For the 2011-2012 Legislative Session, the Olympia House of Representatives will have 21 Standing Committees:
Agriculture & Natural Resources (AGNR)
Business & Financial Services (BFS)
Capital Budget (CB)
Community Development & Housing (CDH)
Early Learning & Human Services (ELHS)
Education Appropriations & Oversight (APPE)
General Government Appropriations & Oversight (APPG)
Health & Human Services Appropriations & Oversight (APPH)
Health Care & Wellness (HCW)
Higher Education (HE)
Labor & Workforce Development (LWD)
Local Government (LG)
Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness (PSEP)
State Government & Tribal Affairs (SGTA)
Technology, Energy & Communications (TEC)
Ways & Means (WAYS)
2011-12 House Standing Committees/Issue Areas
Please note: This is a general description of issue areas considered by committees; not a definitive or exhaustive listing. It is provided solely to assist members in requesting committee assignments.
Agriculture & Natural Resources
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee considers issues relating to agricultural production, marketing, and sales; animal and plant disease control; fisheries and wildlife; forest practices and forest fire protection; water; and mining. The committee also considers the management of certain state-owned lands.
Business & Financial Services
The House Business & Financial Services Committee considers the licensing and regulation of businesses and professions (except for health care professions). The committee also considers issues relating to insurance, including the activities of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency, the solvency of insurance companies, and the rates and practices of insurance companies. Financial services issues include the safety and soundness of state banks and credit unions, the regulation of consumer credit and lending, and the regulation of securities and investments. The committee also considers consumer protection issues relating to motor vehicles, financial services, and insurance.
The House Capital Budget Committee considers the state capital budget which approves money for the construction and repair of public buildings and for other long-term investments, such as land acquisitions and transfers. In addition, the committee considers state money that is either given or lent to local governments or nonprofit organizations for infrastructure, housing, and cultural and heritage facilities. The committee also considers legislation that authorizes state debt and legislation that affects state buildings and land.
Community Development and Housing
The House Community Development and Housing Committee considers issues relating to the economic and social vitality of communities, including the establishment and operation of special districts that provide community services, community development funding, strategies to build self-sufficiency for low income communities, small business, business assistance and financing, tourism, and trade. Housing issues considered by the committee include the accessibility and affordability of housing, state assistance to low-income housing, housing authorities and the Housing Finance Commission.
Early Learning & Human Services
The House Early Learning and Human Services Committee considers issues relating to early learning from birth to kindergarten, as well as a broad array of issues affecting children and families, including parent education, foster care, dependency, child protective services, child welfare services, children’s mental health and family reconciliation services. The committee also considers family support programs, including TANF and Disability Lifeline, issues relating to persons with developmental disabilities, adults in need of drug and alcohol treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and at risk-youth, youth violence prevention and juvenile offenders.
The House Education Committee considers kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) educational policy and finance issues.
Education Appropriations & Oversight
The House Education Appropriations & Oversight Committee considers issues relating to funding and oversight of early learning, K-12, and higher education programs and agencies and makes funding recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee. In addition, the committee considers bills relating to early learning, K-12 and higher education with limited fiscal impact.
The House Environment Committee considers issues relating to climate change, renewable energy standards, recycling and solid waste, hazardous waste, toxics, air quality, aquatic lands, oil spill prevention, the State Environmental Policy Act, and parks and recreation. The committee also oversees the Puget Sound Partnership’s activities in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.
General Government Appropriations & Oversight
The House General Government Appropriations & Oversight Committee considers issues relating to funding and oversight of general government, natural resources and corrections programs and agencies and makes funding recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee. In addition, the committee considers bills relating to general government, natural resources and corrections with limited fiscal impact.
Health & Human Services Appropriations & Oversight
The House Health and Human Services Appropriations & Oversight Committee considers issues relating to funding and oversight of health and human services programs and agencies and makes funding recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee. In addition, the committee considers bills relating to health and human services with limited fiscal impact.
