Archive for April, 2010

Q&A: DOR’s Janetta Taylor on the 68 tax changes coming to Washington

By | April 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

This week’s Q&A is with Janetta Taylor with the Department of Revenue. I was interested in finding out how the department is dealing with nearly 70 changes to the tax code worth $800 million that go into effect on a handful of different dates — including tomorrow, when cigarettes will cost $1 more per pack.

Taylor told me about some big changes to the tax code that could help local businesses, what it would take to implement an income tax, and much more.

Q: How many changes did the Legislature make, and what does the DOR have to do to implement those changes?

Taylor: With this session we have 68 changes that came through, which is quite a few. It will be a challenge for the department to make sure that we contact all the businesses that are affected. That really is our focus: educate, educate, educate.

We have a wide variety of mechanisms to do that. In Washington, most businesses and household are connected to the Web. The first thing we did is post the information on our Web page. There’s a link to all the information with the write-ups. Of course, also some of Mike’s (Mike Gowrylow, communications director at DOR) media releases. And we also try to target mailings to the specific businesses that are impacted. We have about 450,000 registered businesses. Not all of these changes affect all businesses. We look at businesses by their activity and we tailor specific mailings to them and try to get them all the information they need.

We also have special things going on with electronic filing. A large number of our tax payers actually file electronically so we can send them e-mails or send them alerts in the system.

Q: The $1 per pack addition to the cigarette tax goes into effect tomorrow (May 1). What did you have to do to implement something like that?

Taylor: The ones that start tomorrow were quite challenging because we did have a short time frame. We actually started planning before the bill was signed. (more…)

Gregoire appoints new lottery director

By | April 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed Bill Hanson to lead the Washington State Lottery today. The lottery nets about $120 million a year for state programs, and changes passed by the Legislature this year will significantly redirect that money.

“Bill is the right director at the right to time to usher in this new phase of the state’s lottery, especially as it helps fund critical programs like education,” Gregoire said in a news release.

Hanson is a former state patrol officer and has served on the lottery commission. He replaces Christopher Liu.

The “new phase” Gregoire mentioned refers to where lotto money will be going: To the “Opportunity Pathways” account. That money will go toward “recruitment of entrepreneurial researchers, innovation partnership zones, and research teams; the early childhood education and assistance program (ECEAP); the State Need Grant; the State Work Study program; College Bound Scholarships; Washington Promise Scholarships; Washington Scholars; the Washington Award for Vocational Excellence (WAVE).”

Hanson will start work on May 16 and make $115,000 a year.

Speaking of the Washington Lottery, it recently got a lot of attention from indie-hipster news sites for the newest ad, featuring an unreleased Grizzly Bear song.

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Is the state pension system in danger? Find out on Inside Olympia — watch here

By | April 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

On this week’s edition of Inside Olympia, Austin Jenkins talks to State Treasurer Jim McIntire and State Actuary Matt Smith about the health of the state’s finances.

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Watch the 520 “preferred” announcement here

By | April 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

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‘Preferred’ 520 replacement will bring safety, jobs and more, Governor says

By | April 29, 2010 | 0 Comments

I just left the press conference held by Gov. Chris Gregoire — who was joined by King Co. Executive Dow Constantine, Sen. Rodney Tom, Rep. Scott White, Rep. Judy Clibburn, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and more — to announce the “preferred” 520 replacement plan.

The plan includes changes from earlier versions: There’s room for light rail, the bridge will be lower in the middle, it reduces impact on the arboretum, and it is more urban friendly.

Though Gregoire was joined by a handful of state and local politicians who have worked on the bridge, one local official was missing: Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Gregoire said he was presented with the plan and expressed concerns over a lack of light rail on the bridge, but she isn’t sure what his assessment of the plan is. She said he may hold a separate press conference on the matter today.  Gregoire said the new bridge will accommodate light rail — as soon as Sound Transit has a plan and funding: “We have a plan for light rail, light rail’s not ready for 520.”

Gregoire said the bridge plan will stay within the original $4.65 billion budget. But, she said, they still don’t know where $2 billion of that will come from. She said she would prefer that funding would not come from the gas tax or any other plan that taxes the entire state for a Seattle project. Rep. Judy Clibborn, however, said the funding could come from a mix of federal, state and tolling funds.

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At the 520 press conference: An update

By | April 29, 2010 | 0 Comments

I’m at UW for the press conference during which Gov. Chris Gregoire will announce the “preferred” replacement plan for the 520 bridge. The press conference will get started in about 30 minutes, but there is no reliable wireless internet connection in the outdoor area where they plan to make the announcement. So: I’ll post my notes here right after the press conference. Then, we’ll head back to TVW to get the video posted.

In the meantime, here’s what the Seattle Times says is in store: No arboretum connection to 520, a more urban friendly design, and an open-air gap between lanes to allow for room for light rail in the future.

Construction on the pontoons is to begin in 2011.

