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November 29, 2007

The question of the day

Posted by David Postman at 10:48 AM

I think the dilemma for many Democratic lawmakers today was summed up in this question to legislative leaders, asked by public radio's Austin Jenkins:

"Do you see the 1 percent cap as good and sensible public policy, or do you see that you're here today to enact the will of the voter?"

Jenkins asked the question at a crowded press conference with Democratic leaders of both chambers. It wasn't meant to be a gotcha. He's an earnest young reporter. But around the room there were nervous chuckles, even from House Speaker Frank Chopp as he thought for a moment before answering:

"I believe very strongly that the voters knew what they were voting on with the 1 percent cap. That's what we're here to do, reinstate the 1 percent cap. I think generally there are people out there in the public who would like us to essentially be able to approve additional property tax increases when it's for targeted things. I mean, if you look at the history around the state, there's been numerous proposals by local governments to raise taxes which have passed the voters.

"So, I think it's a combination of efforts there."

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said her members have differing views of how best to control tax growth, and she added:

"Obviously we also have our differences of opinion about Tim Eyman."

She said that today's vote will be a case of lawmakers reflecting the political realities of their districts.

"There were districts in Seattle, and here I think in Olympia, that rejected 747 and legislators that feel strongly that the best way to represent their constituents is to vote no on the bill. And then there will be others that feel like, and I think Sen. Kauffman expressed this quite well recently, her district wants it and she's happy to be here to be able to speak for them in that regard."

UPDATE FROM THE HOUSE CHAMBERS: Not all lawmakers will look to see how their constituents voted on I-747.

In the House wings, outside the closed doors of the Democratic Caucus Room, Rep. Geoff Simpson didn't need to hear any more of the discussion among his colleagues. He said he'll vote no on reinstating I-747.

"It may cost me my job," he said. Simpson, a Kent fire fighter and a former Covington City Councilman, said he's sure that voters in his southeast King County district supported 747. But he thinks 747 is bad public policy.

"I voted against 747 at the polls and I'll vote against it here. Hopefully I'll be judged on the body of my work and not a principled stand on a tax measure that prevents us from solving murders, fighting fires and saving lives."

Simpson had hoped to offer an amendment to the tax cap bill today. He wanted to index the tax limit so it could rise with inflation. But he said that a House attorney told him that the amendment would be ruled out of order as being outside the scope of the bill's title. The bill, House Bill 2416 was written with a title designed to keep it identical to what voters approved. It is called, "An Act Relating to reinstating the one percentproperty tax limit factor adopted by the voters under Initiative Measure No. 747 ..."

A little over 11:30 a.m., the House is getting read to debate the bill.

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