Health Care & Wellness
The House Health Care and Wellness Committee considers a broad range of issues relating to the provision of physical and mental health care services, long-term care, and strategies to promote better health. Health care service issues include the licensing and regulation of health care facilities and the credentialing of health care providers. The committee also regulates pharmacies and pharmaceutical drugs, and has oversight and regulatory responsibility for state and local public health programs. The committee also considers issues relating to the accessibility and affordability of health care in both the private health insurance market and public health programs such as Medicaid and the basic health plan.
The House Higher Education Committee considers issues relating to the state’s public and independent baccalaureate colleges and universities, public community and technical colleges, and private career schools. Issues include governance and coordination of higher education, financial aid, tuition, distance learning, and the licensing of private colleges and career schools.
The House Judiciary Committee considers a wide variety of subjects relating to civil and criminal law, including issues involving commercial law, torts, probate, guardianships, civil commitment, drunk driving, courts and judicial administration, landlord/tenant law, and Consumer Protection Act remedies and processes; and family law issues such as marriage, marriage dissolution, child support and adoption.
Labor & Workforce Development
The House Labor and Workforce Development Committee considers issues relating to industrial insurance, unemployment compensation, collective bargaining, family leave, safety and health standards, and employment standards, such as wage laws and employment discrimination. The committee also considers issues relating to the building and construction trades, and workforce development issues, including apprenticeships, job skills and working retraining, and implementation of the Workforce Investment Act.
The House Local Government Committee considers issues relating to the operations and financing of counties, cities, and some special districts. The committee also considers issues relating to the Growth Management Act and related land use issues, such as local permitting and the subdivision of property.
Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
The House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee considers issues relating to law enforcement agencies, crime prevention, criminal penalties and sentencing, registration and civil commitment of sex offenders, adult correctional programs and institutions, mentally ill offenders, and state and local government preparedness to respond to public emergencies, including the interoperability of emergency communications systems.
The House Rules Committee considers all bills reported from policy and fiscal committees and determines whether, and in what order, to schedule their consideration on the floor of the House. The Rules Committee also reviews, adopts and schedules consideration of floor resolutions.
State Government & Tribal Affairs
The House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee considers issues relating to the processes of government, including state agency rule-making, state government reorganization, elections and campaign finance, public disclosure, ethics in government, procurement standards, and public employment. The committee also oversees various state agencies and officials, and considers the regulation and oversight of liquor, tobacco and gambling, and issues relating to veterans and the government-to-government relationship of the state and Indian tribes.
Technology, Energy & Communications
The House Technology, Energy & Communications Committee considers deployment, regulation, and access to technology and electronic communications; energy availability, production, and conservation; and related infrastructure issues.
The House Transportation Committee considers the transportation budget, revenue sources for transportation funding, and issues relating to transportation policy and transportation agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol.
Ways & Means
The House Ways and Means Committee considers the operating budget bill, global fiscal issues such as pension policy and compensation, and bills with larger fiscal impacts. The committee also coordinates the work of the Education Appropriations & Oversight, General Government Appropriations & Oversight, and Health and Human Services Appropriations & Oversight Committees in developing the operating budget. The committee also considers issues relating to state and local revenues, such as increases or decreases in taxes, exemptions from taxes, and changes in the administration of taxes. (Note: Issues involving revenue for transportation purposes, such as gasoline taxes, are usually considered by the House Transportation Committee.)
The above information is courtesy of Seth Dawson.
For more information and to track legislative bills go to www.leg.wa.gov.
Two of the founders of our country, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, would have voted No on Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 if they were alive today. They spelled out their reasoning in The Federalist Papers in which they discussed the wisdom and necessity of majority rules for voting, instead of requiring a supermajority vote. Their arguments, which helped to frame the majority voting provisions in the US Constitution, are still as relevant today as when they were first written.
Initiative 1053 is an attempt to rewrite the rules by which Washington State Legislators make their decisions and vote. Article II, Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution says the Washington State Legislature shall make decisions by a majority vote. Eyman wants to change this to require that a 2/3 vote is needed by both Houses of the Legislature to pass revenue measures to fund state services or to repeal special interest tax exemptions that only benefit large corporations.
