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State reps weigh in on taxes, education

Road taxes

Both representatives disagreed with the governor’s plans to replace the State Route 520 bridge with a new bridge that only adds one HOV lane, both ways. That bridge isn’t going to meet the needs of the Eastside’s growing population, Anderson said.

Rodne and Anderson also disagreed with how the state will fund construction. With tolls coming online on the 520 bridge next year, they challenged the state to tie those tolls directly to the cost of the bridge work — and were shot down.

“The concern is that the tolling revenue is just going to be another incarnation of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax,” Rodne said. The state could “take it and use it for whatever,” instead of what it’s intended for.

Budget deficit

According to the two representatives, the state is facing a $2 billion shortfall in its transportation department, part of a $2.5 million deficit in 2008. State officials, Anderson said, are already talking about tax increases.

“It’s no surprise what’s going to happen next year,” Anderson said. “The economy is not going to be as rich over the next two years as it was in the last two years. We’ve got a pretty monumental train wreck on our hands.”

Anderson accused the majority democrats of postponing any hard-to-swallow solutions to the budget deficit until after the general election this fall.

“Anything significant and structural, that would cause angst, has been kicked into the future,” he said. “It’s about being in denial because you want to be in power.”

While there’s not much chance of the majority changing hands, Anderson said that single majority rule in all the branches of government isn’t good for the state.

“As a minority, the only thing we have is the ability to say ‘the emperor has no clothes,’” he said. “We have no leverage other than our personal credibility on issues.”

Washington has spent $8 billion in new funding and hired an additional 6,000 employees over the last four years, during a time of economic strength, according to Rodne and Anderson.

“Are the K-12 funding issues fixed? Are the transportation issues fixed? Have we figured out a different framework for health care? The answer is no,” Anderson said.

A supermajority is political capital that’s meant to be spent, not hoarded, he added.

“When I voted for the gas tax four years ago, I put my job on the line,” he said. “I thought it was a good idea.” Anderson said he was challenged to defend his decision in his district, but he did it because he felt it was important.

“When you’re not willing to do that with a two-to-one majority, where are we going with this?” Anderson said.

Property scams

A recent legislature success story was a new law that protects people facing foreclosure from predatory offers. According to Anderson, homeowners in dire straights have been contacted by groups offering to help, but instead are talked into signing a quitclaim deed.

“We passed legislation that provides safeguards,” Rodne said. The law now means that notice requirements must be in bold, plain English, and also allows a five-day cool-off period and buy-back guarantees.

College tuition

Anderson and Rodne discussed ways to make the state’s higher education give more bang for the buck.

“For higher education, the rate of inflation is double that of health care,” Anderson said. “There are almost no checks and balances.” For as big a bill as parents and taxpayers get, colleges and universities are not competitive enough. In the next legislative session, he hopes to work toward greater transparency.

“We ask them what is the ratio of tenured professions in the classroom, versus graduate students,” Anderson said. To get an answer, “you literally have to wade through molasses.”

“Washington is one of five states that exports college freshmen,” he said. “We’re essentially paying inflated tuition fees so we can export the talent we have.”

Fixing problems in transportation, education and a looming $2.5 billion deficit are among major priorities for the Valley’s two elected representatives to the Washington State Legislature.

State representatives for the fifth district, Jay Rodne (R-North Bend) and Glenn Anderson (R-Fall City) shared their thoughts on the 2007/2008 session from the point of view of Republicans in a state house with an overwhelming Democratic majority.

“We saw some key distinctions between the majority’s views and those of us on the other side of the aisle, particularly on transportation, that really underscore the policy differences on where we go as a state,” Rodne said.

Road taxes

Both representatives disagreed with the governor’s plans to replace the State Route 520 bridge with a new bridge that only adds one HOV lane, both ways. That bridge isn’t going to meet the needs of the Eastside’s growing population, Anderson said.

Rodne and Anderson also disagreed with how the state will fund construction. With tolls coming online on the 520 bridge next year, they challenged the state to tie those tolls directly to the cost of the bridge work — and were shot down.

