Rep. Carlyle’s update from Olympia

Representative Reuven Carlyle has emailed us a new blog post covering the flurry of activity in Olympia, especially surrounding the state budget. As is customary now, Carlyle is asking for your feedback on a wide range of issues — and he reads the comments. His post follows below:

In the waning days of the 2009 session in Olympia, legislators are debating, advocating, prodding, pushing and voting on major issues ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to education reform, domestic partnerships and job initiatives in cooperation with the Obama Administration.

Serving as a member of the state House has been a tremendous experience on a personal and professional level. The best part has been making a difference on profoundly important public policy issues that impact real people living real lives. The worse part has obviously been spending so much time away from my wife Wendy and our four children. I’m chomping at the bit to come home!

On the budget front: House and Senate budget negotiators are holed up in conference rooms in the Capitol forging a deal on how to address a $9 billion projected deficit in the $33 billion biennial operating budget. The central theme of the session has been jobs, jobs, jobs.

Budget categories include basic education (K-12), higher education, social services, government reform challenges and much more. There also are two stop-gap tax proposals being discussed to mitigate the worst effects of the unprecedented slashing of $9B from state programs: 1) a temporary 0.3 percent increase in the sales tax and 2) a 1% income tax for those earning more than $250,000 per year. Either would require voter approval, so don’t worry that you wouldn’t have a direct voice! (Let me know in the comment section whether you think I should vote to send a tax measure to the ballot and, if so, which one).

I’m proud that the Legislature passed a strong education reform bill (HB 2261) with the support of thousands of parents, teachers and supporters. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and I all voted for the education reform bill. We had hundreds of visitors to Olympia from Ballard, Queen Anne, Magnolia and throughout the 36th District. The reform bill, which unfortunately has not gained the support of the Washington Education Association, offers a new definition of ‘basic education’ for the first time in a generation. I do believe we must increase funding for schools given our rank of 42nd in the nation in funding public education, but it is essential that we thoughtfully improve the quality, performance and accountability of the institutional bureaucracy of education at the same time. Here’s video of the first speech I delivered on the House floor on this legislation earlier in the session.

Legislation to expand domestic partnership rights passed overwhelmingly. It would allow, for example, the same-sex partner of a police officer killed in the line of duty to receive access to the same public-employee benefits that a heterosexual partner would receive. It’s a basic civil right that I am proud to support.

I did vote on principle against the 520 tolling bill despite my strong support for comprehensive regional tolling. There is not yet agreement on the bridge design between the east and west sides of 520, and given what I’ve learned from 8 years of viaduct dialogue, if you don’t have a strategy in place you shouldn’t start spending money. In terms of the tunnel project itself, I am pleased that we secured the $2.4 billion (plus $400M in tolling authority).

We all know the struggling economy led by unemployment and underemployment, taxes, business climate issues, workforce development and more requires new strategies for the 21st Century global economy. We are facing structural challenges in our economy at the local, state and national levels. One of my regrets from the session is that I didn’t spend time earlier preparing legislation to help small businesses (from paperwork reduction to city, county and state tax streamlining), which form the core of our long term economic growth.

I also admit I’ve been frustrated at the lack of progress in tackling genuine structural reforms in government programs during this economic crisis. I don’t mean this from an anti-government perspective but simply that it takes genuine courage to address the sacred cows in any institution, and government is no different. But given the march of rising costs in health care, for example, we have absolutely no choice.

It’s been a real jolt to see up close and personal the operational difference between the public and private sectors.

While much of the major environmental legislation was regretfully watered down this year, we have adopted some compelling clean energy bills that will help leverage the federal government’s new investment in clean technology. I joined with the environmental community and worked extremely hard to protect I-937, the citizen’s initiative on renewable energy that was adopted by voters (more than 70% in our district, by the way).

In the final days, we have major votes on the Viaduct, job and workforce development, budgets, state revenue packages, unemployment insurance, child care workers, local taxing options for Metro and King County, jobs and school construction and much more.

How are we doing?

Your partner in service, Reuven.