James Madison in The Federalist Papers No 58 had this to say about requiring supermajority votes:
It has been said that more than a majority ought to have been required for a quorum; and in particular cases, if not in all, more than a majority of a quorum for a decision. That some advantages might have resulted from such a precaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additional shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle generally to hasty and partial measures. But these considerations are outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority. Were the defensive privilege limited to particular cases, an interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices to the general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences.
Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers No 22 likewise stated:
what at first sight may seem a remedy, is, in reality, a poison. To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser. …
This is one of those refinements which, in practice, has an effect the reverse of what is expected from it in theory. The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority. …
If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority, respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule that of the greater, … Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good. And yet, in such a system, it is even happy when such compromises can take place: for upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or fatally defeated. It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of inaction. Its situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes border upon anarchy.
These arguments for majority votes still ring true today. Washington State voters should vote NO on Initiative 1053 and uphold our State Constitution.
This issue should have been decided long ago by the Washington State Supreme Court. Any attempt to limit the Washington State Legislature from enacting revenue bills or repealing non-performing tax exemptions by requiring a supermajority vote is unconstitutional. Initiative 1053 is unconstitutional and should be rejected by voters this November.
The Washington State Constitution is very clear on this issue.
Article II, Section 22 states:
“PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.
It does not state that more than a majority vote can be required. Initiative 1053 tries to change that by requiring Legislators to act by a 2/3 supermajority vote in both Houses to enact revenue measures or repeal tax exemptions. It happens to be revenue in this case but it could just as easy be environmental protections or labor issues or race issues or women’s issues or any other issue.
The fact of the matter is that anything more than 50% to pass a bill would give Legislators on one side of the issue more power than the other side in determining the outcome of a vote. Requiring a 2/3 vote to pass a measure means that the vote of 1/3 of the Legislators can prevail over the vote of 2/3 of the Legislators.
A majority vote gives both sides on a issue equal voting power to pass or reject legislation. Everyone’s vote has equal weight. It’s the basic concept of one person/one vote. But a 2/3 vote requirement for Legislators to pass something means that 1/3 of the Legislators can prevent passage; in essence giving the vote of those opposed to a measure twice the weight of someone voting for the measure.
This sets up a two tiered system of weighted votes, something that is not in the State Constitution for passing legislation. It distorts the process of representational government. Initiative 1053 tries to change the Washington State Constitution by saying that in some cases your elected Senator or Representative will represent you with one full vote to decide an issue but in cases involving raising revenue or repealing non-performing tax exemptions, they will essentially only have the equivalent of half a vote to decide the issue if they vote yes. If they vote no their vote will represent a full vote.
This is the flaw in supermajority votes. Under a 2/3 majority vote requirement to pass some issues, it sets up a system that essentially assigns Legislators the equivalent of half a vote if they vote yes or a full vote if they vote no on certain issues.
While I-1053 would require supermajority votes for deciding to raise revenue or repeal non-performing tax exemptions, it only requires a simple majority to pass itself. It does not require a 2/3 vote.
Washington voters are certainly not overwhelmed by this proposal based on past voting. In the one instance in which it was mentioned specifically in the ballot title, it just barely passed. That was Initiative 960 in 2007. It only received a 51.24% yes vote. That is nowhere near the 2/3 voting requirement it is asking the State Legislature to operate under.
In 1993, the 2/3 vote requirement was an issue in Initiative 601, even though it was not specifically mentioned in the ballot title. It also just barely passed with a 51.21 % yes vote.
Eyman mentions this measure passing 3 times which is misrepresenting the issue. In 1998 voters passed Referendum 49. It’s subject dealt with motor vehicle excise taxes, bonds for highways and spending limits. Nowhere was a 2/3 vote requirement mentioned in the ballot title or official arguments for the voters pamphlet by supporters and opponents as referenced by the League of Women Voters.
These attempts to negate the concept of 1 person/1 vote for Legislators voting are unconstitutional. They are attempts to assign different voting powers to different Legislators depending on whether they vote for or against a particular measure. The Washington State Constitution does not allow the ability to weight votes for bills depending on the subject.
