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Pay Heed to the Doings in Olympia
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Pay Heed to the Doings in Olympia

BY Tom Koenninger

OLYMPIA -- This place, the state capital, is the center of the universe for 105 days, at least for Washington residents. It is the location of an incredible convergence of energy, vitality, intellect, conflict and debate. It is a place where our lives are guided by laws enacted by this state's Legislature. Lawmakers swarmed here Jan. 13 to begin the 58th session of the Legislature. They will remain for at least 105 days of the regular session and likely move into special session after that. Lobbyists swarmed here at the same time. The public, or at least a special interest group of the public -- 22,000 to 25,000 members of the Washington Education Association -- swarmed through the capital city the second day of the session. The Olympian newspaper reported that the WEA rally was the largest demonstration in the capital city's history. The rally horde marched up Capitol Way, virtually paralyzing downtown Olympia by their numbers. Their show of force was intended to support increased spending on education and oppose a temporary suspension of voter initiatives that would add money to teacher salaries and reduce class sizes. An anti-tax rally was conducted on the same day around the Tivoli Fountain, closer to the Capitol building. Sponsors of the rally, which attracted about 100 people, were Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Foundation president Bob Williams, a former Woodland area resident who made a run for governor several years ago, told The Olympian he was unsure of the effect his rally would have on lawmakers. He said he didn't see the governor and legislature "going for a tax increase right now." Some 200 members of an anti-war rally swarmed onto the Capitol campus the third day of the session. The noisy entourage appeared outside the windows of a hearing room in the John L. O'Brien building, delaying the start of a workshop on higher-education funding. They were moved away by police and the Capitol security forces. If this first week is an indication, the capital will be a place of extraordinary excitement now through April. Special interest groups will be very visible as various organizations, public and private, strive to prevent the budget ax from falling on education programs and social and health services, among the obvious. However, something has to give in a budget year with the revenue shortfall ranging from $ 2.4 billion to $ 3 billion. Gov. Gary Locke, a Democrat, has proposed what he considers a realistic but severe budget with no new taxes. One Republican legislator said Locke sounded like a Republican in his State of the State message. Public access difficult Watching the process unfold this year will be difficult, at least in person. Thanks in part to the Nisqually earthquake of February 2001, the Legislature is not nearly as accessible as in previous sessions. The Capitol building, housing both the House and Senate chambers, is under renovation and earthquake repair, and not open to the public. House members are meeting in temporary quarters, and the Senate is meetings in the Joel Pritchard Building. Neither has a public gallery, so viewing is through closed-circuit television. Public tours of the Capitol Campus, continue, though. Hearings will still be open to the public, if people can get into the usually packed Senate and House hearing rooms. Security is tighter than ever, and Washington State Patrol troopers, among other legislative guardians, were much in evidence last week. Still, it's stimulating just to walk on the open Capitol grounds and stroll through the open space between the Senate and House office buildings. The message is clear for all: Pay attention this year, more than ever before, and react to your legislators. Attend local town hall meetings hosted by legislators. The course set in Olympia will be the course that affects your life.

01/22/2003
Commission split on tax increase pledge
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Press Release

Commission split on tax increase pledge

From the Lincoln Times-News By ALICE SMITH, LTN Staff Writer January 22, 2003 - Two members on the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners have pledged that they won’t raise taxes this year. Commissioner Carrol Mitchem has signed a pledge from the watchdog group Citizens for Sound Economy, and Commissioner James “Buddy” Funderburk has indicated that he will also sign. Other commissioners said that while no elected official wants to raise taxes, it’s too early in the game to make such a decision.

01/22/2003
Dividend and Conquer
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Press Release

Dividend and Conquer

The big dog of the legislative calendar this year is President Bush’s new economic growth and jobs package. And, at the center of this tax relief plan is the repeal of the dividend tax, which will return over $300 billion to Americans over the next ten years. It’s big, and it’s bold, and news that President Bush wants to completely repeal the tax on dividend income came as something of a shock. People asked, what the heck is the dividend tax anyway?

01/22/2003
State of the Union Momentum
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Press Release

State of the Union Momentum

Last week Citizens for a Sound Economy commissioned the first major nationwide poll on the President’s economic plan, which he announced in early January. Our poll, conducted by the widely respected Tarrance Group, came after the policy was announced and was intended to determine public interest and knowledge of what the President had already announced. This is the proper use of polling in the public policy arena. It stands in stark contrast to how Bill Clinton used polls. He polled first to help him decide what policy to follow.

