Joel 413's Blog

Mar. 12, 2011 at 2:26pm

27th Leg. District Town Hall Notes

I decided to take some time this morning and heat to The Evergreen State College campus in Tacoma to see what was going on at the Town Hall Meeting being held by Our State Representatives and State Senator.

As I pulled in to the parking lot at 9:50 I was surprised at the number of cars and thought there were Saturday classes going on, the same thought cross Rep. Jeannie Darnielle's mind too, as I said, "Hello," to her.

Here are my notes from the first hour and a half before I had to go for other commitments.

The meeting got started pretty close to the appointed hour with Senator Regala introduce the three State Congresswomen and then presented us with a little bit of background info.

The unemployment curve in Washington is deeper and longer than at any other time in history, she supported this with a chart showing the various unemployment figures for the past 100 years.

The State Budget is made up of three other budgets:

  • Capital
  • Transportation
  • General Fund

The General Fund is where most of the cuts are coming from: 46% of the revenue for the general fund comes from sales tax and 20% come from B&O tax. So as goes business, so goes the funding to the general fund. If people aren't spending, then sales tax isn't being generated, if people aren't using business, businesses are paying less B&O.

Since 2008, state revenue has not increased at the historical average, creating revenue shortfall below conservative projections.

Washington has to have a balanced budget, can run a surplus, cannot run a deficit.

In 2008, there was $0.9 billion in revenue that was created that helped to fill the budget gap, that revenue was reversed by the voters in 2010. Good by nearly $1 billion!

Where does the General fund go to?

  • 36% Human Services (DOC, Junvinile Halls, DSHS, Mental Health, etc)
  • 43.6% Public School (required to fund basic education)
  • 9% Higher Ed
  • 2% Gov't Operations
  • 1.2% Natural Resources
  • 7.3% Debt/other
If we completely eliminated all funding for Higher Ed, Natural Resources, Gov't ops, and debt, it wouldn't cover the shortfall.

With that, they opened the floor to the public:
  • Return to prioritized budgeting with a focus on Police/Fire/Roads
    • response: They are trying to do this, but different people have different priorities
  • Tax Tribal Gaming
    • response: right to do gaming comes from Federal Gov't; tribes are sovereign nations that have to agree to be taxed; in states where they are taxed, there is usually a trade-off (i.e. no lottery or private gaming)
  • Look at states that are doing well (i.e. Texas and Louisiana)
    • No official response other than chuckles from audience.
  • Change B&O tax to net based rather than gross based
    • This was tried before 17+ years ago and was struck down by State supreme court as "Income Tax" and therefore unconstitutional
    • business now have more time to reconcile "violations" with B&O and L&I payments do to it being a gross based system
    • we are the only state where workers pay into workers comp (other states using us as a model)
  • The state should reduce supervision of reintegrated offenders
    • response: They have, only most dangerous offenses not tracked after release
  • Support asked to reverse the effects of "Citizens United v FEC"
    • support SB5021 - Require Donors to register and be open to public record
    • support a constitutional amendment to change wording giving Corporations "Personhood"
  • Support Higher Education because of the return to the state economy it generates
    • with current budget cuts proposed UW will see a 50% reduction in state funding (Bad for UW Seattle, REALLY bad for UW Tacoma)
    • Tuition hikes in past years have been to offset state cuts, dollars/student (state funding + tuition) has remained flat.
    • Anger at Husky Stadium renovation misdirected. $0 from academics, state, taxes or public funds. 100% privately funded by the Athletics department
    • For every $1 the state invests in UW, $22 is returned by UW to the state economy. a $21 reduction in state revenue for every dollar withheld.
  • Capital budget is dry
    • response: trying to change the way budgeting is done so that in good economic times money is set aside for down economic times
  • Family Planning Funding
    • 50% of births in WA are publically funded
    • there are many areas that are required to be funded that state can get up to twice the budgeted amount in federal funding (if a minimum amount is budgeted) if not, that money has to come from somewhere else to maintain service levels.
    • for every $1 WA budgets we get an avg of $9 in matching
    • for every unwanted pregnancy avoided the state saves lots of $$
  • Support student financial Aid
    • HB 1795 return permissive language that provided a progressive structure requiring higher education to return funds for financial Aid.
Here were some of the things that were communicated by our reps that didn't directly adress a point above:
  • initiatives can't be changed, amended or shelved for two years. but if there's no money, new ones can't start either
  • Tim Eyeman (or any) initiatives can't be changed for two years. When they come up for amendment, he gets new ones passed so that the old ones essentially carry over.
  • New taxes, loopholes("preferences") can't be changed without a 2/3rds vote.
    • Sen Regala has a bill that has been on the floor for 3 years that closes a tax preference to oil companies for selling oil in the state. The oil companies have no problem with the "loophole" being closed and don't fight it. She cannot get 2/3rd votes. (this is the case in many loophole legislations)

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