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Senator Doug Ericksen: The 12 Biggest Myths of Olympia

Senator Ericksen

E-mail: doug@senatorericksen.com ● Phone: (360)786-7682 ● Web: www.SenatorEricksen.com

414 Legislative Building ● PO Box 40442 ● Olympia, WA 98504-0412

Committees: Environment, Ranking Republican; Transportation;

Economic Development, Trade & Innovation

Senate Republican Whip

December 28, 2012

The 12 Biggest Myths of Olympia


Hello Whatcom County,

This probably won’t come as a shock to you, but Olympia occasionally struggles with reality. Sometimes it’s by accident – a false assertion gets repeated so many times that it becomes fact. In other instances, people may purposely perpetuate an idea to distort the debate on an issue.

In either case, these misconceptions are dangerous because they’re often used as the basis for budgets and policy decisions. That’s why I’m taking this opportunity to debunk some of Olympia’s biggest myths.

I welcome your feedback on this list – send me a vote for what you think is the biggest myth and I’ll share the results in a few weeks. Additionally, feel free to pass along any other myths you’ve heard. My plan is to make this an ongoing feature on www.senatorericksen.com so check in regularly to see new falsehoods exposed.

1.  Washington state has a budget deficit

In the next two-year budget cycle, Washington will receive more tax dollars than at any time in our state’s history. State tax receipts are expected to grow at almost 7 percent and total tax dollars to the state are anticipated to be $32.8 billion. There’s enough money coming into the state to fully fund all of our priorities – including education.

2.  Education funding has been slashed

Despite what’s often reported in the media and by interest groups, Washington state is spending more on education than ever before. To be exact, K-12 education spending has continually grown and now receives 93 percent more funding than it did 20 years ago.

3.  This proposal is not a tax, it’s a fee

Because of the two-thirds threshold for tax increases Washington voters have approved five times (most recently with Initiative 1185 in November), it’s difficult to raise taxes in Olympia. Fee increases, on the other hand, can be enacted by a simple majority. The result of this is that everyone in Olympia tries to dress up revenue increase proposals as fees rather than taxes. If it walks like a tax and talks like a tax, it is a tax – and it should be subject to the two-thirds threshold.

4.  Washington has one of the best business climates in the nation

Many publications put out lists of the best states for business and Washington often ranks towards the top. It’s important to note these lists give heavy weight to our lack of an income tax; they don’t take into account factors like our business and occupation (B&O) tax structure, which is the worst in the nation. They also don’t look at our sky-high workers’ compensation rates and highest-in-the-nation minimum wage rates. What they’re really measuring is which states are good for wealthy business people to live in, not where to operate a business.

5.  Washington’s constitution requires a balanced budget

People in Olympia and around the state often say that Washington’s constitution requires a balanced budget. The truth is that Washington’s constitution only requires the governor to propose a balanced budget. The Legislature isn’t bound to any such requirement for the budget that ultimately passes into law. That’s something I’d like to see changed, and in the coming session I’ll propose a constitutional amendment requiring the state’s budget to balance.

6. State government receives “revenue”

You’ll often hear about how much “revenue” state government is taking in. There’s even a state agency known as the “Economic Revenue Forecast Council.” But the state doesn’t receive revenue; it only takes tax dollars. The distinction is subtle but important. Businesses take in revenue when they sell a product or a service. That’s fundamentally different from government, which can only generate money by taxing people.

7.  Washington’s lottery proceeds fund K-12 education

When a lottery was proposed in Washington in the late 70′s, many people thought that education would be a good recipient of the funds. But when our lottery was established in 1982, proceeds were instead directed to the state’s general fund. They’ve been shifted several times since and now primarily fund college scholarships and debt on Seattle sports stadiums.

8.  An income tax is more stable than a sales tax

Many people around Olympia will tell you that our tax system, which relies heavily on sales tax receipts, is inherently unstable and that an income tax would provide more predictable tax dollars. That’s patently untrue – study after study has shown that income tax is more volatile than sales tax. For proof, we need look no further than Oregon and California, both of which rely primarily on income tax and endure more pronounced peaks and valleys of tax dollars.