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Sean McClintock
Guest

Thank you for the update. As for the budget shortfall, we need to be courageous about finding new revenue sources. We can't balance the budget simply by slashing programs. I support the income tax on high income earners. A sales tax hurts those at the bottom end of the economic scale more so than those at the top. Is it wealth redistribution? Yes, of course it is. That's what a graduated income tax has always been and that's the way it should be.

As for education, our legislators seem to forget that they are mandated by our state constitution to fund education before all else. How can we say we're meeting that requirement when we are 42nd in the nation in education funding? We have to make cuts in programs to balance the budget but education is not the place to do it. It is the key investment in our future.

Thank you for your hard work.

Ballard Betty
Guest
Ballard Betty

Reuven – how in the heck are Seattle property owners going to manage footing the bill on this viaduct overrun issue…

The aging Alaskan Way Viaduct is a step closer to being replaced with a deep-bore tunnel.

After years of stalemate, the House, on a 53-43 vote Wednesday, approved a plan to replace the earthquake-damaged elevated highway.

The bill passed by the House needs to be reconciled with a different version passed by the state Senate. One major difference: The House says Seattle property owners should be on the hook for cost overruns.

Jon Stahl
Guest

Thanks for all your hard work — no doubt a tough session to be a newcomer!

While I applaud the work you did to hold the line on so many important issues, I'm profoundly disappointed that the legislature didn't have the courage to turn our budget crisis into a reform opportunity by making a serious move to adopt the Gates Commissions bipartisan recommendations for fundamental reform of our state tax system.

Our current, regressive sales, property and B&O taxes are a sad (and cruel) joke. An income tax on only high earners is a start, but hardly the kind of comprehensive revenue reform that is so desperately needed.

One of my hopes for you, Rep. Carlyle, is that you'll have the energy, financial acumen and progressive reformer spirit to stand up to the status quo and help move the dialogue on this issue out of the rut it's been stuck in for decades. No small challenge, I know.

chopper_74
Guest
chopper_74

Thank you sir, for your service.

(oh dear…he reads this stuff?)

'nuff said ;-)

Bark more, Wag Less
Guest
Bark more, Wag Less

We know the income tax on higher earners is only the 'start'. Next thing you know we'll be California with high sales tax, income tax on all AND deficits.

Good luck getting re elected if you slap an income tax on us.

Audrey Lyle
Guest
Audrey Lyle

I strongly support a vote for a tax on income over $250,000 per year. Much of this has been disbursed by corporations which already benefit from huge tax breaks not available to small business and ordinary taxpayers. Thank you for this opportunity to comment.

Stupid Hippie
Guest
Stupid Hippie

I support and income tax on ALL! Reuven, we trust you to spend the money wisely and ignore the poster above, people in Ballard are compassionate and will enjoy giving their money to Olympia. Seriously, we just feel guilty spending it ourselves.

facebook-25906957
Guest

>In terms of the tunnel project itself, I am pleased that we secured the $2.4 billion (plus $400M in tolling authority).

You shouldun

facebook-25906957
Guest

Typing is hard. >In terms of the tunnel project itself, I am pleased that we secured the $2.4 billion (plus $400M in tolling authority). You shouldn't be pleased, you should be ashamed. We're $9 billion in the hole, and spending $2.5 on a tunnel while cutting education? How does that make an ounce of sense? We're never going to climb up from our #42 spot at this rate. I know many of my fellow Ballardites are worried worried worried about the viaduct going away, but I'm more worried about the tunnel arriving. I can't stress enough how much I'd prefer a bit of fiscal leadership here to say, hey guys, we ran out of money for your precious tunnel, so if you want it, pass the funding. How is it we can build a huge road tunnel with NO voter approval for the cost but have to fight tooth and nail to fund (much cheaper per trip!) fixed-rail transit? I mean I'm sure there's a reason, but if our goal is better mobility, it's not a reason that's serving us well. >I joined with the environmental community and worked extremely hard to protect I-937 Thanks for that. The “hydropower is… Read more »

facebook-25906957
Guest

Yeah, cause the streets are empty in California! People are leaving in droves for Wyoming! Nothing repels people like taxes!

Bark more, Wag Less
Guest
Bark more, Wag Less

You think they'll only 'stick it to the rich'? Just wait and see.

Anyway, an income tax will never pass in WA. It's political suicide. Gregoire knows this.