Article I, Section 29 states:
CONSTITUTION MANDATORY. The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.
The State Constitution does not set up the power to weight votes depending on a Legislator’s position on a bill.
The issue of revenue/taxes is specifically addressed in another part of the Washington State Constitution.
Article VII, Section 1 states:
TAXATION. The power of taxation shall never be suspended, surrendered or contracted away.
Initiative 1053 is obviously an attempt to take away the Legislator’s authority to raise revenue or taxes to support public services. The only way this can be altered is by a constitutional amendment.
An initiative or legislative bill can not amend the state constitution. That requires a constitutional amendment. Because constitutional amendments affect the basic framework of how our government works, it is a specific instance where the state constitution spells out a requirement for a 2/3 vote by the Legislature and a majority vote of the people to pass. Two other instances spelled out for 2/3 votes by the Legislature are to expel a member of the house and a 2/3 vote in the first 2 years to amend an initiative.
No where does the Washington State Constitution say that voters can by a simple majority vote on an initiative, limit the power of Legislators to pass revenue legislation or repeal under-performing tax exemptions by requiring supermajority votes. Under Article I, Section 29 to do so would require express words and no such words exist in the Constitution.
Initiative 1053 should be rejected by voters this November. It is unconstitutional. Uphold our Constitution by voting No on 1053 this November 2nd!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a conservative or liberal; Washington State’s Retirement System needs radical changes to be credible. At a time when college tuition is being greatly increased, classes and programs are being cut, teaching professionals are being let go and money is not even available for many teaching fellowships for graduate students, some colleges and universities around Washington State have been rehiring back to their old jobs, people who have retired as state workers and allowing them to both be paid a salary and collect retirement funds.
As the Seattle Times reported on June 27, 2010, this process has resulted in a mockery of public funding of our higher education system. The example of just one Washington State University official shows why:
“Greg Royer ranks among the state’s top-paid employees, with a salary of $304,000. But that’s just part of his income. For nearly seven years, he’s also collected an annual pension of $105,000.
Royer, the vice president for business and finance at Washington State University, tops a long list of college administrative staff members who’ve been able to boost their incomes by up to 60 percent by exploiting a loophole in state retirement laws.
A Seattle Times investigation has found that at least 40 university or community-college employees retired and were rehired within weeks, often returning to the same job without the position ever being advertised. That has allowed them to double dip by collecting both a salary and a pension. …
A Times analysis of state payroll and retirement records shows that, as of the beginning of this year, about 2,000 people were collecting both wages and a pension from the state. In about two-thirds of those cases, however, retirees had returned to a state job on a part-time or on-call basis.
The Times found that 58 workers “including the 40 in higher education” had retired and been rehired full-time within three months. WSU and the University of Washington together accounted for 30 of those cases. A number of state agencies, most notably the Washington State Patrol, accounted for the cases outside of higher education.”
Washington State’s current state retirement system allows workers to retire with regular benefits at age 60 or after 35 years of service. It’s easy to understand taxpayer’s being angry when many are just looking for one salary to meet family needs. To allow state workers to game the system by double dipping, while cutting services and asking for more taxes is not acceptable.
Compare this with the headline in an article today in the Seattle Times that says for most workers, who are dependent on social security to make ends meet that “70 might become new retirement age”. Current retirement age for folks like me born between 1943 and 1954 is age 66. For those born after 1960, it is 67. And as I understand it, if I earn over a certain amount each year when I retire, my social security benefits are cut.
Washington State legislators need to act now to reform the state retirement system. While I am a strong advocate for the state funding essential public services like higher education, I am offended that the state continues to allow its retirement system to be abused. Washington state legislators need to correct this problem now!
As Ryan Blethan of the Seattle Times noted in an editorial in today’s Seattle Times:
“More is expected of those who lead our public institutions, especially those who sit atop our colleges and universities. …”
Blethan goes on to note that action needs to be taken and that we’re not talking peanuts here.
“…there are about 2,000 double-dipping state employees, costing the state approximately $85 million annually. The Times investigation found some of these rehires happened within weeks and the positions were never advertised. A state employee can only be rehired after a month of retirement.
