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November 20, 2013 at 12:08 PM
A new Stuart Elway poll found that most Washington voters wish the Machinists union had accepted Boeing’s offer to build the 777X in this state in exchange for contract concessions.
“By a margin of 56 to 31 percent, residents interviewed last weekend for The Elway Poll said they would have voted for the proposed contract “if [they] were a Boeing machinist” — almost opposite of the Machinists’ actual vote.”
In addition, 66 percent of the voters surveyed agreed with the state Legislature’s decision to approve more than $8 billion in tax breaks for Boeing, “but just half think the legislature should sweeten the pot any more. And they are not convinced that transportation improvements need to be part of the package.”
Elway in his report said that “when asked if state government should offer more incentives to Boeing now that the company has opened up a multi-state competition, 50 percent said yes, but 38 percent said the state would be ‘better off to save its money, stay with the current package of incentives, and risk having the 777X plant go to another state.’
The poll surveyed 409 voters Saturday through Monday. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
June 27, 2013 at 2:04 PM
A plan to increase gas taxes 10.5 cents over the next year just passed the Washington state House of Representatives in a 51-41 vote, a day after the same bill failed.
The increase, along with boosts in car and truck weight fees, would support most of a 10-year, $10.04 billion package of highway expansions, ferry funding, maintenance, and bicycle-pedestrian projects.
House Bill 1954 would also allow King County to send to the ballot a car-tab tax increase of up to $150 per $10,000 of vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for Metro Transit, and 40 percent for city and county roads.
However, the bill will face turbulence in the Senate, where several Republicans either oppose the taxes, or oppose a $433 million payment toward the $3.5 billion I-5 Columbia River Crossing, between Vancouver and Portland. The CRC bridge plan includes light rail, leading some southwest Washington officials to warn about their constituents being yoked to future operating taxes for Portland-based Tri-Met.
The leading argument Thursday was that highway improvements are needed to sustain trade in Washington state. The largest single item is a $1.45 billion payment toward the “Puget Sound Gateway,” which would build extensions of Highway 167 to the Port of Tacoma, and Highway 509 passing through SeaTac between Seattle and south King County.
“This is a singular moment. This is a time when inaction is a loss of competitiveness,” argued Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo.
Gasoline taxes would increase 6 cents a gallon on Aug. 1, and another 4.5 cents July 1, 2014, if the bill is signed into law.
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, opposed the bill, which would bring state’s total gas tax to 48 cents, compared to 26 cents currently in Idaho. “All this, and all the fees in this bill, are going to make it harder to do business in Washington, and they might as well move 20 miles across the border in Idaho,” he said.
June 13, 2013 at 9:43 AM
UPDATE 1:15 P.M. | Adds information on House vote
House and Senate negotiators have reached tentative agreement on how the state could get around a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that allows certain married couples to escape Washington’s estate tax.
The legislation would create a new tax break for small businesses, while increasing the tax rate for wealthier estates.
House Democrats, with the help of two Republicans, passed House Bill 2075 on Thursday by a vote of 53 to 33. But the Republican-led majority in the Senate has not said yet if it will pass the legislation.
Lawmakers are under pressure to act quickly because the state Department of Revenue plans to issue $12 million in refund checks by Friday if the Legislature doesn’t take action, with millions more in refunds in the following weeks. That would increase an already hefty budget shortfall that legislators would have to fill through other means.
DOR had been holding off on the refunds in case the Legislature passed a law that lets the state keep the taxes. The agency said it was “giving deference to the legislative process.”
But those delays were challenged and several lower court rulings have ordered the state to begin issuing refunds. Agency officials have said they can no longer wait.
The estate-tax case deals with something called a Qualified Terminable Interest Property trust. It allows a spouse to transfer assets tax free to a surviving spouse and then onto other heirs upon the death of the surviving spouse.
Under federal law, the value of the trust was taxed only when the surviving spouse died. That also was the case in Washington until the state Supreme Court “Bracken” decision.
As a result of the court decision, the estate also cannot be taxed when the surviving spouse dies under this kind of trust, according to the Department of Revenue.
The proposed legislation would ensure that married couples would still pay an estate tax, said Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, chairman of the House Finance Committee.