Roy Hobbs
Guest
Roy Hobbs

A bunch of thoughts here, and I hope that Reuven is reading them so that he will see other viewpoints that exist inside his district: 1. It is all too easy to put forth an income tax proposal when the large majority of the voters will not be affected by it. Much of the discussion of the problems with the sales tax is that it isn't “fair”. I'm not going to argue progressivity/regressivity here. What I am going to point out is that when you single out a small group of people for a tax, that is not by any definition fair. Either everyone is exposed to the tax (at different rates, of course), or nobody should be. 2. I was at the legislative forum and wanted to ask this question: in your time in the legislature so far, have you found any departments/administrators who are especially exemplary in the way they run their department from an efficiency standpoint? More to the point, what are you doing to recognize those individuals and either get them promoted or help them spread their ideas/methods to other departments? It makes it a lot easier to pay taxes when you are confident that the… Read more »

Watergirl
Guest
Watergirl

Thanks for writing to us!

My concern is about the budget. I'd like to see Olympia do everything it can to make cuts and get the budget shortfall down as far as it possibly can before resorting to more or new taxes to make up any remaining difference. I don't mean by cutting basic services, but by cutting those projects that are nice, but not necessary to health and safety.

Thanks for listening!

ballard123
Guest
ballard123

A note regarding the proposed 1% income tax on high income individuals (SB 6147)… A reading of the the state constitution seems pretty clear that any legislation singling out a particular class of people (high-income) for an income tax is highly unlikely to make it past the state supreme court. Washington State's Constitution is very clear that all taxes on property must be uniform (according to Article VII, Section 1) – and the courts seem to have been consistent over the years in regarding income as property. An income tax targeted at only a small percentage of earners is certainly not uniform. I imagine those in the legislature who are advocating this are no doubt aware that this legislation would most likely be tossed out by the courts. So why push it – other than populist, class politics? Section 1101 of the bill suggests a reason: NEW SECTION. Sec. 1101. SEVERABILITY. If any provision of thisact or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid,the remainder of the act or the application of the provision to otherpersons or circumstances is not affected. So if this bill were passed, and the Court subsequently ruled it unconstitutional, the language in… Read more »

Lube
Guest
Lube

We need an income tax on all to replace a substantial part of our other taxes, but it should be an income tax on all but the very poor. 1% from all would be fair and the wealthier folks would still be paying quite a bit more than others.

Bark more, Wag Less
Guest
Bark more, Wag Less

Income tax ONLY if they drop the sales tax. No way to both.

This is not California!

M
Guest
M

I support a temporary 1% income tax for those earning more than $250k.

scotts
Guest
scotts

Any move towards a (progressive) income tax and away from a (regressive) sales tax would be a move towards fairness in taxation. Why should the poor and middle class continue to pay many times higher percentage of their income in taxes than those better off? It's time for those fortuante enough to be making higher incomes to pay their fair share of taxes in Washington.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

California's net domestic immigration rate has been negative for years now — in fact, people are leaving in droves for other Western states. Its population continues to grow due to births and foreign immigration.

SPG
Guest
SPG

A small income tax on earnings over $250,000 would be a step toward fixing Washington's regressive tax structure. This would include all income, not just wages?

SPG
Guest
SPG

Nobody's going to move for a modest change in income tax. People move for jobs and quality of life, and without the taxes to fund basic services the quality of life will suffer here and then people will start moving.

SPG
Guest
SPG

If you leave out the regressivity issue than of course a tax targeting one group would be unfair. The reality is that having only a sales tax is very regressive, so instituting an income tax on incomes of over $250,000 is the very beginning of balance.
Without the income tax where would we get the revenue? Sales tax. And there we go making our tax structure even more regressive.

SPG
Guest
SPG

Fixed with a standard deduction. Next.

NWCitizen
Member
NWCitizen

Thanks so much for your report and for your willingness to listen to us.

YES on the income tax. Now is the time.

NO on the sales tax increase for all the reasons previously stated.

Question: Will we be able to deduct the income tax from our Federal taxes as they can in some other states?

I'm anxious to hear your response.

Bark more, Wag Less
Guest
Bark more, Wag Less

If we wanted an income tax, don't you think we would have voted for Burbank and not Reuven?

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