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Watch The Impact — including an interview with Bill Gates, Sr. — here

By | April 29, 2010 | 0 Comments

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Felon voting ruling will get a redo

By | April 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

The state’s ban on felon voting, which was overturned earlier this year, will have another hearing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

There is no time-line for when the 14-year-old case will be heard. It will be decided by 10 judges selected from the circuit.

The Secretary of State’s Office has the scoop here.

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Good job on the census, Washington

By | April 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

Washington sent in 74 percent of its Census forms — meaning one in four households will get a personal visit from the Census crew.

Of course, the whole point of the Census is to count how many people there are. And it’s difficult to figure out the percentage of people who have returned their forms if you don’t know how many households there are. But: The figure represents the number of U.S. households “believed to be occupied.” They’ll do a check — and release a final mail return rate — in the fall.

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., regional Census director Ralph Lee will detail how he plans to visit the remaining households to count Washington’s citizens.

Washington’s mail-in participation is good, but not the best: “States with the highest mail participation rates include: Wisconsin (81 percent), Minnesota (80 percent), Iowa (78 percent) and Indiana (78 percent).”

The cities here with the highest participation are Beaux Arts Village and Normandy Parks, each with an 86 percent return rate. That beats the pants off Hinsdale County, Colorado’s 19 percent return rate.

For an interactive map of return rates across the nation, go here.

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Gov. Gregoire to announce 520 replacement tomorrow

By | April 28, 2010 | 1 Comments

Tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., Gov. Chris Gregoire will announce the “preferred” replacement for the 520 bridge. TVW will be there taping the event, and I’ll be live-blogging here.

Gregoire will be joined by local and state government representatives for the announcement.

The 520 replacement has caused some controversy: Mass transit advocates wanted room for light rail on the bridge, but the plan so far favored a six-lane replacement with one lane in each direction for carpoolers and buses.

As the Washington Department of Transportation page explains here, the 520 needs to be replaced because it’s susceptible to earthquakes and high wind.

Here’s their video on what could happen in an earthquake, for example:

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A comprehensive guide to 2010 tax increases, exemptions and changes

By | April 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

The Department of Revenue has put together a list — with brief explanations, effective dates and links to the full bills — of all the new tax increases, exemptions and changes that will go into effect this year. See all 60-plus here.

Important to note: Not all “changes” are increases and decreases.

Also to note: The implementation dates vary. Many go into effect on June 10, but a few are already made. And the cigarette tax goes up on Saturday by $1 per pack.

Enjoy the browsing.

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Updated: Reed and McKenna discuss this morning’s Supreme Court hearing on R71 petitions

By | April 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

Below are excerpts from this morning’s conference call with Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna. The two spent this morning arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that petition signatures are a public record. I’ll post the audio — along with the full courtroom transcript — as soon as both are available.

Update: Here is the full transcript.

Rob McKennaMcKenna: My team and I think it went well… When the petitioner’s council got up to talk, Mr. Bopp, the justices jumped in with questions 30 seconds in. For about 30 minutes they asked him a lot of questions, which means they’re skeptical… that all petitions in all cases ought to be nondisclosable…

Secondly, one of the issues we were prepared to argue about was whether or not this case involved a facial challenge to the public records act or only an as-applied challenge… Chief Justice Roberts immediately jumped in and said of course this is a facial challenge… so that was very valuable.

Justice Ginsberg was very valuable, so was justice Scalia….So, overall we felt it went well and we’re happy that since we’re the last case of the term that we’ll know one way or the other by the end of June.

Sam ReedReed: I felt very good about this hearing this morning… it’s an appropriate issue for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up… My impression overall is that what they were weighing is the possibility of somebody being harassed so bad that it overweighs the right of the public in general…

They realized the extent of this case and it wasn’t just this one referendum and this one state in the United States…

What did show up was the obvious inexperience – they couldn’t quite believe it when the Attorney General said some people sign these … to get away from the person that is trying to get them to sign…They really, I think, assumed that someone would have to have a strong personal conviction (to sign a petition)…

McKenna: We wanted to get the point across — and we did — that lots of people sign petitions who haven’t decided how they intend to vote …

Reed: One more overall observation – that is that the weight of the petitioner’s argument seemed to land mainly on the fear of people being upset with you because you signed a petition… Justice Scalia came down very hard on that argument. And he said, and this is a great quote, “Democracy requires a certain amount of civic courage.” (more…)

Emmert’s out, Priest is running for mayor

By | April 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

- Rep. Skip Priest has announced he’s running to be Federal Way’s first elected mayor. Read the whole story here.

- Mark Emmert, the UW president who spent time in Olympia lobbying for fewer cuts and more tuition-setting authority, announced he’s leaving to head the NCAA. Read all about it here.

- Meanwhile, the mayor of South Prairie — a small town in Pierce County — has announced she’s running for the House seat Rep. Dan Roach is leaving. That story is here.

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Reed: R71 hearing went “very, very well”

By | April 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

I’m rushing to a conference call with Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna, but here’s an initial report on Reed’s reaction to their hearing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court over whether signatures to initiative petitions are a public record: It went “very, very well.”

