OLYMPIA -- Thousands of rallying teachers provided the backdrop and a foil Monday for speakers at a taxpayer protest that drew a couple of hundred.
"It's a shame you can't have a crowd like that for a taxpayer-appreciation day. The thing about taxpayers is they're busy making a living," needled David Boze, a conservative talk-show host on a Seattle radio station.
The Evergreen Freedom Foundation and Citizens for a Sound Economy organized the no-tax-increase rally, which not coincidentally occurred at the same time as the Washington Education Association's "Day of Action."
The two demonstrations, separated by a four-lane street, created a festive atmosphere on the Legislature's second day in session.
The regional director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, Russell Walker, told tax protesters that they were taking part in an "American tradition ... of engaging in the process to change public policy."
He characterized the teacher rally as a "circus."
Other speakers at the taxpayer rally complained that government has made Washington a bad place for businesses. They also ripped the teachers' union.
"Their union leadership is all about power," said EFF President Bob Williams, a former state legislator from Longview and the WEA's arch critic.
Five legislators spoke at the taxpayer rally, including 17th District Rep. Marc Boldt, R-Hockinson. Later, Boldt said the teachers' protest won't influence lawmakers.
"To tell you the truth, most of the teachers were misled by the union that something was going to get accomplished," he said.
The teachers should have waited for legislators to settle into a routine, he said.
"None of the freshmen know where the bathrooms are. They're trying to get their offices and committees in order," he said. "I think if (teachers) had waited a week or two, it probably would have changed, but today, I don't see any good."
Marvin Karlsen, 75, of Brush Prairie, said he came to protest against taxes and as a counterdemonstration to the teachers. "I resent the fact that in the climate we're in now, they have the audacity to want more money," Karlsen said.
Woodland Truck Lines owner Darlene Johnson said she came because of what she described as business-unfriendly policies by the state.
"All manufacturing is going down in this state. Well, we haul for manufacturing," she said.
"I didn't even know (the teachers) were coming, but our education system needs to be revamped. We pay more and more and we get less," Johnson said. "They want more taxes so they can fund education -- give me a break."
Several speakers alluded to teachers taking the day off to rally instead of teach. "I really hate to see teachers strike; it drives me crazy," said Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane.