Topic: Washington State Legislature
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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.
November 12, 2013 at 7:51 PM
State Senate Republicans are willing to consider a gas-tax increase of 11.5 cents a gallon for highway and ferry construction, and even to allow new local taxes for King County Metro Transit, according to a proposal forged over the holiday weekend.
It would avoid the tolling of Interstate 90 to help pay for construction of the nearby Highway 520 floating bridge — by allocating $1.3 billion from new gas taxes toward the Highway 520 account.
The biggest project is still $1.66 billion for extensions of Highways 509 and 167 between Seattle and Tacoma, which are freight routes between seaports, warehouses and airports. There’s also $1.3 billion to widen I-405, $750 million for the North Spokane freeway, $390 million for Snoqualmie Pass East, $350 million for highways around Joint Base Lewis-McChord, $219 million to rebuild the Seattle ferry terminal at Colman Dock, and $1.05 billion toward maintenance. Here’s the project list.
King County could 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 transit and 40 percent for county and city roads. Other car-tab fees of $20 to $60 are also conceivable for county roads and transit. Not only that, but Community Transit in Snohomish County could ask voters for a sales-tax boost of 3 cents per $10 purchase.
The transit-tax option will likely please urban Democrats, but there’s a big sticking point. The Majority Coalition Caucus, consisting of Senate Republicans plus maverick Democrats Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, are also proposing that sales taxes on road construction be kept in the road funds, instead of flowing into the general fund. That would mean less money for schools, social services, environmental oversight or criminal justice.
And there are possible cost cuts around the margins, by reducing apprenticeship programs, watchdogging wage rates, and reducing environmental permit rules. The I-5 Columbia River Crossing is left out.
“Congestion relief” would be added to the state’s official transportation goals.
Whether this can pass both the GOP-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House is unclear. Committee meetings are expected next week.
The entire 10-year, $12.3 billion proposal phases in gas taxes the first three years, and requires $4.2 billion bond debt that would ring up interest costs for a couple of decades.
November 9, 2013 at 12:05 PM
Update| 3:12 p.m.
OLYMPIA — It’s a wrap. The Legislature on Saturday afternoon approved extending tax incentives worth more than $8 billion for Boeing until 2040.
Along with the tax package, lawmakers voted to spend millions of dollars on worker-training programs and an effort to ease permitting for large aerospace-manufacturing sites.
The bills now go to Gov. Jay Inslee.
Lawmakers will adjourn Saturday afternoon without taking up a transportation package, another issue Boeing had wanted to be handled quickly.
“This is a generational opportunity,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond. “This is about our aerospace economy.”
The training measure, SB 5953, passed unanimously and the tax-incentive bill, SB 5952, was approved 42-2.
Democratic Sens. Bob Hasegawa, of Renton, and Adam Kline, of Seattle voted no. Hasegawa was the only senator to raise significant objections during the floor debate.
“I have a philosophical issue with putting this economic development strategy on the backs of the Machinists,” he said. “We’re asking them to sacrifice the future of the next generation of Boeing workers. That is not a sustainable economic development strategy for the state.”
Boeing wants the Machinists union to accept a new eight-year contract with big cuts in future pension and health-care benefits to secure the 777X for Washington state. That union approval could prove troublesome, given the early reviews of the Boeing proposal.
In addition, the company wants the Legislature to boost training for aerospace workers and approve tax incentives worth more than $8 billion.
The company has also stressed that it wants lawmakers to approve a multi-billion dollar transportation package.
Inslee called the special session, which started Thursday, to fulfill the state’s side of the bargain.
There’s companion legislation to the Senate bills in the state House. Legislative leaders said they hope to have final passage of both measures by early afternoon.
The aerospace-training bill, among other things, would spend $8 million to increase high-demand aerospace enrollments by the equivalent of 1,000 additional full-time students for the 2014-15 academic year.
“It is the intent of the Legislature that this funding be ongoing or until there is no longer a demonstrated need,” according to a bill report.
The tax-incentives measure extends commercial-airplane tax breaks — due to expire in 2024 — until 2040 and expands a sales-and-use tax exemption for construction of buildings used to manufacture airplanes.
Legislative leaders in both chambers said there’s no prospect of an agreement on a transportation package Saturday, however it wasn’t immediately clear if the Legislature plans to adjourn Saturday or remain in session while transportation negotiators work to reach agreement.
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.
February 22, 2013 at 3:20 PM
By JONATHAN KAMINSKY
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Setting up what promises to be a contentious reckoning in the state Senate, the House on Friday passed a measure requiring that most insurance carriers in the state cover abortions.
House Bill 1044 is intended to ensure that insurers continue covering abortions once bureaucratic hurdles for doing so come into effect next year with the enactment of federal health-care changes. Lawmakers in the House passed the measure 53-43, with all but two Democratic votes cast in favor and all but one Republican voting against it.
“Today nearly every health plan in Washington state covers a full range of reproductive options,” said Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. “And we want it to stay that way.”
Opponents contend that abortion coverage in the state is already widespread and the bill is unnecessary. They also argue it could risk federal health-care funds by violating federal law and that it infringes on religious liberties.
“This bill takes away my choice as a woman and other individuals’ choices as well to choose not to have that care,” Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said.
Supporters point out language in the bill that makes any portion of it inconsistent with federal law moot and exempts insurance carriers — though not businesses or individuals — objecting to abortion on moral grounds from paying for the coverage. The measure goes next to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.
A similar bill in the upper chamber has 23 co-sponsors, leaving it two votes shy of a majority. Another senator, Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who leads the majority caucus of 23 Republicans and two Democrats, spoke recently in support of the bill at a pro-abortion rights rally at the Capitol.
Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, who is chairwoman of the Health Care Committee, said she will make hearing the bill in her committee a priority.
Given the widespread abortion coverage in the state, Becker said she is skeptical of the measure’s utility, but she is keeping an open mind. She declined to speculate on its prospects of clearing her committee, which is made up mostly of Republicans.
Sen. Steve Litzow, a Mercer Island lawmaker who is the sole Republican co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said he was heartened that it had cleared the House but said it was unlikely that any action would be taken to move it to the Senate floor in the event that it fails in committee.
“I would be surprised,” he said. “You’d have to do something that would be out of the ordinary.”
In a statement, Gov. Jay Inslee commended the House for passing the bill and implicitly urged Senate leaders to allow the bill to come up for a floor vote, where supporters believe they have the votes to pass the bill.
“The Senate should not shut the door of democracy when it comes to women’s health care,” he said.
February 12, 2013 at 3:43 PM
Updated at 6:23 p.m.
House Democrats plan to roll out a $6 billion transportation tax package next Wednesday.
House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said the money would primarily come from a gas tax and that they want to try to pass the measure in the Legislature instead of sending it to voters. Passing a gas tax increase in the Legislature would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.
Clibborn said she expects to have backing from both business and labor for the proposal, which would include money for a wide variety of projects including a new bridge over the Columbia River, as well as funds for projects on Interstate 405 and the Interstate 90 mountain passes.
She said the $6 billion figure was a starting point. “The one thing I’ve heard from everybody is they want more,” she said Tuesday.
It’s not clear yet how such a proposal might fare in the state Senate, which is controlled by a GOP-led coalition. Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he personally would want any gas tax proposal to go to voters, but added he wasn’t speaking for his caucus.
Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, said in an email: “The governor thinks this is the right approach and he has been discussing this with House members as the plan has evolved. He has said before he thinks the Legislature should be able to do this work here.”
February 6, 2013 at 12:19 PM
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — State lawmakers are considering a measure to make it easier for grandparents and others with a close relationship to a child to secure visitation rights.
The bill, which was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, has bipartisan support but faces opposition from social conservatives, who view it as an attack on parental rights.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Washington state’s laws granting visitation rights to third parties when found to be in the child’s best interest infringed on the fundamental liberty of parents. Under current law, parents must be deemed unfit before most third parties can get visitation against the parents’ will.
House Bill 1506 would allow courts to grant visitation when failing to do so would likely lead to the child being harmed.
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