Op-Ed from Rep. Joe Schmick: Emphasizing taxpayer protections and citizen testimony
One of the things I continually hear when traveling around the 9th Legislative District is this: “Joe, when are politicians in Olympia going to understand the 'will of the people' when it comes to raising taxes?”
Unfortunately, my answer is usually this: I wish I knew.
Voters have repeatedly told Olympia through the initiative process that they want it difficult – not impossible – to raise taxes. The idea of requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature or a vote of the people in order to raise taxes provides the public – the people paying the state's bills – with some measure of assurance that tax-and-spend policies will be thoroughly scrutinized and not implemented at the whims of whatever party happens to be in power.
In some form or another, the Taxpayer Protection Act has been approved by voters in this state five times: 1993, 1998, 2007, 2010 and 2012.
Last year, I-1185 passed with a statewide vote of 64 percent. It passed in every county in the state and in 44 of the state's 49 legislative districts. Here in the 9th Legislative District, it passed with 70 percent of the vote.
No wonder folks at home are becoming increasingly frustrated.
This session, I'm cosponsoring House Joint Resolution 4206 which would place the two-thirds legislative vote for tax increases into the Washington State Constitution. It's time for the Taxpayer Protection Act to be taken seriously by those running Olympia and the only way to do that is to end the debate once and for all by giving this taxpayer protection the constitutional weight it deserves.
In addition, I'm also supporting an effort by my House Republican colleagues to change the rules which governs how the House operates.
One of those rules is, once again, the two-thirds legislative vote to raise taxes. This would immediately put the taxpayer protections into effect and prevent the Democrat majority party in the House from passing tax increases before a constitutional amendment can pass through the process.
Also on our list of new rules is one to fund education first.
By funding education first in a separate, stand-alone budget we would finally give education funding the priority it deserves. We would meet our constitutional and court-ordered obligations to take education funding seriously and we would show the public that the Legislature finally understands that not all state programs and functions are created equally.
The third new rule we're proposing would allow each state representative to have one bill that receives a public hearing.
Each legislator serves approximately 137,000 citizens. Because the majority party dictates everything that happens in Olympia, many of those living outside the Seattle/King County region don't have their ideas brought up for public debate. This new rule would help bring about bipartisan solutions and foster the “One Washington” that many in Olympia haphazardly talk about.
Our final proposed rule would give citizen testimony preference when testifying during committees.
In Olympia, we continually hear from hundreds of paid lobbyists, state agency liaisons, associations, unions and so-called stakeholders. We believe it's time to give more weight to the citizens – the ones we represent; again, the ones paying the bills – when testifying in committee. We believe they should be allowed to testify first and for a longer period of time, especially when many of them have to take time off of work and drive hundreds of miles to do so.
With a new governor, a bipartisan majority coalition controlling the Senate and a liberal Seattleite controlling the House majority party, Olympia will once again be the seat of high drama as well as the seat of power.
For those of you wishing to stay informed on the issues in Olympia, you can sign up for my free E-mail update by visiting my Web site at https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/joe-schmick.
(Rep. Joe Schmick represents the 9th Legislative District. He is a second-generation farmer and former small-business owner. Joe lives in Colfax with his wife, Kim.)