1. It's not weird that this morning the Republicans on the house finance committee all voted against the Democrats' K-12 revenue package, which closes about $500 million in tax exemptions and extends a B&O surcharge on some professional services. (The Democrats struck part of their initial revenue proposal today by dropping a beer tax extension and passing on a few exemptions they had originally targeted.)
The GOP is in Grover Norquist mode and will not support new revenue even if it comes from closing nonsense tax breaks such as a $40 million break for big oil that was written and intended for the wood products industry in 1949 and another $5 million break that lets oil companies claim money for spilling fuel.
However, it is weird that at this morning's finance committee meeting, the Republicans also lined up against an accompanying bill sponsored by fiscal conservative Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), leader of the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus that runs the senate.
Tom's bill, co-sponsored by the Senate's Republican budget chair Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond), imposes new requirements on any new tax exemptions passed by the legislature: Proposed exemptions would have to establish clear intent and measurable goals so that legislators could eventually judge their success. (Currently, as the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee has complained, the legislature does not establish goals or metrics for tax breaks.)
To make it even more palatable to the GOP, the Democrats yanked a provision (known as a clawback provision) requiring any business that benefits from an exemption to reimburse the state if the business moved jobs out of state. And they would have to sunset after 10 years—five years longer than Tom's original proposal.
Still no go on their ideological ally Tom's proposal.
Like the Democrats' revenue package, Tom's bill passed out of committee along party lines, with the Democrats voting yea.
We have a call in to the lead Republicans on the committee.
2. Isn't it Weird That ... two of the Seattle state reps who signed a righteous letter against the proposed coal train, Reps. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) and Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle), voted for a bill last week that would amend the voter-approved renewable energy initiative (2006's I-937), giving utilities an incentive to buy coal-generated power by allowing coal to count toward renewable energy goals. (Carlyle also joined a coalition of local leaders this week—see today's Fizz—who came out against the coal train.)
The pro-coal bill, which passed the Republican-dominated senate in March and the supposedly liberal house last week, would allow utilities—which are, according to I-937, supposed to generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, with milestones along the way—a new way to qualify. Utilities may already comply if they: have not increased their average annual energy output over a three-year average; invest one percent of their revenues in renewables; and do not buy or renew contracts for any non-renewable sources since 2006.
The bill allows utilities to qualify with the renewable energy standard by buying power from TransAlta's coal-powered plant in Centralia.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Braun (R-20 Centralia) tweaks that last standard and allows utilities to buy power from TransAlta's coal-powered plant in Centralia.
(The legislature passed a bill two years ago that phases the Centralia plant off coal by 2025. And, in a pretty stunning about-face, they considered another bill this year that would have allowed utilities to use a lower I-937 standard if they bought coal from TransAlta. That bill, a companion to the pro-coal bill that passed last week, failed.)
As for this equally startling bill to incentivize TransAlta coal purchases as a way for utilities to meet the renewable energy standard, Seattle Reps. Jessyn Farrell, Jamie Pedersen, Gael Tarleton, and Zack Hudgins along with reliable green Reps. Joe Fitzgibbon, Hans Dunshee, and Marko Liias, voted against it in the lopsided 83-14 vote.
Isn't It Weird That ... Neighborhood activists in Maple Leaf prefer to live next to a waterlogged eyesore of lot than accept new neighbors?
We asked both Carlyle and Pollet about their 'Yea' votes. Carlyle told us he actually wasn't at his desk for the vote, and a colleague—Rep. Pedersen (who sits next to him)—followed standard procedure and pushed his button for him, following Democratic speaker Rep. Frank Chopp's (D-43, Wallingford) lead. (Chopp, along with other Seattle Reps. Eric Pettigrew and Sharon Tomiko Santos, voted 'yea.') Carlyle tells us "I would have voted no," and Pedersen confirms the story.
Pollet hasn't returned our call.
3. Isn't It Weird That ... Neighborhood activists in Maple Leaf prefer to live next to a waterlogged eyesore of lot than accept new neighbors?
Maple Leaf Life reports that the Maple Leaf Community Council is suing to prevent controversial small-lot developer Dan Duffus from building new townhouses and live/work units on a dilapitaded lot in the heart of the neighborhood's commercial district.