Yesterday 60 Minutes did an excerpt on the current mania of the right wing to cut taxes. In an excellent video on the issues, David Stockman, President Reagan’s Budget Director discusses how cutting taxes for many, especially the right wing , has become a religion and has become “rank demagogy” Stockman argues that wealth has increasing become concentrated in the hands of just a few.
The video spends a lot of time discussing Washington State’s I-1098 campaign to put in place an income tax on the top 2% of Washington taxpayers. Governor Gregoire notes that those opposed to it argue about the need to better fund education in our state and asks if not this then what?
The income tax under I-1098 is only on income above $200,000 for a single person and $400,000 for a couple. Less than 2% of Washington’s taxpayers fall in this category.
An income tax is the fairest tax of all. If you don’t make any money you don’t have to pay any income tax. But with property taxes and sales taxes you pay whether you have income or not, regardless of whether you have a job or not.
You can watch the video by clicking on the link below:
King 5 News reporter Sussanah Frame reported on UpFront today that while we are laying off teachers and cutting basic healthcare for children because of state budget cuts, some ferry workers have been earning triple time pay – up to $140/hour. It makes no sense. One has to ask where’s the oversight and cost controls? I thought all state agencies were taking budget cuts to deal with decreased revenue. It seems someone forget to tell the Washington State Ferry System.
“The KING 5 Investigators have found many of those staff chief engineers are boosting their pay year after year through massive amounts of overtime. Public records obtained by KING 5 show some of the money is earned in triple time: $140 an hour – while their boats are out-of-service for repairs and maintenance.
KING 5 found 12 of the 21 staff chief engineers have collected that costly triple time in the last three years.
How’d that happen? They were called in off their vacations to go to the maintenance yard with their boats to make sure everything goes by the book.
But there’s nothing in a union contract saying the staff chief engineer has to scrap vacation plans and come in on triple pay because of repairs or maintenance work. That’s just the way it’s always been done at the Washington State Ferries. Management has chosen this option despite the fact that each boat has a well-qualified alternate staff chief who could do the work for straight time.”
It’s time for Governor Gregoire and Washington State Ferries Director David Moseley to end this absurd siuation. And it’s not just triple time that’s the issue. When people are losing their jobs and taking unpaid leave days, it is a public relations nightmare to try and justify such gross overtime pay period. And we’re not talking peanuts. The top engineer on one ferry boat the Wenatchee had a base salary of $90,000 in 2008 but collected over $190,000, mostly as a result of overtime.
Below is a letter sent today to Governor Gregoire by the King County Democrats Legislative Action Committee. What do you think?
Dear Governor Gregoire:
The King County Democrats Legislative Action Committee is disappointed with your leadership on resolving our state budget crisis by not considering revenue increases as a necessary option. We are one of only two states (along with Louisiana!) where revenue increases are not on the table. Certainly circumstances have changed since your campaign last year. Leadership requires adapting to changed circumstances. The changed economic reality and the magnitude of the budget shortfall should provide a sufficient rationale to the public to explain why you have changed your mind as to how to deal with the current situation.
“An all-cuts budget doesn’t cut it.” We should not sacrifice the well-being and the very lives of our most sick and vulnerable citizens. Please support revenue increases to maintain our state’s safety net as well as provide for the educational needs of our children.
We believe a reasonable starting point should be that program cuts and revenue increases should be given equal weight in dealing with the budget shortfall. That means no more than 50% of the deficit should be program cuts. And a revenue package to make up the other 50% of the budget shortfall should be put on the ballot for voters to vote on.
Letting the voters decide is what they said they wanted. Give them the option. Let them make the final decision.
Sarajane Siegfriedt & Steve Zemke
King County Democrats Legislative Action Committee Co-Chairs
King County Democrats Chair
Add your name to the letter. A copy of the letter as a petition to sign is available at:
Democratic Governor Gregoire has been one of Washington State’s best Governors. Her problem is that she is not one to toot her horn but she has been busy making our state better and addressing the problems we face. If she has a weakness it is in communicating just how good a Governor she has been.
She has a good record of accomplishments to run on. For example during her 4 years we have seen action on a number of environmental issues.
Under her watch we have seen Washington State step up to addressing cleaning up Puget Sound – a long overdue action.
The state passed the Clean Car Act to join with California and other states in dealing with increasing fuel efficiency that the Bush Administration refused to address.
The state has enacted a bill to deal with toxic toys that the Bush Administration also refused to act on.
Legislation was passed to support local agriculture and to provide locally grown food to schools.