9.  Over 95 percent of transportation projects are delivered on-time and within-budget

Every year, the Department of Transportation revises its projections for projects. They then base performance on these “most-recent expectations,” including what the Department considers on-time and within-budget. Essentially, they move the goal posts for projects every year. Really, what’s amazing is that any projects come in late or over budget using this system.

10. Washington ranks behind Mississippi in education funding

This statistic is often used in Olympia to point out how dire our education-funding situation is. Fortunately for our state and our schools, it’s a blatant falsehood. State spending towards education in Washington amounts to around $6.9 billion per year, compared to $2.1 billion in Mississippi. On a per-pupil basis, Washington spends $9,452 annually for every student to Mississippi’s $8,119.

11.  Governor Gregoire reduced tribal gambling

Gov. Gregoire claimed that she decreased tribal gambling because an agreement she reached with the tribes was less generous than what former Gov. Locke had negotiated. The crucial difference is that Locke’s plan included revenue sharing for the state, so the public would see some return on tribal gambling (as is the case in at least 21 other states). The proof is in the pudding, however, and tribal gambling receipts have soared 139 percent during Gregoire’s time in office.

12.  We’ll reform government after this fiscal crisis, but first we have to raise taxes

Regardless of the year and the fiscal situation we find ourselves in, according to those who protect the status quo in Olympia, this isn’t the time to reform government. They’ll say that as soon as we get through this crisis, then we’ll take a hard look at spending. The truth is, the best time to reform government is yesterday – or better yet, last year. If anything, tax shortfalls are a reason to justify reforms, not to shy away from them.

Doug signature

Doug Ericksen

Washington State Senator, 42nd District

Olympia office: (360) 786-7682

E-mail: doug@senatorericksen.com

Web site:www.SenatorEricksen.com

Is It Mine?

capture property rights Property Rights, the Environment and Growth Management are a few of the buzz topics in the current election season and as such, the Bellingham Herald apparently chose that angle when they covered the recent Tea Party Candidate Forum.  In that article they contrasted the current State Reps for the 42nd District, Vince Buys & Jason Overstreet with their challengers for office, Natalie McClendon & Matt Krogh.

People do tend to wrap the environment in with growth management, but both are really property rights issues and on property rights there is a stark contrast between these pairs of candidates.   To understand the contrast you need to understand the property rights issue.

The property rights issue isn’t about anyone wanting to damage, pollute or harm the environment.  The property rights issue is simply about you getting to decide what is the best use of your property, as opposed to others deciding how your property will best serve the community.   That’s the crux of the property rights debate; who is in control of your property, you or the government.

At the forum, when the challengers Natalie McClendon & Matt Krogh, addressed government regulatory control of private land it was pretty evident which side of the property rights issue they land on.

“Land use regulations should be imposed or amended in a way that benefits the community.”

“The goal is the public good,”

“He agreed that private property rights should be respected, but he stressed the importance of  protecting the quality of life in Washington state…

Bellingham Herald

I guess I am in stark contrast to their way of thinking also, because my home is not a charitable contribution for the public good of the community, nor did I work to purchase my home with the intent to protect the quality of life in our state.   We just wanted a place to live.   The problem with intangible ideas like public good and quality of life is that they are often defined by public vote, committee or worse, by a non-elected non-governmental organization.  Then, shortly thereafter those definitions are put into regulation and the government enforces their control over your property use.  It’s usually not even in big ways that really jump out at you, it’s more often in small subtle ways.

Take this recent example happening in the streets of Ferndale.  A year ago land owners along some portions of Main Street could have decided to plant a few of their favorite trees in their front yard near the road and they would have had  every right to do so.  This year however, they have found that the city has seized that portion of their property from them, bulldozed it, widened the road, and then landscaped along their much smaller front yard as the city  saw fit.