The problem seemed to slide by in healthy economic times even though it should not have. The Legislature needs to close the double-dipping loophole during the next session, even if that next session is a possible extra session.
Legislators do not have any other choice unless they are not serious about adjusting the state’s budget to economic reality. If addressed quickly and aggressively this is low-hanging legislative fruit”.
The leadership of the Washington State Federation of State Employees has lost their marbles. Piqued because they believe the Democrats in the Washington State Senate did not do enough to support to support them in the budget, they decided to not just not endorse any Democratic Senators in their early endorsement process; they decided to endorse a strong supporter of Eyman’s Initiative 1053 that will make their plight even worse next year if it passes.
They endorsed Republican Pam Roach who is hardly a friend of labor or raising revenue to pay state employees or fund any state services being cut. Roach spoke at Tim Eyman’s press conference when he filed I-1053 earlier this year. Roach is for cutting the state budget which means cutting state employees.
Initiative 1053 would restore the 2/3 voting requirement that Democrats in the Legislature suspended in order to raise the revenue they did this year – some $753 million, after not raising any revenue last year because of the provisions of Eyman’s I-960.
It’s one thing to argue the Democrats should have done more, like eliminate more special interest tax exemptions that deplete the state budget to benefit certain businesses and corporations. But it is the height of ill advised political posturing to turn around and support someone like Pam Roach.
If the Washington State Federation of State Employees thinks Democrats did not go far enough, then they should field their own candidates that support their position. There are many of us that believe that the Democrats could have been more aggressive in revising our tax code to make it fairer to working families and done more to eliminate tax exemptions that unnecessarily reduce overall revenue to benefit only a few special interest taxpayers.
A picture can say a thousand words. Go to the following post on the Pam Roach Report and view the picture at the bottom. These are the folks the Washington State Federation of State Employees is throwing their lot in with by endorsing Pam Roach. Pam Roach is seated with friends Senator Don Benton on one side and Tim Eyman on the other, flanked by Eyman financier Michael Dunmire.
Yes, the Federation of Washington State Employees has lost their marbles. Let’s hope this is only a temporary lapse as labor has been a strong force for tax reform in Washington State. We all make mistakes.
The Automotive United Trades Organization in Washington State is just the latest example of greed and shortsightedness by businesses wanting to make money but not pay the environmental costs to society of their doing business.
This week they filed a lawsuit to try to exempt themselves from the provisions of Initiative 97 – a popular Washington State initiative overwhelmingly passed by voters to cleanup toxic waste.
Former State Senator and also former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge is the attorney for the Automotive United Trade Association. It seems Talmadge is also willing to take the money as their attorney.
This is disappointing to say the least as Talmadge supported the original legislation, Initiative 97, and had courted progressives and liberals in his campaigns.
Initiative 97 was passed by Washington voters in 1988. The vote was a 2 step process, Voters approved the measure with an 84% yes vote, choosing the citizens alternative over a legislative alternative. The law has been in effect for 20 years. Citizens collected signatures to place I-97 on the ballot. The Legislature came up with an alternative that the oil industry supported because they would have had to pay less. Voters approved the measure with an 84% yes vote, then choose the citizens alternative over a legislative alternative by a 56% yes vote.
The current fight has come about because of efforts to increase the toxics tax to fund stormwater cleanup projects across the state.The bill is still under consideration in the special session. Oil industry officials are strongly opposing passing legislation to increase the toxics tax and threatened to take the issue to court if the Legislature increased it.
Now that the legislature is in Special Session, the oil industry has decided not to wait to see what the Legislature does but has gone ahead with the suit anyway. The suit has been filed by the independent gas stations association called AUTO. The action ends a 20 agreement by oil interests not to challenge the bill, which they agreed to when the legislature in 1988 put the industry alternative on the ballot along with the citizen’s version.
