1. Thanks to I-1053, last year's voter-approved Tim Eyman initiative that reestablished the requirement for a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes, it takes a supermajority to eliminate tax loopholes. (When you cut a tax loophole, you're raising taxes.)

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Seattle) thinks it's unfair that it only takes a simple majority to create a tax loophole, but a two-thirds vote to repeal one, and he plans to introduce a bill in the next week that will put sunset dates on all of the estimated 500 plus tax exemptions. Carlyle says he's reviewed all the sales and b&o tax exemptions and there's $2.7 billion worth out there.

In Carlyle's view, just as spending decisions—like funding the disability lifeline, foster care, college tuition aid, and transit—"are forced to go through a political, policy battle to survive," tax exemptions (such as the business and occupation and sales tax exemptions on agribusiness worth $45 million per biennium Carlyle estimates), should have to go through the same budgeting process.

"I'm a business guy," he says. "Does a $5 million tax exemption for a coal plant in Lewis County meet a rigorous examination of its return on investment? This is about being honest."

Currently, once an exemption gets passed, it stays on the books, "locked in perpetuity," Carlyle complains. "The one-time gig is over," he says.

2. State house ways and means chair, Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), pointed out that despite the harsh $340 million in cuts he announced yesterday, his proposal spares services for children.

This conjured up an immediate response from an oddball new blog called Undead Olympia:
Though vampires, zombies, and werewolves are glad to see his budget proposal eliminate the Basic Health program, reduce care for the elderly, and make other undead-friendly moves, there is much frustration in the undead community over the fact that many services for children were preserved. ...

Providing services to children represents a lost opportunity to cut future services. This is a negative investment in future budgets ... In other words, the Net Present Value of life-saving services to children is far too high for us to afford. Furthermore, several vampire organizations have already stepped forward to volunteer to do their part to claim these bodies for no charge. Governor Gregoire eliminated many children’s services because she understood the need to cooperate with these undead stakeholders. Hunter seems not yet to understand this simple equation.

3. The vampire zombie coalition obviously didn't get the memo about education cuts.

On a serious note: The teachers' union, the Washington Education Association, also responded promptly to Rep. Hunter's proposal, noting that it cuts another $54 million in K-12 funding from the current school year, "mostly  funding for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through fourth grade. That's on top of more than $2 billion in education cuts already made."

4. The Spokesman-Review is all over the now national story, that a backpack bomb was found along the route of Spokane's annual MLK Day march through downtown.
The FBI confirmed Tuesday that the Swiss Army brand backpack contained a bomb that could have caused “multiple casualties” and credited Spokane city employees who noticed the suspicious bag and alerted authorities in time to reroute the parade. A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

“It definitely was, by all early analysis, a viable device that was very lethal and had the potential to inflict multiple casualties,” said Frank Harrill, the special agent in charge of the Spokane FBI office. “Clearly, the timing and placement of a device – secreted in a backpack – with the Martin Luther King parade is not coincidental. We are doing everything humanly possible to identify the individuals or individual who constructed and placed this device.”

5. While it lacked the drama of recent squabbles in West Seattle's 34th District, the 43rd  District Democrats (Capitol Hill, Wallingford, the U. District) did have a contested election last night for its new district chair.

PubliCola heard reports that members of the district's executive board were prepared to resign if charismatic up and comer Chris Maryatt, who they felt lacked experience, got the gig. But that wasn't necessary, his opponent, longtime district member Scott Forbes won handily, getting over 30 votes of the 40-plus precinct committee officers there.

6. After the drama—the meeting was at the University Heights Community Center on 50th and University Way—Fizz was surprised to run into Seattle Displacement Coalition leader John Fox out in the hallway. Fox told us his offices are in the community center now—having been displaced by the Mars Hill Church. Mars Hill took over the University District Baptist Church on 12th and 45th last summer, booting Fox from his longtime space.

7. Today is PubliCola's two-year anniversary. Here's our very first post filed on January 19, 2009.

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