Green Jobs legislation was enacted to start Washington state on the road to new jobs and cleaner energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
Gregoire has been active in dealing with climate change, including the Western Governor’s Initiative and the Washington Climate Action bill.
These issues cover just a few of the changes Governor Gregoire has helped to implement.
Meanwhile what can you think of that Republican Dino Rossi has done in the last four year’s to address these or other issues?
Besides smiling and saying he’s for change, what has Rossi done in the last four years on these issues? Nothing. He is running a blank slate campaign – he is talking in non-specific sound bites and ignoring the issues so no one really knows what he will do because he won’t tell us.
That blank slate campaign approach almost got him elected last time.It would be a mistake for Washington voters to repeat the mistake made with George Bush.
Maybe you want to go get a drink with Dino after watching his ads because he seems like such a nice guy but do you really want to trust someone with our state’s future who is running a blank slate campaign and refusing to tell the public want he will do as Governor besides cut the budget.
And even then he isn’t telling you what he would cut. The public deserves and needs more honesty from someone running for Governor. Too much is at stake.
Rossi’s smile in fact is only a campaign gimmick – a technique Rossi learned through his years in real estate. As quoted in the Seattle Times, “I’ve found you can do pretty much anything you want if you do it with a smile on your face,” Rossi said. “It’s amazing what you can get away with if you do it with a smile on your face.”
Voters deserve more than a smile. They deserve someone that will be straightforward and tell them what they believe and what they intend to do. Rossi refuses to do that.
Chris Gregoire has a strong public record and is not afraid to speak out about her positions. She has proved herself to be a competent and capable Governor.
I urge you to vote to re-elect Chris Gregoire as Governor of Washington State on November 4th… She has stepped up and done the job to help protect our environment and move our state in the right direction. She has earned our vote of support.
As of the latest reports filed with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission for the period though Dec 31, 2007, and first available after 1/10/2008, Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire, has raised over $4,665,352 for her re-election campaign, has spent $1,554,766 and has $3,110,586 in cash on hand.
Because of the prohibition of raising funds 30 days before the legislative session begins and during the session, Governor Gregoire’s fundraising stopped as of Dec. 10, 2007. She will be able to resume fundraising after the session ends. The same prohibition on fundraising also applies for other state incumbents running for office.
Republican Gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, who lost to Gregoire in 2004, is re-running and is not subject to the prohibition on raising funds since he is not a state official. He reported receiving $1,707,197 in contributions and in kind donations and spending $393,626 as of Dec 31, 2007. He has $1.303,571 in cash on hand as of Dec 31, 2007.
Rossi’s previous figures were revised as the result of a Public Disclosure Commission dismissal of a complaint that his Forward Washington Foundation was really a campaign committee for his run for Governor.
Lt Governor Brad Owen, a Democrat reported raising $16,635, spending $6917 and having $9717 on hand as of 11/30/2007. No Republican has filed yet with the PDC.
Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican has raised $712,950, spent $318,155 and has $368,252 in cash on hand.
Democratic Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg , as noted at Riddenbaugh Press and first reported by the Tacoma News Tribune, is considering running as a Democrat against Rob McKenna.
Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, has raised $230,899, spent $62,023 and has $168,875 on hand. He has no announced opponents at this time.
Democratic State Legislator Jim McIntire is running for State Treasurer. The current State Treasurer Mike Murphy, a Democrat, is retiring. McIntire has raised $61.795 and spent 14,494. Allan Martin is the Republican candidate. He has raised $29,480 and spent $2733.
Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland, a Republican has raised $170,808, spent $18,655 and has $ 152,153 in cash on hand.
Former Democratic Congressional candidate Peter Goldmark from eastern Washington is challenging Sutherland for this seat. Goldmark has raised $99,644 , spent $30,655 and has $69,025 in cash on hand.
State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a Democrat, has no opponent at this time. He has raised $27,432, spent $4054 and has $23,398 on hand. His last report was 11/30/2007.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, a Democrat, has raised some $40,236, spent $12,046 and has $28,189 in cash on hand. No opponent has filed yet.
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Terry Bergeson has raised $61,573 and spent $8,488.
Richard Sendler of Richland Washington has raised $8,625 and spent $8,027.
Three Washington State Supreme Court races will also be on the November 2008 ballot. Supreme Court Justices are elected to 6 year terms. No fundraising has been reported for these elections yet.
Position #3 is held by Mary Fairhurst.
Position #4 is held by Charles W Johnson who was first elected in 1991 to the Supreme Court.
