Morning Fizz

Testing Their Rhetoric

By Morning Fizz January 17, 2012

Caffeinated News & Gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. The city council's annual retreat, which featured kazoos, a larger-than-life shirtless cutout of council member Bruce Harrell, and a parade of golden elephants, also included one presentation that made some council staffers cringe as the laughs became more and more uncomfortable: A series of skits by council member Richard Conlin spoofing his colleague Tim Burgess.

Conlin and his staff---wearing signs identifying them as Burgess, various Burgess staffers, constituents, and department heads---did a sendup of Burgess, mocking his colleague's speaking style (Conlin: "The thing about the future---it's really clear that it lies in front of us"), his focus on public safety (Conlin served a pie to his "department heads," giving a huge slice to the police department and stiffing everyone else), and his supposed conservative bent (a panel of "policy advisors" included staff wearing signs identifying them as Tim Eyman and Herman Cain).

Watch the video here and go to the 34-minute mark for Conlin's presentation.

In the context of a day of polite ribbing (for example, Burgess' office teased Mike O'Brien for running everything through focus groups by putting his agenda to a public vote), some found Conlin's presentation a bit caustic.

2. Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne)—who's already putting tax exemptions on the hot seat with legislation to sunset 300 breaks—introduced another bill this week (in league with student association lobbyists from the UW) that will prevent big companies such as Microsoft from taking advantage of a research and development tax exemption that allows firms $2 million in business and occupation tax breaks for investing .92 percent of their taxable income on R&D.

Using a little Occupy math here, but a survey of the companies that took advantage of the tax break in 2011 shows that just six percent of the companies (titans such as Microsoft, CH2M Hill, and Battelle) received 46 percent of the money that was withheld from the state's B&O collections.[pullquote]There is still an incentive to invest in R&D, albeit one that tests their civic rhetoric.[/pullquote]

Carlyle's bill—which has 12 co-sponsors including his Seattle cohort Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill) and two Republicans—would limit qualifying companies to those that earn $25 million or less in gross income (Microsoft earned $18.7 billion last year). The deduction will also be capped at $400,000 instead of $2 million.

Limiting the deduction to smaller techies will save the state about $30 million per biennium—savings that the bill earmarks for science and math programs at state universities.

The legislation still includes an incentive for the bigger companies such as Microsoft to invest in R&D, albeit one that tests their civic rhetoric about higher ed. If a company that no longer qualifies for the original deduction spends enough money on R&D, it can withhold up to $2.5 million from its total state B&O tax bill—with a catch. Rather than holding on to the cash, they have to donate it to the same science and math fund for state universities that the legislation sets up for the recouped $30 million.

Not only does the bill take away a tax deduction from behemoth companies that don't need it, but it forces them to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to berating the state about underfunding higher ed.

Lobbyists from the Associated Students of University of Washington (not the UW administration) are trying to line up a senate sponsor for the bill.

3. The King County Council, which voted to support a once-controversial gay marriage bill last week, finally adopted its 2012 legislative agenda yesterday afternoon. Ultimately, the holdup wasn't gay marriage, but an amendment offered by Republican council member Reagan Dunn, who wanted the council to back legislation reconfirming the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes.

Dunn's amendment didn't survive, but the council's agenda does include support for legislation expanding cities' abilities to move their money out of banks and into credit unions. Current law limits city investments in credit unions to $100,000.

By the way, only five council members were present in the runup to Snowmageddon yesterday---one of them, Republican Kathy Lambert, by phone.

4. An effort to put the city council's plastic bag ban up for a public vote did not get enough signatures. The council voted unanimously to ban plastic bags late last year.
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