“It’s not a comprehensive policy and political deal across the board. We just tried to reach agreement on Bracken and we’ve done that,” Carlyle said.
The current tax applies to individual estates worth more than $2 million. Taxes apply only to the portion of an estate above that amount. The assets of such estates are taxed at a graduated rate. The value of property used primarily for farming can be deducted from the taxable estate.
The key for Senate Republicans was to create a break for small businesses. In simple terms, small businesses valued at up to $4.5 million would not pay estate tax, and businesses worth up to $6 million would only pay estate tax on the $1.5 million above $4.5 million, so they would get a break too.
To make the legislation “revenue neutral,” the bill would make up for money lost through the small business tax break by increasing the tax rate on estates in the highest tax brackets by one percentage point.
Republican State Sen. John Braun, R-Centrailia, confirmed that there is a tentative agreement on the language of the bill, but that’s all.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom’s office also said there’s been no decision whether to pass the bill in the Senate.
Senate Republicans have been pushing for Democrats to pass legislation the GOP favors, including controversial changes to the state workers compensation system, before addressing the estate tax change or other tax legislation.
May 6, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Democratic State Rep. Reuven Carlyle released a new state analysis showing King County is a large net exporter of tax dollars to the rest of the state.
Carlyle, of Seattle, contends there’s a misconception in the Legislature and elsewhere “that tax dollars are consumed by city living, whether that’s social programs or subsidizing various services more common in the city. The cold hard reality is that the numbers are the complete opposite of that.”
For example, the analysis indicates Yakima County received $649 million in state expenditures in fiscal year 2011, but generated only $346 million in tax revenue. By comparison, King County received $3.4 billion in state general fund expenditures but generated $5.9 billion in tax revenue, according to the report prepared by the state Office of Financial Management.
Those numbers comes from a composite analysis on page 4 of the report. Carlyle has broached this topic before, but says it’s worth reminding people.
“Here we go into the final budget negotiations and there are these vociferous demands for no new taxes, closing exemptions or anything and yet some of those loudest voices are from those who represent communities who … enjoy a level of spending that they value greatly,” said Carlyle who chairs the House Finance Committee.
The Legislature will go into special session on May 13 to tackle the state budget, among other issues. The key question lawmakers are fighting over is whether to raise additional tax revenue by closing tax breaks or extending existing taxes due to expire this summer.
House and Senate Republicans have argued against any additional tax revenue. The GOP controls the state Senate. Democrats control the House and governor’s office.
Carlyle says that not only have Republicans opposed raising new tax revenue statewide, they’re also arguing against allowing King County to increase taxes locally.
GOP state Rep. Gary Alexander, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee said there’s a hole in Carlyle’s argument, namely that “in terms of the ability of individuals to pay increased taxes the more rural districts are the ones which have the highest unemployment rate … so the imposition of more taxes on … marginal income levels is what I consider to be the more difficult situation.”
Alexander said he understands Carlyle’s point about local option taxes, but voters still view allowing local option taxes as a tax increase, adding “many times we’ve authorized those taxes and they never have done it.”
April 16, 2013 at 10:02 AM
House Democrats on Tuesday released a slimmed-down transportation tax package that would spend $8.4 billion on various projects, including extensions of Highways 167 and 509 as well as work on Interstate 405 and I-5.
Back in February they released a plan to spend nearly $10 billion. The new version drops proposals for a politically unpopular car-tab tax, equal to 0.7 percent of a vehicle’s value, as well as a hazardous substance tax and a bicycle tax.
The proposal retains plans to increase the state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon, phased in over four years. It also includes various weight fees and some local option taxes.
In addition to money for highway projects in the Puget Sound region, the package includes $450 million for a new bridge over the Columbia River that the GOP-led caucus in the Senate has firmly rejected.
Senate Republicans have pushed for that project to be removed from the proposal because of concerns the new bridge would not be high enough for companies to move cargo and equipment under it.
House Democrats released a statement that included a quote from Republican Sen. Curtis King of Yakima, who said “Members of both parties can agree to the critical need to invest in our transportation system and though I don’t agree with everything in this package, I agree that we need to have this conversation.”
Senate Republicans confirmed the quote, but it wasn’t immediately clear if King was just speaking for himself.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told state lawmakers recently that the state needs to commit several hundred million dollars toward completing a multibillion dollar Columbia River crossing or risk losing up to $1.2 billion in federal support.