Position #7 is held by Debra L Stephens who was appointed in December by Governor Gregoire to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Justice Bobbe Bridge.
Governor Chris Gregoire’s first term in office has resulted in several significant Washington State milestones. Washington State is currently the only state in the country with over half of its cabinet level appointments being held by women. It is also the state with the biggest increase in women in these positions in the last decade.
It is quite the opposite in some states. Both Texas and New Hampshire have no women in cabinet level positions. In the Northwest, Oregon only has 27% of its cabinet positions held by women; Idaho has only 17%. Currently 23 women hold cabinet level positions in Washington State, up from 11% in 1997.
Neil Modie in an article in the Seattle PI reports these and other facts from a just released study by the Women’s Campaign Forum Foundation. Washington leads the nation according to the report because of among other things, “a commitment on the part of the governor’s office to recruit a diverse pool of candidates for consideration for appointed positions.”
We’ve written before about the disparity of women versus men in elected offices in this country. Our post was entitled “The Glass Ceiling for Women in Politics.” Only 16% of our US Senators and 16% of our US Representatives are women. Of 50 Governors only 8 are women. And Internationally we rank 68th out of 189 nations in the percentage of women in national parliaments. Since last year we actually dropped from 67th.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “There are currently 1,729 women legislators serving across the country. Women hold 23.4 percent of legislative seats in the 50 states, a ratio that has increased only slightly over the past ten years.”
Nationally men outnumber women in State Legislatures by 3 to 1. In Washington State, the figure is 2 to 1. We rank 7th in the country in women in the Legislature after Vermont 37.8%, New Hampshire 35.8%, Colorado 35%, Minnesota 34.8%, Arizona 33.3%, Hawaii 32.9% and Washington State 32.7% .
Gregoire’s leadership in appointing women to state cabinet positions is important in helping achieve more parity and opportunity for women to assume leadership positions. As Neil Modie writes, the report “said women appointees tend to “open up more opportunities for women overall,” and, “more importantly, appointed leadership is a vital pipeline to elected office” — as it was for Gregoire, for example. She was an assistant state attorney general when former Gov. Booth Gardner appointed her head of the Department of Ecology. From there she was elected state attorney general and, in 2004, governor.”
Today’s print edition of the Seattle PI that I received at my home relegated Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire’s appointment of Debra Stephens to the Washington State Supreme Court to a scant 131 words. It allotted it a space of 3 inches by 3.25 inches equal to 9.75 square inches.
Meanwhile the Seattle Times in a story entitled “Spokane native appointed to state’s top court” wrote 972 words and gave the story some 84 square inches of space. What’s up Seattle PI?
Is it any wonder voters don’t know about candidates who are running for election or re-election to the Washington State Supreme Court when a major newspaper like the Seattle PI gives token only coverage to a new appointee to the Washington State Supreme Court.
The last reported entry on the PI’s webpage is an AP story by Dave Ammons dated 5:48 P.M. on Tuesday Dec 4, 2007. There is no in depth story or any story on today’s webpage this afternoon that I can find. It was only by tying in a search for Stephens that I found the AP story. So much for getting the current news.
Neil Modie in his Strange Bedfellows blog at the PI discusses some of the instant opposition to the appointment of Stephens by the right wing PAC, Justice for Washington, headed up by conservative former Senator Slade Gorton. They raised concern about Stephen’s past association with the Washington State Trial Lawyers. Wonder why? I added the following comments to Modie’s blog post that I think are important for people to know:
“Perhaps you should look at another connection as to why Justice for Washington would so quickly knee jerk oppose new Supreme Court Justice Stephens. Justice for Washington’s most recent C1PC registration form filed with the Public Disclosure Commission has listed as it’s treasurer Dana Childers.
Dana Childers is with the Liability Reform Coalition which represents the insurance industry. She was a chief spokesperson for the Reject R-67 campaign. R-67 was passed by the voters in November. The Washington State Trial Lawyers, although heavily outspent, won.
As you noted Stephens did appellate work for the Trial Lawyers Association. Justice for Washington is obviously a vehicle for the insurance industry to continue to assert itself in Washington politics. The insurance industry spent $11 million trying to defeat R-67.”
I think once again, even though Governor Gregoire tried to appoint someone without controversy, the right wing sees controversy in anyone not believing as they do, and that we can again expect to see huge amounts of money funneled into upcoming state Supreme Court races like this one. As we have previously written, the Washington State Legislature needs to apply the same donor limits that apply for candidates to what individuals can contribute directly to PAC’s because without limits, these so called independent contributions can quickly exceed donations to candidate’s committees.