Here are his full remarks, via Dave Ammons, his communication director: “In my opinion, it went very, very well.  I feel guardedly optimistic that we’ll prevail. The questioning really favored our point of view.”

Justice Scalia at one point said “Democracy requires a certain amount of civic courage.”

“The questions were about the harassment aspect and did that concern amount to enough to therefore deny open and transparent government, is it a problem of sufficient weight to overrule what the people have voted in the way of open public records?”

Check back in a few minutes for the text and audio of the conference call.

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Gov. Gregoire signed furlough bill — agencies to close starting July 12

By | April 28, 2010 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill to close state government for 10 days — saving $50 million or so –  in the biennium yesterday afternoon. The first closure day will be on July 12 and continue through the fiscal year.

The state won’t go lawless on that day — state patrol, emergency services, universities and many other state government agencies will remain open.

There are some exceptions to closures: If state agencies come up with other ways to save the same amount of money (and their plans are approved), they can go without closing.

For much more on the story, including which agencies will stay open and what days state government will close go to Jim Camden’s blog here.

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Cigarette taxes will go up on Saturday

By | April 27, 2010 | 0 Comments

Starting Saturday, some of the new taxes will go into effect. That includes the $1 per pack cigarette tax.

To read more on when taxes go into effect, go here.

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Washington will now have a Confucius Institute

By | April 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire hit Seattle this afternoon to sign a memorandum of understanding that will create a Confucius Institute in Washington.

In a statement, she said she told China’s president in 2006 that she’d like a Confucius Institute. “Before China would commit – our state had to prove that we could develop innovative programs to expand Chinese culture and language learning opportunities. I applaud the collaboration of business and education leaders who worked tirelessly to bring this institute here.”

Read the rest of the news release after the jump. (more…)

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Seattle sues McKenna to stop McKenna from suing the federal government

By | April 26, 2010 | 1 Comments

The City of Seattle is suing Attorney General Rob McKenna to try to stop him from continuing with the lawsuit he joined with a dozen other states over the constitutionality of federal healthcare reform.

Seattle is asking the state Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter. Here is what they filed.

One of their issues: They say McKenna does not represent Washington’s interests — but his own — in filing the lawsuit. In the filing, City of Seattle Attorney Pete Holmes cites a 2005 ballot measure, approved by nearly 70 percent of voters, that asked Congress to enact healthcare reform as evidence that Seattle is acting in the interest of its people.

From Kimberly Mills, City of Seattle’s communication director: “The Washington Supreme Court clerk has set a commissioner’s hearing for the petition for June 24.  AG Rob McKenna’s response is due May 24;  our reply is due June 14.  Assuming the commissioner decides to send it on to the Court, we would then get a hearing and briefing schedule.”

Janelle Guthrie, communication director for McKenna’s office, released this statement about the lawsuit: “We take any action requiring the attention of the state Supreme Court very seriously. However, the Attorney General maintains he has a legal and Constitutional duty to protect the rights of the citizens of the state of Washington in this case.”

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Gregoire appoints Pierce Co. judge to Court of Appeals

By | April 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire was in Tacoma this afternoon to announce her nominee for the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division 2. She picked Judge Lisa Worswick, who currently serves as a Pierce County Superior Court Judge. Worswick will replace Judge Elaine Houghton, who is retiring.

Worswick will start the job on May 3.

From a press release sent out by Gregoire’s office: “Following graduation from the University of Washington School of Law, Worswick began her legal career in private practice focusing on insurance defense, and later serving as prosecutor and police advisor for several Puget Sound cities while working at Luce & Associates in Fife. In 1997, Warswick became a municipal court judge in the city of Roy, followed by an appointment to the Pierce County District Court.  In 2002, Gov. Gary Locke appointed Worswick as Superior Court Judge for Pierce County.” She also volunteers for several organizations.

Gregoire said in the press release that Worswick’s “positive attitude, combined with her tireless work ethic” will serve the state well.

Gregoire is continuing to Seattle after her stop in Tacoma to sign a memorandum of understanding to create a Confucius Institute of Washington State.

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Working on The Impact: tax initiatives & low-performing schools

By | April 23, 2010 | 0 Comments

theimpact_cropped150The governor signed new taxes into law today, but debate over Washington’s tax system is far from over.  On Tuesday, I’ll be talking with professional initiative sponsor, Tim Eyman, about his efforts to roll back some of the new taxes now on the books.  I’m also close to securing a one-on-one interview with Bill Gates, Sr. – the main proponent of a proposed high-earner income tax. These interviews will give you a chance to hear the uncut versions of their ideologies on the issue of taxes.

Also next week, we are expecting to learn how much money low-performing schools are receiving in federal school improvement grants. I’ll be talking with Janell Newman from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction about the new state-intervention process.  I’m also visiting the Tacoma School District to meet the principals who’ve been tapped to turn two underachieving schools into success stories.

Don’t miss The Impact Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on TVW and on our new channel, KBTC, Friday nights at 7 p.m.

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