1. File this one under chutzpah.
Agribusiness in Washington state gets an estimated $45 million per biennium in business and occupation and sales tax exemptions, but that didn't stop the Washington Farm Bureau from sending a letter to state legislators on Friday afternoon advising them to hold the line on any new revenue (the state is facing an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall plus a Washington State Supreme Court order to spend an additional $1 billion to $1.4 billion on K-12 funding) while simultaneously asking for millions in agribusiness spending and exemptions.
The letter from WFB lobbyists Tom Davis and Scott Dilley begins:
The Washington Farm Bureau believes that existing tax revenues, including the nearly 7 percent increase in revenue over the past two years, and additional reforms to state government will generate the funding needed to operate our state government. The creation of new taxes or the extension of soon-to-be-expired taxes is not necessary.
Within existing funding, we would appreciate your consideration of the following budgetary issues ...
The letter goes on to complain about recommended cuts to a Department of Ecology water permitting program and two house proposals—one that would close a $27.1 million stevedoring tax break that both the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee and its citizens oversight panel said was ineffective; and another that would narrow an outdated import tax exemption—saving about $24.1 million.
Meanwhile, the letter requests a $717,000 career training program, a $331,000 wolf management program, a $275,000 animal disease program, and a $1.5 million stewardship program.
"The creation of new taxes or the extension of soon-to-be-expired taxes is not necessary."—Farm lobbyists
These are all arguably worthy programs, but when you're busy telling a cash-strapped legislature they've got enough "existing tax revenue," (the WFB's seven percent figure ignores the fact revenues have actually decreased 8 percent since 2008 when you adjust for inflation while demand for services has skyrocketed), you might consider being a bit more deferential.
2. The state senate unanimously passed legislation capping towing rates on Friday; the house passed the bill last month. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle), intially ran into trouble with Pollet's own allies in Seattle because the bill would have preempted Seattle's own rate cap. No longer.
"No one should have to choose between being able to pay rent or paying a towing company to get the family car back," Pollet said.
Seattle's lower rates—$180 for the first hour as opposed to the bill's $270 rate—are currently being challenged by the towing industry in court.
3. Another new Seattle legislator—freshman Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-36, Ballard)—also had a satisfying win on Friday when the senate passed her bill requiring landlords to safeguard spare apartment keys.
The legislation, Tarleton's first successful bill, was drafted in response to a rape case where a maintenance employee used a spare to key gain access to woman's apartment and attack her.