The Legislature should also revisit public financing for Supreme Court races. For candidates to be truly freely elected, the influence of special interest money needs to be controlled so as not to overwhelm the voice of the candidates themselves. When candidates lose the ability to be heard because special interest money dominates the airwaves, we all lose.
Additional information on Washington State Supreme Court appointee Debra Stephens:
Debra Stephens will replace Justice Bobbe Bridge who has resigned from the court. Stephens was appointed by Governor Gregoire 8 months ago to a seat on the Washington Court of Appeals. She ran unopposed last November. As an appointee to the Washington State Supreme Court she will have to run for re-election in November 2008.
Stephens is a native of Spokane Washington and practiced law there before becoming a judge. She is reported to have made over 100 appearances before the State Supreme Court.
She graduated from Gonzaga Law School in 1973 and has taught constitutional law there.
According to Governor Gregoire’s press release,
“Stephens has taught at Gonzaga since 1995, where she helped to develop a course on state constitutional law. She is a founding member of the Washington Appellate Lawyers Association and a contributing author to the Washington Appellate Practice Deskbook. She has received recognition from “Washington Law & Politics” as a “Super Lawyer” (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007) and as one of the “Top 50 Women Lawyers” (2005) and “Top Appellate Lawyers” (2005).
She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Gonzaga University School of Law since 1997.Stephens received her Bachelor of Arts degree, Magna Cum Laude with honors, and her Juris Doctorate, Summa Cum Laude, from Gonzaga University. She is married to Craig Stephens and they reside with their two children, Lindsey and Bob, in Spokane”
Governor Christine Gregoire today appointed state Court of Appeals Judge Debra Stephens to the Washington State Supreme Court. She replaces retiring Justice Bobbe Bridge. Stephens will have to stand for election next November.
Debra Stephens is from eastern Washington and gives eastern Washington representation on the Washington State Supreme Court. The last judge from eastern Washington was former Chief Justice Richard Guy who retired in 2000. And her appointment keeps the 5 to 4 male/female makeup of the court.
Only 7 months ago Gregoire appointed Stephens to the appellate court. She ran unopposed in the November election.
In selecting Stephens, Gregoire bypassed several people who previously ran for Supreme Court. These included Mary Kay Becker, an appellate judge in Bellingham and Hugh Spitzer, a Seattle constitutional law professor and attorney with Foster Pepper. Both are highly qualified candidates. Also under consideration had been King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu.
With train bells clanking and next year election year jitters agitating them like caffeine addicted fiends, Washington State legislators at the prodding of Governor Gregoire, jumped aboard the Eyman Express. With Train Engineer Christine Gregoire driving and with Conductors Frank Chopp and Lisa Brown punching tickets and screaming this train is leaving, Washington State Legislators stampeded, trampling over each other trying to get seats on the train before it left.
Eyman could be seen laughing his head off at them. He mocked them and insulted them even as they bought his over hyped tickets for the train ride and pledged to carry out his revenue cutting agenda framed as the people’s will.
Watching the Washington State Legislature in Special Session yesterday as it dealt with Governor Gregoire’s request to re-enact Eyman’s 1% Property Tax Limit was quite a spectacle.
Unfortunately it was a sad one. They treated the Eyman contrived 1% property tax limit as if it had some relation to a reasonable and justifiable policy proposal when in reality it only related to Eyman’s continued drive to limit government and taxes.
Credit needs to go to those legislators that in the end voted no on re-enacting I-747. In the House they were Representatives Dickinson, Hunt, Nelson, Pederson, Pettigrew, Santos, Simpson and Sommers. In the Senate they were Senators Fairley, Jacobsen, Kline, Kohl-Welles, McDermott, Murray, Pridemore, Spanel and Weinstein. In addition Senator Oemig made strong efforts to amend the legislation as did Senator Kohl -Welles.
Eyman’s I-747 sugar candy solution to people hurting from rising property taxes is nothing more than that – sugar candy. The people who are most in need of property tax help are lower and middle income people who pay a higher proportion of their income in property taxes than do high income people. I -747 does not change that equation since it’s an across the board limit to a 1% increase per year in overall property tax collections. The law benefits rich property owners more than less wealthy ones.
There was no ‘taxpayer revolt’ in Olympia yesterday. Conspicuously absent were homeowners demanding that I-747 be re-enacted. Maybe they know that it really gives very little tax relief , not having seen any significant impact for the 5 years it was law before the Washington State Supreme Court overturned it.