Currently before the legislature this year are two bills:
HB 3181 -Concerning the clean water act of 2010 funding cleanup of water pollution and other programs necessary for the health and well-being of Washington citizens through an increase in the tax on hazardous substances has 35 sponsors. The substitute house bill 3181 has been watered down such that it increases the 0.7 percent Hazardous Substance Tax (HST) rate by an additional 0.1 percent annually until the additional tax rate is 0.4 percent.” The original bill proposed increasing the tax to 2%. The bill still has not been acted on.
SB 6851 has 24 sponsors and has a substitute which proposes that
“Beginning July 1, 2010, the Hazardous Substance Tax rate is increased by 0.5 percent (combined tax rate is 1.2 percent).
The additional taxes are deposited as follows:
85 percent into a new Storm Water Account; and
15 percent into the Motor Vehicle Account.
A new Storm Water Account is created in the state treasury. DOE is responsible for distributing funds in the account to local governments as grants.
Revenues deposited into the Motor Vehicle Account must be used to fund activities or projects that address contamination of storm water through transportation infrastructure.
Revenues may not be used for construction of storm water facilities associated with new road construction”
The Senate also has taken no further action on this bill. Legislators should act to approve this legislation
The Environmental Priorites Coalition has listed passage of legislation to cleanup polluted storm water runoff as one of their three top priorities. They have labeled this legislation as the Clean Water Act of 2010.
The toxics tax has been used to clean up toxic substances caused by the use of toxic chemicals. Polluters should pay for the costs of toxic cleanup
Stormwater runoff is heavily polluted by petroleum products like oil and gasoline leaking from cars and trucks as well as pesticides and herbicides.
The oil industry is once again just trying to take the profits from the sale of gasoline and other oil products and take no responsibility for the environmental and health costs caused by the use of these chemicals. They would rather have taxpayers pay all the cleanup costs. The courts need to uphold the toxic cleanup tax and the Legislature is justified to use this tax to cleanup stormwater runoff. Legislators should act to approve this legislation now that would increase the tax.
(Note – In 1987 I was the Campaign Director for Initiative 97 and coordinated the signature drive by citizens to collect the signatures that qualified I-97. Steve Zemke)
Advocates should be loud and assertive about the need to raise revenues. Governor Gregoire has said she would raise only $700 million of the deficit, about one-third in revenues, and balance the rest with cuts to essential services.
The King County Democrats take the position that we should raise two-thirds in revenues and cut one-third in services. The amount of the revenue goal will determine what kind of revenues are considered. It will be less painful to vote for a few large taxes than many small ones.The Governor has said she wants to address tax breaks. I suggest the legislature start with the largest non-performing tax break. That would be Boeing’s 2003 $3.2 billion (over 20 years) for promising 1,200 additional jobs. Instead, last year alone they laid off over 10,000.
The Seattle Times on Sunday Jan. 4th ran an article about other states rescinding their nonperforming tax breaks and demanding refunds, or “clawbacks.” We want to see that here, too. We don’t appreciate being played for fools.
Extending the sales tax to all services, not just professional services, would do the most to fill the deficit gap. It would also be, in effect, progressive tax, since low-income people tend to hire few lawyers, accountants and financial advisers. I’ll bet most moderate-income people would prefer to pay sales tax on haircuts, rather than see 65,000 people lose Basic Health plans. According to the Rebuilding our Economic Future Coalition, a recent poll showed that–after hearing how deep the cuts in services would be–65% of Washingtonians supported increasing revenues.
Legislators should also use this crisis as an opportunity to take needed steps toward an income tax for high-earners, couples making over $500,000. This 1% tax would be constitutional if Washington law defined income as different from property. Sens. Adam Kline and Rosa Franklin’s SJB 8205 addresses this and should be given an early hearing.
Most of all, Democrats should take courage, and note that Seattle passed the Seattle Housing Levy in a time of economic downturn by its biggest margin ever, 68%. Trust the voters to know that you’re doing the right thing.
(This post first appeared as a comment on the Northwest Progressive Institute blog.)
The State of Washington is facing an additional $2.6 billion shortfall in revenue for the remainder of the current biannual budget cycle. Critical state services will be cut unless tax revisions and proposals to raise new revenue are adopted by the Washington State Legislature.
