Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Guv douses lust for new revenue

"Not even remotely in the game," Chris Gregoire told Dave Ammons last week. Then she wrapped her lower lip around her upper teeth and squeezed, a determined (stubborn) expression I wish she'd get rid of for the sake of her facial contours. She was talking about something very close to my heart -- new revenue.

I was upset.

The erosion of the tax base is the major problem for state government, particularly with increasing demands foreseeable for the future. A second major problem is the fact that taxes now ride on the backs of the poor and lower-income. A third and still major problem is the very existence of the decrepit, upside-down Business & Occupation tax. The only way to close all the wounds is tax reform. Sadly, when I say "taxes," people think I'm talking dirty. It's not dirty, it's love.

Tim Eyman and his deadbeat dads have set in place a dynamic that is only going to get worse over time. Killing the MVET, limiting the property tax and continuing tax "incentives" (read "giveaways") is a three-part poison pill. After three years of recovery, a Boeing turnaround, a housing boom, and big new sin taxes, this year is the first "surplus." Even this one was bought by abandoning the cities.

As I say, it was rejection. I was upset -- but only for a moment.

I quickly remembered that governors and prominent citizens and blue ribbon commissions have a zero rate of success in getting anything done with regard taxes. The more popular the public figure, the less successful the effort. Dan Evans nearly got sainthood, but could never get much of a bump for his tax reforms. Bill Gates Senior will be remembered for putting his name on the Tax Structure Study Commission, but people will connect him only with the estate tax, not anything substantial.

Then I actually smiled.

Because I remembered the Guv thinks she is looking at a balanced budget. It is kind of balanced today, but it will not be balanced next year at this time. I smiled not because I like a good crisis, but if you've got your eyes closed, you need to hit the wall before you know it is there. If we are near the top of a housing bubble, revenues will not increase the 5% per year out into the biennia ahead, as estimated by OFM. The increase may well be a minus. ... And you know, if we do need new revenue, it would be good to get it set up soon, so the deficit doesn't get out of hand. Since we are speculating, politically speaking, the timing would be best the furthest it was from the reelection campaign. But stop me. I heard her. She said No.

I was not really upset, just taken aback for a moment.

I appreciate her being out front about this. My personal history is full of being strung along and then crushed. It is better to know how she really feels, that she does not secretly support such a thing. Out front is good. It tells us where we are. It's kind of like leadership.

Maybe I can get something going with Lisa Brown.

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