One party rule and McCleary: On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court ruled the Legislature has made good progress in terms of funding state education, but the progress has not been fast enough. The ruling could be huge and the McCleary issue will be front and center when the Legislature reconvenes for the next session.
From a statewide perspective, the recent election was very important. In the 45th district, a Democrat won the state senate seat, taking the office from a Republican. By gaining one more seat in the state senate, the Democrats now control the governor’s office, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
This is not good for the state, but may work for the 19th Legislative District.
Democrats already are trying to “play the issue down,” indicating citizens shouldn’t expect any big changes. We called Rep. Brian Blake, who indicated he does not expect any major tax initiatives to be pushed through the state House of Representatives or the Senate.
We also spoke with state Sen. Dean Takko. He explained that he, and a small group of other moderate Senate Democrats, don’t anticipate voting for any new tax proposals. Takko specifically spoke about not supporting a new carbon tax or a capital gains tax.
The pressure to enact significant new taxes to fund education faster, due to the recent court decision, will start soon.
In past budget proposals, Gov. Jay Inslee has advocated for a carbon tax and a capital gains tax, along with eliminating the sales tax exemption for Oregonians buying goods in Washington. The governor also has advocated increasing the business and occupation tax. This leads us to believe the governor may advocate for one – or all – of these taxes again this year.
Another issue related to McCleary is the new property tax levy swap. We think it is likely that elected officials from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties will want to see their constituents either pay lower property tax rates than what were in last year’s budget, or at least phase them in over a longer time period.
What this would mean for Southwest Washington is property taxes may not go down in 2019.
The potentially positive side of Democrats controlling all branches of the state government is the votes of 19th District representatives (Sen. Dean Takko and Rep. Brian Blake) will be very important if Democrats want to pass their agenda.
One fact voters may want to remember is the state’s budget reserve “rainy day” fund is projected to reach a historic $2 billion by the end of the 2017-19 biennium. When Democrats explain how they need more new taxes, voters might remind them they already have $2 billion of our money in the bank.
Same story, different day: This week another permit application for Millennium Bulk Terminals was denied. This time, Hearing Examiner Mark Scheibmeir rejected two shoreline permits Millennium needs to move the project forward.
The Millennium permitting process has been a spectacle of “politics over policy,” which has been so transparently fixed against the company it is comical. Both the Department of Ecology and the hearing examiner seemingly ignored the law and denied permits based on political ideals.
In a story written by TDN reporter Marissa Luck, we learned Scheibmeir used pretty much the same arguments Ecology used when it denied permits to Millennium and he cited the same nine reasons Ecology cited for denying the permits. But, Scheibmeir added a 10th issue – greenhouse gas emissions.
The Ecology ruling took heavy public criticism for not citing greenhouse gas emissions as a reason for denying the permits. The hearing examiner clearly recognized this and included them in his denial.
Millennium Chief Executive Officer Bill Chapman made a frank, but seemingly true statement in a press release: “Not allowing Millennium to use this industrial shoreline for a bulk materials terminal simply because there will be more trains on the tracks and more vessels on the Columbia River, makes a bold statement that there is no industrial or port use for this site, or for any other industrial port site in Cowlitz County or anywhere on the Columbia River system.”
The Millennium permitting process has been going on for 5 1/2 years. For the state of Washington to continue choosing “politics over policy” is disappointing.
Look for more permits to be denied soon.
Port of Longview: The Port of Longview has decided to lower its portion of property taxes again this year – and we appreciate it.
Over the past several years, port commissioners have taken some “heat” for tax decisions. The current group of commissioners has taken a sensible, reasonable approach to providing tax relief. Last year, the tax rate dropped to 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value. This year, the rate is dropping to 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value.
The port had a great year in 2017 as grain exports drove significant new revenue. At the same time, the port faces some financial uncertainty in dealing with clean-up issues surrounding the old International Paper site. Looking forward, the port’s 10-year plan includes developing Barlow Point, which will not be cheap.
Given positive market conditions and increased grain exports, along with uncertainties and cash needs for port development, it seems reasonable to reduce, but not eliminate, the port tax.