Below is a copy of a just received press release regarding a proposal already adopted by a number of other states – namely raise the tax on tobacco products which contribute to health care costs in the state. Legislators should support this measure as a reasonable alternative to further budget cuts and further loss of vital state services.
Representative Cody Sponsors Bill to Increase Tobacco Tax
Health Care Committee Chair aims for $88 million in revenue and decline in smoking rates
Olympia – Representative Eileen Cody (D – West Seattle), chair of the House Health Care and Wellness committee, has prefiled a bill for the 2010 legislative session to increase the tax on cigarettes by $1 and raise additional taxes on other tobacco products.
“Studies show that an increase in tobacco taxes will help kids stop smoking and may even prevent them from starting in the first in the place,” says Cody, a nurse who has made public health a priority during her tenure in the Legislature.
“At a time when our state faces a $2.8 billion budget shortfall, we desperately need additional revenue,” she continued. “Taxing tobacco makes sense: we save lives and millions of dollars in health care costs and help balance the state budget.”
House Bill 2493 would increase the cigarette tax by $1.00 and close tax loopholes, bringing tax rates on other tobacco products to parallel levels. The proposal would raise annual state revenues by at least $88 million. Of that, $19 million would be used to fund programs that help smokers quit and keep kids from ever starting to smoke.
A coalition of health organizations attempted to pass a similar measure last year, but it was limited to cigarettes and the revenue was more targeted to cessation programs. This year, many lawmakers as well as anti-tobacco use advocates believe there are few health care services and programs that can withstand additional cuts and are more willing to consider taxes and a broader application of the revenue.
The inclusion of smokeless products in this year’s bill — including deceptively marketed fruit-flavored products in bright packaging– reflects a growing fear that tobacco companies are taking advantage cuts in tobacco prevention programs across the nation to ramp up their marketing to children. Raising the cost of products and protecting funding for cessation and education programs is one effective way to protect youth from starting to use tobacco products.
Additionally, there is growing public support for these taxes here in Washington State. According to a recent survey, 70% of registered voters in Washington favor raising taxes on tobacco products.
“The tobacco industry is getting more clever at marketing to kids. On a recent trip to the store, I found apple and peach-flavored chewing tobacco and blackberry-flavored cigars. These products are obviously targeted at youth,” said Erin Dziedzic, Washington State Government Relations Director for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
”We know that raising taxes on smokeless tobacco, as well as cigarettes, will mean a drop in use especially among youth and young adults. For example, one study found that a 10 percent increase in smokeless tobacco prices reduces male youth consumption by 5.9 percent, with two-thirds of that reduction coming from kids stopping any use of smokeless tobacco at all,” said Lucy Culp, Washington Government Affairs Director for American Heart Association.
For Immediate Release: January 5, 2010
Contact: Erin Dziedzic, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, 425-466-5177
Lucy Culp, American Heart Association, 360-870-4016
In December the King County Democrats Legislative Action Committee met to finalize their Legislative Action Agenda for 2010. The 2010 Washington State Legislature convenes on January 11, 2010. The session only lasts 60 days. The main focus will be on dealing with a projected additional $2.6 billion shortfall for the remainder of this 2 year budget cycle.
The King County Democrats Legislative Action Agenda includes both short and long term priority goals, realizing that it will be difficult to enact new legislation in this short session under difficult budget constraints. The 2009 Legislative session raised no new revenue.
The King County Democrats support trying to bridge this new gap of an additional $2.6 billion shortfall by trying to raise 2/3 of it through new revenue and 1/3 by additional cuts. This will require suspending or repealing the constraints of Initiative 960 which require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature to raise any revenue or eliminate any special interest tax exemptions.
I-960, having been in place 2 years, can now be amended or repealed by a simple majority of the Washington State Legislature. I-960 is actually in contradiction to the Washington State Constitution which says the Legislature shall act by majority vote. I-960 allows a minority of Legislators to block any revenue increase and Legislators have been reluctant to question the constitutionality of I-960. A suit by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown was not acted on by the State Supreme Court saying it was an internal issue for the Legislature, not the Courts, to address.