Ferndale may need to go to court to assert its authority to move forward with the $4.3 million road project as a public benefit, which trumps the right of property owners to keep their land.

Bellingham Herald

I’ve sat through council meetings and I’m sure the city officials feel that what they are doing along Main Street is in the interest of public good, and that the new landscaping contributes to the quality of life for the people of Ferndale, but how is the quality of life for the homeowners who now have bike lanes and sidewalks running through what used to be their front yard?   Is that vision the homeowners had for their property when they purchased it?  Is it their vision now?   Barring any safety issues, how is it that governments like the City of Ferndale feel they have the power to “trump” your property as a property owner?  It’s the people we elect and send to Olympia to make laws.

Do you want representatives such as Natalie McClendon and Matt Krogh that seem to think along the lines of the City of Ferndale?  Do you want representatives that feel that the government has first right to your property?   I don’t.  I won’t be voting for either of these people and I hope, for the sake of all of our private property, that you don’t either.

Both Vincent Buys and Jason Overstreet have my support because they have already shown a commitment to both protecting our individual right to our own property and to protecting our environment.

It’s not a partisan gap, it’s Democrats

When I look at our financial state of affairs in Olympia I don’t see a partisan gap issue as many in the news have said, I see a problem with the Democrats who have had too much control and for too long.   The real problem is not that there is a gap between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, the real problem is that there is a large gap between the will of the people of Washington and the will of the party in power, the Democrats.  

It’s no secret that many of our financial issues stem from government overspending and it takes only the average person to understand that to fix things we need to limit the taxes that are feeding our state’s spending addiction. 

  • 1993 – Voters pass Initiative 601 which demands that “state expenditures be limited by inflation rates and population growth, and taxes exceeding the limit be subject to referendum?”
  • 1998 – Voters pass Referendum 49 which says that “motor vehicle excise taxes be reduced and state revenues reallocated; $1.9 billion in bonds for state and local highways approved; and spending limits modified?"
  • 2007 – Voters pass Initiative 960 which “required that in order for the Washington State Legislature to raise taxes, the legislature would have to approve any tax increases with a two-thirds supermajority vote or submit tax increase proposals to a statewide vote of the electorate”
  • 2010 – voters pass Initiative 1053  which requires that "legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majorities or receive voter approval, and that new or increased fees require majority legislative approval."

For two decades the average people of our state have been speaking to this issue and the Democrats we put in power have been ignoring us.   It seems that each time we try to limit spending the Democrats try to limit our power over them by using whatever technicality they think they can get away with. 

In the waning hours of the "budget focused" special session Democrats in the House and Senate both attempted to cue up votes on a tax bill not assumed in the budget that no one expected to pass. The strategy was to try to gain legal standing to sue the voters to overturn the 18 year old 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases.  Washington Policy Center

Approved by 64 percent of voters last November, I-1053 prohibited unelected bureaucrats from unilaterally imposing taxes and fees. After it passed, Gov. Chris Gregoire said: "I’m not gonna let 1053 stand in the way of me moving forward for what I think is right."  Seattle Times

A coalition of House Democrats and education advocates are asking the courts to void the supermajority required for tax increases in Washington, arguing that it’s an unconstitutional limit on legislative authority. The Spokesman-Review

I’m not a lawyer so I can’t speak to the technicalities of the various legislation, loopholes and lawsuits that the Democrats have used, but suffice to say that the Democrat legislation, loopholes and lawsuits were not implemented to properly enact the will of the people, but rather to oppose the will of those who elected them.

There’s a gap for sure, but it is not between political parties, it is between the average people of this state and the Democratic Party.

 

references http://ballotpedia.org

Town Hall Meeting with 42nd District Legislators

IMAG0116I along with few hundred others attended a Town Hall meeting in Lynden yesterday afternoon.  The meet was put on by Vince Buys, Doug Ericksen, and Jason Overstreet, our freshly elected representation for the northern half of Whatcom County. 

