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)


comments [19]  |  posted under Tacoma

Comments

by fredo on 3/12/2011 @ 3:34pm
The democratic legislature got us in a hell of a mess, yet people elected/ returned these liberals to office. Joel, your wonderful posting detailed the problems that most of us are pretty familiar with. I didn't see many solutions but maybe those were provided after you left the meeting.

A couple of issues that apparently were not discussed:

Are Wisconsin style reforms coming to Washington State?
Should legislators be spending lots of time debating the State Legume?
Do Eyman's initiatives find popularity with the public because the perception is that the legislature won't adopt needed changes?

by cisserosmiley on 3/12/2011 @ 3:39pm
...i am laughing myself to tears thinking about the folks in olympia putting aside money during good times for the bad times...if everyone has not heard it is exactly the opposite that caused this mess...the leg actually put programs in place with "one time" money and expected "operating expenses" to be pulled out of a forgone conclusion they could raise your taxes. great plan speaker of the house einstein...now WE all suffer so a couple could boast, sad...

by fredo on 3/12/2011 @ 3:44pm
Yes cissero, they spent the "rainy day fund" when times were good. That caught my attention too. Good posting.

by Joel 413 on 3/12/2011 @ 4:02pm
I had the same thoughts about the rainy day fund. what was left of it was used to balance the budget of the last biennium. I didn't realize I forgot to pick up the handout until I was at home typing up these notes, otherwise I'd have that number too, but from the pie chart, that and the "new revenue" made up a good 25% of the pie.

I didn't hear many if any solutions either and felt that the whole thing was a bit of "preaching to the choir" because all three of them were elected with fairly strong majorities, if I remember correctly.

It's time for some tough love in both directions I'm afraid, the problem is not going to be solved in this biennium, and it's not going to be fixed with the way things are now. I understand the reasons behind the "Eyeman" initiatives, but it hogties our legislatures from doing what is necessary as well. What's the right balance?

One of my frustrations with this state is that it operated like a true democracy, rather than a representative democracy. Everything seems to go to the voters, and if something doesn't go to the voters then the voters have the chance to raise their own referendums or initiatives to reverse what the elected officials have done, and this usually means the the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I think one of the most interesting quotes I've seen on the twittershphere today from other meetings has been "Taxes are the fees for living in a civilized society" not sure I agree with this 100%, but it was an interesting sentiment.

by Joel 413 on 3/12/2011 @ 4:03pm
I realize I mentioned how many cars were there, but didn't say what the estimated attendance was. At the beginning of the meeting all the 200 seats will filled and there were a good 30-50 people left standing.

by fredo on 3/12/2011 @ 4:47pm
"Taxes are the fees for living in a civilized society"

I've heard that before too. I'm not sure what it means. Does it mean that we should pay any level of taxes that the legislature deems appropriate, even if it meant a 99% sales tax rate, a 99% property tax rate, and a 99% b&o tax rate? The legislatures goal should not be increasing taxes but rather delivering the highest level of services at the lowest price.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/12/2011 @ 5:29pm
Let the Tribes have sports gambling in return for taxation.

by Joel 413 on 3/12/2011 @ 5:30pm
@fredo I think that's exactly my hangup with the Taxes are a fee thing too.

I think what we are running into right now is that the highest level of service at the lowest price still doesn't have enough money to pay for it.

by fredo on 3/12/2011 @ 5:44pm
"I think what we are running into right now is that the highest level of service at the lowest price still doesn't have enough money to pay for it."

I don't think so Joel. We are not getting a good price at all. We should cap pay for state employees at $100K regardless of position, and there should be a large scale re-evaluation of all postions. In my opinion, no one without a college degree should be paid over $40K per year. There is no shortage of people who would like these jobs at the reduced rates so why should the taxpayers be paying premium prices? Also, we should term limit government jobs. As long as unemployment rates are high no one should "own" their position. Everyone should get a chance to work for the government for awhile. I would cap state employment at 10 years. It's time to re-imagine government work.

by Joel 413 on 3/12/2011 @ 6:49pm
What about private jobs? There are jobs that people would be willing to work for less too. Maybe no one should be able to own a business for more than 10 years.

Should the $40K cap for non-college degree holders apply to the business sector too?

What do you consider a "government job" is this anyone directly associated with government and the legislature? Do you consider DSHS case workers government employees? What about state forest rangers? College professors at the the community college and university level? The staff that support them all?

What about the meteorologist? The seismologists? Are military positions considered government jobs?

Why should government positions be capped at $100K if the same position in the private sector would pay $150K? Is it because tax payers are contributing to it?

Why do CEO's of banks get 6 figure bonuses? Because they change fees and interest rates to take money from teh people who use their services. What if the state started charging more use fees instead of taxes?

How about this scenario. the clerks in the Secretary of State's office who deal with business license filing, etc. instead of being paid with taxpayer dollars are instead paid with fees. Since we no longer are budgeting them $1MM to run their office, we instead now change a $5K filing fee for businesses instead of $150. Why should anyone else have to contribute if they don't own a business?


by fredo on 3/12/2011 @ 7:01pm
Good questions Joel!

I would not attempt to regulate pay or longevity in the private sector. What we are discussing is how to make governmental budgets work, which they don't now. The private sector should handle itself. I think the jobs you mentioned were all public sector (paid by taxes). Those are the jobs I would cap and term limit. In the event that we need someone whose skills actually command more than 100K (perhaps an engineer or someother highly trained specialist) perhaps the cap would not apply. I don't know about your Secretary of State filing fees scenerio. This is simple clerical work If they cannot perform this service for less than $5K, I would contract that job out. Let's quit pretending that taxpayers are getting a great deal. It's just not true. IMO


by Erik on 3/13/2011 @ 2:39pm
Did they mention the targeted WSHM?

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/13/2011 @ 5:04pm
If the WSHM money can go to keep more people on the state health insurance it will be money that goes to a good cause. Health insurance before fancy museums with unnecessary fences.

by cisserosmiley on 3/13/2011 @ 5:10pm
i agree with healthcare expenditures, especially because if we don't hurry on healthcare the doc bills in the future will bankrupt the rest of you...i don't pay taxes or participate in society so don't care, but i would think the rest of the peoples would want NO bankrupt government?

by fredo on 3/13/2011 @ 5:22pm
Health insurance before fancy museums with unnecessary fences.

Oh, I agree. A lot of the illegals coming into the area don't have proper health coverage and it's important to me that we fund this important need before anything else. These illegals are coming here to do the construction work and other 'under the table' blue collar jobs that americans just won't do. To deny them free health coverage just seems so....unfeeling! Also, we need to provide excellent maternity benefits for their anchor babies. Even if they just squirt the babies out where they come from they now need $30K taxpayer funded deliveries.

by Mofo from the Hood on 3/13/2011 @ 7:57pm
Family Planning Funding?

I find this whole category obscene and repulsive.

Only a tyrant or a F-ing tool of the banking elite would agree to this category.

Witness the consequences of public education: F-ing dolts...

by NineInchNachos on 3/13/2011 @ 10:24pm
VOTE FOR ANDERS IBSEN!

by Mofo from the Hood on 3/14/2011 @ 2:20am
Ron Paul 2012!

by fredo on 3/14/2011 @ 8:10am
"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."

Wow, what a wonderful record that our generation owns. The Democrats have now gotten us into the Guiness Book it would seem. It's important that we keep the minimum wage rate as high as possible so that we can prolong this marvelous accomplishment as long as possible. We need to keep pretending that people who don't even know which end of the broom does the sweeping are worth $23,000 per year.