What there was yesterday in Olympia was a railroad brought on by elected officials unwilling and unable it seems to take the time to enact real property tax reform that would help low and middle income taxpayers. What occurred was that the Legislature again turned a blind eye to the fact that I-747 does not provide relief to those that need it most – low and middle income homeowners dealing with property tax bills rising faster that their income and who pay a greater percentage of their income in property taxes than do the wealthy.
The legislature has held hearings the last two years on real property tax relief in the form of a Homestead Exemption that some 40 states have. The Washington State Budget and Policy Center has done detailed analysis on another form of property tax relief known as circuit breaker legislation. But Gregoire didn’t even put these on the table.
Instead Gregoire comes out with an unvetted bill which is nothing more that a reverse mortgage. She called her property tax relief – a deferral of up to one half of property taxes per year for people earning less than $57,000 a year that have lived in their home for 5 years and have equity buildup.
Watching the Legislators deal with the Governor’s tax deferral bill was truly like watching sausage being made. The bill was surprise legislation not introduced in the Legislature before, that had only a day to be analyzed and considered. Committee Chairs were not allowing amendments to be made to it in the hope it would be rushed through. Many objections were raised in the two committee hearings, particularly by county auditors who saw many problems.
It was obvious from the discussion and critique at the hearings in the House and Senate that the bill had lot of problems. One Legislator characterized it as no more than a reverse mortgage that as a mortgage broker he said he would never offer. Eyman called it predatory lending. In this I agree with him. The current senior deferral has a fixed 5% interest rate.
The interest rate on the Governor’s deferral bill is 2% over the current Fed short term lending rate which is now 5%. This make the interest 7% this year. Since it is in essence an adjustable interest rate, what happens when inflation surges? The homeowner unfortunately goes more and more into debt.
Probably very few people will take advantage of her tax deferral. But she will still claim that she did something.
When you send a message to the Governor you would hope that someone actually reads it. I’m sure the Governor doesn’t read all of her e-mail but someone should at least be keeping track of what the public is saying.
So you figure – I sent a message to the Governor questioning the rush to pass I-747. We need property tax relief that addresses the unfairness of laws like I-747 with its across the board cuts that benefit wealthy property owners more than middle and low income property owners. Re-enacting I-747 doesn’t address the real property tax problem.
So the Governor responds back with the following e-mail.
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Initiative 747. I know that voters are disappointed by this, and I am committed to acting quickly to resolve the situation.
I-747 was approved in 2001 by a large margin, and the will of the voters should be respected. I have called the legislature into a special session on November 29 to address this issue, and will be asking that the one percent property tax limitation be reinstated.
Again, thank you for sharing your concerns. During this year’s election I heard loud and clear that voters are concerned about their tax burden. It is our responsibility to move quickly, recognizing these concerns and reinstating the will of the voters.
Christine O. Gregoire
Whoever reads the Governor’s e-mail and whose job it is to respond should at least write up 2 different responses – one for those supporting her position and one for those opposing it. I was not disappointed by the Supreme Court overturning I-747. Many voters are not disappointed because it is an unfair tax that doesn’t provide the type of help low and middle income property owners could use.
I am disappointed in Governor Gregoire – that she is caving into Tim Eyman and Dino Rossi and seems to have no clue about real property tax reform. She should be looking at ways to relieve the tax burden on low and middle income taxpayers and proposing legislation for a homestead exemption or circuit breaker legislation.
People forget that there is no magic in a 1% limit that doesn’t allow government revenue to even keep pace with inflation. People forget that Eyman first wrote an initiative with a 2% limit that voters passed but which the courts threw out.
As the Tacoma News Tribune wrote in an editorial recently, ” I-747 wasn’t thoughtful; it was a spiteful attack on all local governments because a handful of them had challenged I-722’s 2 percent limit in court.” To now just re-enact I-747 without considering the long term consequences that are building up because it prevents revenue from even keeping up with inflation, would be irresponsible on the part of the Legislature.
The Washington State Legislature should show leadership on this issue and only approve I-747 as a holding pattern on property taxes by adding a sunset provision. Then they should do a study of the impacts of I-747 on needed revenue for local and state government. They should hold hearings and pass legislation for a homestead exemption or pass circuit breaker legislation.
But just reinstating I-747 without evaluating its impacts on local and state governments and without exploring alternatives that are more helpful and fairer to low and middle income taxpayers would show a Governor and a Legislature out of touch with the real world.
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