After a brief introduction by our well known Sen. Ericksen, Rep. Buys and Rep. Overstreet spent a little time familiarizing us with how the 42nd District Legislators are approaching things down in Olympia.  Their goals, and I think they are good ones, are to balance our states budget without raising taxes, to strengthen the economy and to allow businesses to create more jobs.  They described the principles they would employ as they approached our already very out of whack state budget.

  • No new taxes
  • No fund transfers
  • No Federal Bailouts
  • No tricks, gimmicks or shell game tricks

They also referenced some thoughts that Microsoft’s Bill Gates had on state budgeting.  He said that state budgets have received a puzzling lack of scrutiny and have been "riddled with gimmicks"  and “when you get down to it, the guys at Enron never would have done this.”

The next two hours were spent in Q&A.  The lines of questioners were long within seconds and even though they proceeded quickly, their sheer volume had the program running over by 30 minutes.    Questions, and comments, ran the gamut, but most seemed to be centered on protecting funding for educators of one variety or another.  Their were also a couple of comments regarding Pregnancy Center regulation and the proposed coal export terminal being planned for Cherry Point.  The other thing that was brought up several times was the notion that our legislators were somehow union busters.  One questioner asked if they were operating from the same playbook as Wisconsin, to which Doug Ericksen replied, we live in Washington, I don’t even know what Wisconsin’s playbook is.  On that subject, I find it interesting that so many unions, union members and media refer to the new Wisconsin legislation as a stripping away of collective bargaining rights, when once the facts are read, we find that the employees of Wisconsin will have more collective bargaining rights than Federal employees have had since President Carter signed into law the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978

With the 42nd District covering northern Bellingham and much of rural Whatcom County, the wide variety of views did make for a lively meeting.  Perhaps the most entertaining comment I heard came out in the hallway near the end, when a young man collecting business cards asked one of the legislators assistants if Jason Overstreet was a liberal.  I guess he missed the question where stepped center stage and made it extremely clear that he was unequivocally pro-life and that he would never measure the life in economic terms. 

Overall the Town Hall was great event and I look forward to the next.

More information:

Lummi Island Ferry and the Sovereignty Card

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The Sovereignty card is what the Lummi Nation plays to avoid considering how their behavior affects others in Whatcom County.  It’s the card they are playing in the still current Ferry situation and it’s the same card they played to construct the Northwood Casino and others.   This sign is a great example of them playing the card,

The sign stands 78 feet tall and features an LED display that measures 14 feet by 48 feet. That’s greater than what’s allowed under state law but the billboard is located on trust land.

It only takes reading about half that short paragraph above to realize that they believe the sovereignty card trumps being part of Washington or even the Whatcom community if they stand to gain financially.  In the case of the  Lummi Island Ferry the sovereignty card is an excuse to extort money directly from Whatcom County over the use of the ferry landing. 

It’s time for the Lummi Nation to join the local community or it’s time for the local community to really embrace the Lummi Nation’s sovereignty and build us a border complete with guards and chain-link fence.

Well Represented

Last fall, with our states financial balance suffering, we elected two locals, Jason Overstreet and Vincent Buys to represent us with common sense down in Olympia.  They’ve only recently taken their new offices, so I am happy to see that  both of them are already on their game. 

Gov. Gregoire recently ordered state agencies to temporarily suspend non-critical rule development to ease the financial impact of government on already struggling businesses.   Temporary?   Is it really okay that after December 31, 2011 our state government should return to financially burdening businesses with non-critical rules?   I’m glad that I am not the only one who thinks that is crazy talk, Jason Overstreet introduced a bill (HB 1671) that would permanently ask state agencies to consider the financial impact of nonemergency rules before they enact those rules.   Go Jason!

Not to be out done in the financial common sense arena Vincent Buys has co-sponsored a bill that  would draw a financial distinction between typical students and perpetual students.  HB 1654 would charge seemingly perpetual students the higher non-resident tuition rate for credits that are 25% beyond what is needed for their program.  Another delivery of common sense to Olympia.  Go Vince!

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