Below is the Adopted 2010 Legislative Agenda for the King County Democrats:
King County Democrats Legislative Action Committee
2010 Legislative Agenda
• Repeal I-960 and raise revenue to provide adequate funding for vital state services – repeal provisions requiring supermajority votes to approve tax and revenue issues, raise at least 2/3 of shortfall via new revenue and repealing tax exemptions
2. Tax Reform
• Repeal non-performing corporate tax breaks, sunset tax exemptions every 5 to10 years
• Require Tax Expenditure Reports as part of state budget process, prioritize exemptions, require approval as part of budget process
• Implement a state income tax on high income earners over $250,000
• Tax reduction for low income households and small businesses – Homestead Exemption or circuit breaker legislation
3. Banking, Foreclosure and Predatory Lending Reform
• Require lenders to use mediation, require proper maintenance of foreclosed homes, give homeowners right to rent former homes, increase state enforcement powers, extend initial timeline to respond to foreclosure to 90 days from 30 days, and give whistle-blower protections to employees at lending institutions.
• Establish a public Washington State Bank similar to North Dakota’s for infrastructure
4. Human Services
• “Disability Lifeline”–Protect poverty programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Apple Health for kids, Basic Health, Emergency Food Assistance, Medicaid, mental health, substance abuse treatment and General Assistance for people with disabilities
• Prohibit source of income (e.g., Sec. 8) as a means to discriminate
• Pass Fair Tenant Screening Act to regulate screeners and make reports valid for 60 days
• Promote State Housing Trust Fund at 50% of previous level of effort (or $50 million) as a shovel-ready jobs bill
• Workforce Housing Fund Construct or purchase 25,000 rental units through housing authorities for working families at or below 80% of median income
• Homebuilding Revitalization Act –give homeowners recourse to remedy defects in new homes that need repair
6. Environmental Priorities:
• Invest in Clean Water Bill (HB 1640) raise funds for clean water infrastructure and storm water control by imposing a per-barrel fee on petroleum products.
• Safe Baby Bottle Act will phase out harmful bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles, etc.
• Oppose budget cuts to environmental programs
• Create recycling program for fluorescent lights – require lighting producers to provide a convenient statewide recycling program for fluorescent lights to prevent exposure to and release of toxic mercury
7. Public Health and Safety
• Secure Medicine Return – require drug producers to provide secure collection and environmentally sound disposal of unwanted, unused, or expired medicines, as they do in other countries.
8. Election and Initiative Reform
• Public Financing of campaigns for Washington State Supreme Court – optional public financing for campaigns, providing adequate sums to run competitive campaigns
• Universal Voter Registration – opt out, not opt in, legislation for motor voter registration
• Same-day voter registration
• Increase initiative filing fee to $100; $25 when file with Secretary of State, $75 when re-file for ballot title and summary; alt – $100 or 500 signatures
• Require signature gatherers to be Washington State residents
• Set up Citizen’s Initiative Review Process like recent Oregon legislation.
• Support initiative signatures being public
9. L&I “Retro Reform”
• Greater regulation and transparency of L&I insurance pool refunds(S 6035)
• Collective bargaining for musicians, early childhood educators, 2-year college faculty, lecturers and interpreters
• Require prevailing wages to be paid on all public private partnerships and projects involving public or private land
• Redefining funding formula for basic education
• More options for helping underperforming schools
• Levy Equalization
• Include early learning education for at risk children in definition of basic education
12. Criminal Justice
• Revise three strikes and sentencing guidelines
• Change how juveniles are sentenced as adults
King County Democrats Legislative Action Committee
. – Sarajane Siegfriedt & Steve Zemke Co-Chairs
Adopted by Legislative Action Committee 12/13/2009
Representative Brendan Williams speaks out in his latest Legislative Update about the need to “invest” in our state. He argues that we can’t keep cutting our state budget without killing the economic engine driving Washington State’s future.
Watch here and urge your state Legislator to also step up, speak out and act to fund needed public services in the upcoming Legislative session starting in January. The current state revenue forecast points to another $2.6 to $2.7 billion shortfall next year from the previously approved budget. You can contact your legislator by going to www.leg.wa.gov.
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