House Democrats plan to move the tax package out of committee this week, and have a floor vote next week.
The Legislature is running out of time to act. April 28 is the last day of the regular session and lawmakers have yet negotiate a state operating budget.
April 11, 2013 at 5:21 PM
State Senate Democrats sent a letter of apology to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood for what they viewed as a rude reception on Wednesday by the GOP-led majority caucus – a charge Republicans dispute.
“It was appalling to see the tenor of the reception he received from Sen. (Don) Benton and the Republican majority, “ Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said in a statement.
LaHood and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee visited with Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday. LaHood told them the state needed to commit several hundred million dollars toward completing a multibillion dollar Columbia River crossing or risk losing up to $1.2 billion in federal support.
The majority caucus initially posted a video of their meeting with LaHood online, but then pulled it. Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said the recording had been posted inadvertently and as soon as they realized the mistake, took it down.
Senate Democrats, however, felt obligated to post the recording. You can watch it here. The quality is a bit off because they recorded it off of a computer screen, with sticky notes visible at the bottom.
Republican Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, a leading critic of the proposed bridge project, said the caucus was respectful of LaHood but senators did air their concerns.
“What were we supposed to do, roll over because the secretary came to visit?” he said, adding that nobody raised their voice during the meeting. “There’s no need to apologize.”
Benton posted a news release after the meeting with LaHood that read “It’s Benton 1, U.S. Transportation secretary 0 in CRC debate at Capitol.”
David Postman, a spokesman for Inslee, said that what happens inside a caucus is supposed to remain confidential. He would not comment further.
April 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM
House Democrats set the high bar for state spending in a proposed budget released Wednesday that would raise roughly $1.3 billion in additional tax revenue and plow the same amount into K-12 education to comply with a state Supreme Court mandate.
Overall, the House proposal would spend about $34.5 billion. By comparison, Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed a $34.4 billion spending plan and Senate Republicans, $33.3 billion. The GOP budget is the only one that does not include additional money from taxes.
The House Democrats’ proposal is similar to Inslee’s in the mix of tax breaks it would close, including repealing tax exemptions for bottled water and the sales tax exemption for people living outside the state.
April 3, 2013 at 7:47 AM
Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray says the budget being released today by the GOP-led majority has input from Democrats, but he does not consider it bipartisan.
The majority caucus is expected to release its spending proposal at noon on Wednesday. Republicans have said they will meet state Supreme Court demands for more education funding and close a budget shortfall projected at more than $1 billion without increasing any taxes.
When announcing their plans on Tuesday night, Republicans called it a “bipartisan Senate operating budget proposal.”
The Republican budget has a “Democratic imprint,” Murray said in a short message. He noted that Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, worked closely with Democratic Sens. Jim Hargrove, of Hoquiam, and Sharon Nelson, of Maury Island, to craft a budget.
“But the budget is not bi-partisan yet,” he said. Murray did not elaborate.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee released his budget priorities last week. The governor proposed $1.2 billion in additional tax revenue to be raised through closing tax breaks and extending existing taxes. He wants to put all that money into education.
House Democrats are expected to come out with their budget next week. Then all three sides will try to hash out a compromise.
March 21, 2013 at 12:23 PM
Cut spending? Increase taxes? Some of each? Here’s your chance to take a swing at balancing the state budget.
We’ve created an interactive budget game that lets you pick from dozens of potential budget cuts and tax increases to balance the budget and find more money for education.
The next two-year state budget faces up to a $1.3 billion shortfall. On top of that, the Washington Supreme Court says lawmakers need to beef up K-12 schools spending to meet the constitutional obligation to educate all children.
So step into the lawmakers’ shoes, and then use the polls below to let us know how you did.
February 5, 2013 at 4:07 PM
Citizens have another way to interact with their legislators thanks to a new online commenting system launched last week.
Instead of having to determine which legislators serve their district and tracking down an email address or phone number, constituents can simply click a “comment on this bill” link on the bill’s webpage. They will be directed to a page where they can input their email and home addresses. The website automatically will determine the constituent’s district and send a message to the corresponding legislators.
Bill information and the new commenting system can be accessed at www.leg.wa.gov.
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