth control.

But Mr. Trump’s presidency is also having some effects he probably doesn’t intend. Rage at the election of a man who boasted about grabbing women’s genitals helped set off the #MeToo movement’s reckoning with sexual misconduct. A record number of women are running for office around the country, many of them announcing their candidacies after participating in women’s marches the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

And now, on Mr. Trump’s watch, feminists could reach a goal nearly a century in the making, and that many assumed would never come to pass — ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. It states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Congress passed the ERA on March 22, 1972.  Three quarters of the states are needed to ratify a Constitutional Amendment. According to Wikipedia 36 states have voted to ratify the ERA.  Nevada did so in 2017.. Illinois is moving to becomes the 37th, with their Senate voting YES on  April 11, 2018 by a 43 to 12 vote.

As the New York Times article pointed out there are strong arguments to continue the fight to pass the ERA:

Looking at everything the E.R.A. would not do raises the question of why it’s still needed. Here’s why it is: The court decisions that make up the “de facto E.R.A.” can be undone in a way a constitutional amendment cannot. The E.R.A. would add an extra layer of legal protection for women — and men — against discrimination. This could become especially important if Mr. Trump gets to pick additional conservative Supreme Court justices.

There’s also a symbolic and emotional element to this fight that’s not to be discounted. Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who, before becoming a Supreme Court justice, fought many legal battles over gender discrimination and is a longtime supporter of the E.R.A. — summed up this argument in 2014.

“I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature,” she said. “I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”

Enshrining women’s rights in the Constitution matters. Doing so now, during this presidency, would be particularly fitting.

This is an issue that needs action and is long overdue.  States that have in the past voted in one House but not both include Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia. If Illinois does pass it then only one more state is needed. Maybe Virginia is a strong possibility with their recent change in their Legislature.

 

 

Tax Exemption Transparency and Accountabiliy Act – SB 5513

Testimony in support of SB 5513 – the Tax Exemption Transparency and Accountability Act

Washington State Senate Ways and Means Committee, Jan. 18, 2018

Steve Zemke – Tax Sanity

 Thank you for this opportunity to testify on this legislation.

This is the fifth year this bill has been before you and each year it picks up additional support.  Senate SB 5513 has 14 sponsors and its companion bill in the House, HB 1500, has 33 sponsors. This is almost one third of our state Legislators.  

 Legislation to create a Tax Expenditure Budget has been increasingly supported by numerous groups in our state, including the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, All in for Washington, the Washington State Labor Council, the League of Women Voters of Washington, Washington’s Paramount Duty, the Washington State Democratic Party, the Washington Education Association, SEIU 775, Northwest Progressive Institute, Washington Federation of State Employees, Washington State Council of Firefighters, Faith Action Network, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action,  and others

 Why are these groups supporting this legislation? Because they believe that a system of tax expenditures that gives away more in revenue from the tax base than it collects is a broken system.  They believe that tax exemptions need transparency and accountability and fairness. That does not exist now.

 Tax Exemptions, preferences, deductions, credits, and deferrals are off budget expenditures. They lack the transparency and accountably that exists for other expenditures the state makes as part of the biennial budget process. According to the Department of Revenue’s projection in their 2016 Tax Exemption Report for the 2015 to 2017 biennium they projected that while the state would collect some $7.4 billion in B&O taxes, they would exempt from the same tax base some $11.4 billion. This gap has widened since the last biennium.

Including the rest of the tax exemptions in their report, the Department of Revenue projected that off budget tax expenditures would total almost $40 billion while only collecting revenue totaling some $32.6 billion.

 Of the 694 tax exemptions in that report about 450 are discretionary.  The Department of Revenue projected that in the 2017 to 2019 Biennium that of the $54 billion in projected tax expenditures, some $30 billion would fall into “potential revenue gains”. 

 This legislation does not mandate wholesale repeal of tax expenditures.  It asks for accountability and transparency and biennial review and gives the legislature the ability to act to end exemptions if they do not meet the priorities of government the same as expenditures in the regular biennial operating appropriations budget must.

 Concern about the current system includes a quickly dated Tax Exemption report by the Department of Revenue that is only updated once every 4 years.  Most other states in the country update their report every 2 years or less. California updates their Tax Expenditure report every year.

Companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, Expedia, Adobe and Boeing all must report to their stockholders every year and issue quarterly profit and loss statements.  Their financial statements are scrutinized by their stockholders. It does not make sense that Washington State only updates its Tax Exemption Report every 4 years. It will next be updated in 2020. It should at a minimum be updated two years just as the state biennial budget is..

Only 73 of the 694 listed exemptions in the 2016 Tax Exemption Report have sunset provisions. This means 89% of the tax expenditures have no sunset provision and never require the Washington State legislature to ever vote on them again. Meanwhile all expenditures in the regular operating appropriations budget are scrutinized and voted on every 2 years with adjustment made in the 2nd year of the biennium.

 Also in the Tax exemption report, 54 exemptions are listed as “unable to disclose” the amount of revenue involved.  Businesses and other entities are benefiting from state tax law in getting exemptions and lower or no taxes. The public has a right to know the value of these exemptions. 

The public has a right to know that these exemptions are creating jobs or providing valuable services to Washington State citizens just as they expect expenditures in the regular budget appropriations bill to produce.

  We require that accountability in the regular budget appropriations process – we don’t say we’re spending state revenue but the public doesn’t have the right to know because the recipient doesn’t want us to know what they are getting.

 With the current lack of accountability and transparency and sound fiscal review and evaluation as to whether current tax expenditures meet the state priorities of government and have clear measurable objectives as to their effectiveness in meeting state needs, taxpayers and citizens in this state increasingly believe state government and the legislature are not doing their job.

.Please step up and vote to fix this broken tax expenditure system that severely lacks needed transparency, accountability and sound fiscal management of our total state budget.

 Steve Zemke

 Director Tax Sanity

steve@taxsanity.org

www.taxsanity.org