01/22/2003
Government Spending or Taxpayer Relief?
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Press Release

Government Spending or Taxpayer Relief?

Faced with the daunting task of approving the spending bills for the fiscal year that began last October as well as beginning work on the president’s tax package, the Senate remains locked in debates over federal spending. The President has urged the new majority to pass an omnibus spending bill swiftly for the 2003 budget, but Democrats (and many Republicans) continue to seek opportunities to expand federal spending, which explains some of the hostility towards tax relief. In recent years Congress has developed a healthy appetite for spending, and returning money to taxpayers is like saying no to a second helping of desert.

01/22/2003
Maneuvering in 2003 for 2004
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Press Release

Maneuvering in 2003 for 2004

Last week, members of the Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle finally agreed to a reorganization plan for the chamber. Though the funding levels and the makeup of the committees are resolved, Democrats led by Senator Daschle achieved their aim to slow the Republican momentum gained by the November election.

01/22/2003
Texas Legislature Committee Assignments
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Press Release

Texas Legislature Committee Assignments

Lt Gov Dewhurst makes committee assignments The Texas Senate will operate with 15 committees during the 78th regular legislative session, two more than in the previous biennium, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced today. Nine committees will be headed by Republicans, and six by Democrats.

01/22/2003
Gov. Mike Easley Proposes to Continue Tax Increases
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Press Release

Gov. Mike Easley Proposes to Continue Tax Increases

Today, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley announced plans to postpone the $460 million in tax relief scheduled to go into effect next fiscal year. The Governor claims that the plan would simply freeze “tax breaks” and doesn’t constitute a tax increase. CSE says that claim is wrong. To extend the one-half cent increase in sales taxes will cost taxpayers an additional $370 million next fiscal year. That’s a tax increase.

01/22/2003
Measure 28 Momentum Shifts
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Measure 28 Momentum Shifts

BY Steve Law

Supporters have raised more money than opponents. Measure 28 would raise income and corporate taxes for 2002, 2003 and 2004 to avert cuts to schools and state services over the next 2A years. New polls show that it is running neck and neck with voters. Ballots must arrive in county elections offices by Tuesday evening. BY STEVE LAW Statesman Journal Polls show that the temporary income tax increase on Oregon's Jan. 28 ballot has become surprisingly close, but you wouldn't know it from money trickling into the campaigns last week. The main Measure 28 opposition committee, Taxpayers Association of Oregon, reported raising $2,000 last week, enough for modest radio ads on two Portland stations. Supporters in the Yes on 28 Committee scored $26,200 for a phone campaign, plus more for polling, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday. With only one week to go in the election, momentum clearly has shifted to supporters, who have raised far more dollars and mobilized countless more volunteers. Opponents apparently were caught flat-footed by the sudden surge of voter support after most political analysts dismissed the measure's chances of passage. Jason Williams, executive director of the taxpayers association, said the recession crimped fund raising for his committee. His group has raised about $8,200 during the campaign so far and reported about $2,000 cash on hand last week. "I think there are some people on our side that called this thing wrong," said opponent Russ Walker, Northwest director of Citizens for a Sound Economy. "We're having difficulty raising money on it," Walker said. "Most people didn't think it had a chance of passing." By contrast, the Yes on 28 campaign has raised more than $400,000, mostly from labor unions. Supporters aren't going to be complacent about the opposition's weak fund raising, insisted Patty Wentz, Yes on 28 spokeswoman. She expects opponents could get a quick money injection from conservative Aloha businessman Loren Parks or the national Citizens for a Sound Economy. "We've always known that they have access to as much money as they need," she said. Still, fully 29 percent of registered voters already had cast ballots by Friday, and Measure 28 supporters have a better grass-roots effort to mobilize their voters. "I do worry about the get-out-the-vote machine the other side has," Walker said. "The truth about politics is, whoever can get the most people to show up wins."

01/22/2003
Prepare to duck
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Prepare to duck

Something called the Citizens for a Sound Economy begins a media blitz in West Virginia today, lobbying against what they call "Gov' Wise's Canadian Healthcare Proposals." They announced it Thursday with the kind of overkill and hype that often makes it difficult to take a well-intentioned, valid cause seriously. From here, it looks like CSE intends to make this economy at least partially sound by spending as much money as it can to get out its message, even when most of that spending appears needless. This is the kind of lobbying that fosters cynicism in newsrooms.

01/21/2003

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