“The concern is that the tolling revenue is just going to be another incarnation of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax,” Rodne said. The state could “take it and use it for whatever,” instead of what it’s intended for.

Budget deficit

The state is facing a $2 billion shortfall in its transportation department, part of a $2.5 million budget deficit that Anderson expects in 2008. State officials, he said, are already talking about tax increases.

“It’s no surprise what’s going to happen next year,” Anderson said. “The economy is not going to be as rich over the next two years as it was in the last two years. We’ve got a pretty monumental train wreck on our hands.”

Anderson accused the majority democrats of postponing any hard-to-swallow solutions to the budget deficit until after the general election this fall.

“Anything significant and structural, that would cause angst, has been kicked into the future,” he said. “It’s about being in denial because you want to be in power.”

While there’s not much change of the majority changing hands, Anderson said that single majority rule in all the branches of government isn’t good for the state.

“As a minority, the only thing we have is the ability to say ‘The Emperor has no clothes,’” he said. “We have no leverage other than our personal credibility on issues.”

Washington has spent $8 billion in new funding and hired an additional 6,000 employees over the last four years, during a time of economic strength, according to Rodne and Anderson.

“Are the K-12 funding issues fixed? Are the transportation issues fixed? Have we figured out a different framework for health care? The answer is no,” Anderson said.

A supermajority, Anderson said, is political capital that’s meant to be spent, not hoarded.

“When I voted for the gas tax four years ago, I put my job on the line,” he said. “I thought it was a good idea.” Anderson said he was challenged to defend his decision in his district, but he did it because he felt it was important.

“When you’re not willing to do that with a two-to-one majority, where are we going with this?” Anderson said.

Emissions and finance

Both state reps favored creating a framework for the state to deal with the global warming and emissions crisis, but question some significant legislation, “where big consequences could come,” Anderson said.

Shot down this year was an unpopular new law that would have put a car tab tax on vehicles, tied to the size of their engine displacement. One law that got approval required car dealers to put emissions stickers on cars for sale.

Another new state law mandates that local government and the county integrate emissions planning into the growth management plans, but Anderson that the new rules don’t clearly define the best practices and give no thought to safeguarding property rights.

“It’s just ‘whatever you think’ about carbon emissions,” he said. “It could create this crazy quilt” of different laws across the state.

Rodne and Anderson also questioned a new law that allows local officials, such as city, school and fire district officials, to tap government money during elections.

“Going forward, local incumbents will be able to allocate a percentage of their jurisdiction’s taxes, primarily property taxes, to a fund for both incumbents and challengers,” Anderson said.

“Roads and parks, that’s what we should pay for with property tax dollars, versus robocallers and mailers,” he added.

Property scams

A recent legislature success story was a new law that protects people facing foreclosure from predatory offers. According to Anderson, homeowners in dire straights have been contacted by groups offering to help, but instead are talked into signing a quitclaim deed.

“We passed legislation that provides safeguards,” Rodne said. The law now means that notice requirements must be in bold, plain English, and also allows a five-day cool-off period and buy-back guarantees.

College tuition

Anderson and Rodne discussed ways to make the state’s higher education give more bang for the buck.

“For higher education, the rate of inflation is double that of health care,” Anderson said. “There are almost no checks and balances.” For as big a bill as parents and taxpayers get, colleges and universities are not competitive enough. In the next legislative session, he hopes to work toward greater transparency.

“We ask them what is the ratio of tenured professions in the classroom, versus graduate students,” Anderson said. To get an answer, “you literally have to wade through molasses.”

The state needs to do something, Anderson said.

“We have more people getting sociology and psychology degrees when the demand in our economy is for science, math, technology,” he said. “Universities promote these because they generate a huge amount of cash,” and don’t cost as much as technology courses.

“Washington is one of five states that exports college freshmen,” he said. “We’re essentially paying inflated tuition fees so we can export the talent we have.”

“It’s not a model that works.”

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