Opinion

OLYMPIA REPORT: Voters won’t go for tax hike

Last week the governor did the right thing in declaring a state of emergency in western Washington. An unprecedented ice storm provided more than a home preparedness dry run.

Power outages, closed roads and the hunt for Internet connections had us begging for normal. I toured the district and monitored progress. Thank you so much for all who looked after neighbors and cleared roads of manageable debris.

Please take the time to assess your level of preparedness and make any needed adjustments. A propane stove will get you hot food where an electric stove will not. A battery-powered radio is best as the hand-powered isn’t good enough for sustained listening. Have both. After this trial, Jim and I are finally getting a generator. And we definitely need to store more chocolate.

State of the State

In her final state of the state address, Gov. Gregoire braced us all for her tax proposals and announced she would push for same-gender marriage even though it went against her Catholic beliefs. I want to address both issues.

First, taxes strike at the heart of families and businesses. Reducing the size, scope and power of government is a better option, yet that is not in the nature of empire-building administrators. For them, more is always better.

The governor does not believe the 2011-13 budget can be balanced without increasing taxes. Only because of a voter-approved initiative, which a majority of us supported, the legislature may not impose taxes without a two-thirds vote. If that cannot be achieved then the legislature can send the tax measure to the people. So, since there are not enough votes in the legislature to provide a two-third majority vote, any general tax increase will go to the voters of the state for a simple majority vote.

And, how will voters respond? The likelihood is that voters will say no.

A recent Washington Policy Center memo recounts voter history on tax measures:

“With the exception of targeted sin taxes in 2001 and 1994, and a 911 tax in 1991, Washington voters have not been supportive of tax increase proposals on the ballot.

“Tax increase proposals earmarked for education failed by wide margins in 2010 (64 percent no vote), 2004 (60 percent no), 1989 (66 percent no), 1975 (67 percent no) and 1973 (77 percent no).

“In contrast, voters show strong support for tax limitation. Popular measures requiring a two-thirds vote threshold or voter approval to raise taxes have received consistent approval in 2010 (64 percent yes vote), 2007 (51 percent yes), 1999 (56 percent yes), 1998 (57 percent yes) and 1993 (51 percent yes).”

Voters expect the legislature to get the job done.

The legislature needs to work quickly to balance the budget within the existing revenue forecast, cut red tape to allow businesses to flourish, and prioritize spending while keeping our vulnerable in mind.

No meaningful systematic reforms are on the table. Shifting money from one dedicated fund to another is not reform. Just reducing a budget is not reform. The citadel of the Department of Social and Health Services is the first place I would go for reforms, yet it is off the table.

Gregoire is pushing for a new $1.50 per barrel of petroleum product (Senate Bill 6455, sec 7). She is calling it a “fee” to avoid voter approval requirements. We have some of the highest pump prices in the nation due to our 37.5 cents a gallon gas tax. This new tax (I call it what it is) can be directly imposed and would bring $5 per gallon gas to us by this summer. (We can all pretend we are driving in Europe!)

On another issue, when Gov. Gregoire announced her “150 percent” support of gay marriage (SB 6239) I knew the votes were there for passage. People on both sides of the issue assume there will be a referendum this fall.

A referendum requires that the voters gather signatures to “refer” the measure passed by the legislature on to the people for passage or rejection.

Citizens in states where voters challenged same sex marriage either by way of referendum or courts, have been successful in overturning the measures. Washington is socially very liberal in our more populated areas so it is a tough election to call.

I am on the Governmental Operations and Elections Committee that heard testimony on the same-sex marriage bill. I voted no on the bill and will continue to support the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Domestic partnership laws provide protections for same-gender couples.

I do not believe there are sufficient safeguards in the bill that would prevent forcing pastors and priests from having to perform ceremonies against their will.

In testimony, liberal downtown Seattle pastors favored the bill. The Catholic Church and traditional churches opposed it. The Washington Education Association favors same-sex marriage as do the Young Democrats.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Please contact me in Olympia during session at 360-786-7660 or pam.roach@leg.wa.gov. My personal blog is pamroachreport.blogspot.com.

 

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