Sunday, January 30, 2011

Note to the Seattle Times on state budget cutting: We're in this together, some more than others

I have deleted rude comments from the Seattle Times editorial so you can is is easier to see the story and the argument.

The short of it is that Adams (18,376), Asotin (22,290), Ferry (8,117), Stevens (46,616), Lincoln (10,393), Garfield (2,410), Yakima (241,446) and Wahkiakum (4,172) counties have populations that take in far more state tax money to run than they produce (wa.ofm 2010 estimate).

There are plenty of smaller counties than Yakima, and Washington State counties are not formed by some defined process, not by land mass or population, and not by how many people need representation ((Crosscut/Mossback). Lack of population is a different issue where those counties might want to consider consolidating into other counties to save money on administrative costs. The measure Washington State Representative Glenn Anderson (R - Fall City) is sponsoring is to address the gross imbalance of taxes a county paid to taxes it received. Anderson is one of three sponsors of legislation (HJR 4214) that address heavily subsidized counties.

WHEREAS, Taxpayers in certain counties of the state persistently contribute more in state taxes than the state expends in those counties; and
WHEREAS, Other counties of the state persistently absorb more state moneys than taxpayers in those counties contribute in state taxes; and
WHEREAS, Taxpayers in counties that contribute more in state taxes than the state expends in their counties reap a disproportionately small benefit from their tax contribution, and therefore bear an unjust and unreasonable tax burden; and
WHEREAS, The fiscal well-being of the state demands that each Washington county contribute to the economic welfare of the state; and
WHEREAS, Principles of fundamental tax-burden fairness call for dissolution and reorganization of counties that persistently absorb more state funds than their taxpayers contribute to state tax revenues;
THAT, At the next general election to be held in this state the secretary of state shall submit to the qualified voters of the state for their approval and ratification, or rejection, an amendment to Article XI, section 3 of the Constitution of the state of Washington to read as follows:

(read the rest of the bill, and follow HJR 4214 here)

Attention Seattle Times: Some of us have noticed that the counties that persistently vote down tax increases locally and state-wide persistently take in more taxes than they actually generate.

The larger point is that these counties both complaining about taxation while essentially being welfare counties. See the "Ratio of Expenditures to Revenue" column here, and notice at the top the 6 counties get back less than they put in, and at the bottom are counties that in some cases get more than two times as much tax money in return.

State Rep. Glenn Anderson proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the state to dissolve and reorganize counties that receive twice as much in state services as they generate in tax revenues. Oooh. Bad idea.

SOMETHING strange is happening in Olympia, where two state lawmakers from King County are overly excited that urbanized and suburbanized counties contribute more tax dollars to state coffers than rural areas.

This fact is neither new nor news, but that has not stopped state Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, from introducing a constitutional amendment to allow the state "to dissolve and reorganize" counties that receive twice as much in state services as they generate in tax revenues. He refers to Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, Garfield, Yakima and Wahkiakum counties. Oh, please.

It is obvious that urban-suburban areas will pay more on a percentage basis than rural areas. So what?

. . .

Anderson's point is that rural counties bristle at King and other wealthier counties for dominating the state budget and agenda. But these wealthier counties net export dollars to places where lawmakers complain.

Beyond that, Anderson says rural counties need a long-term plan to sustain themselves either by merging with another county or finding new ways to create jobs and become more self-sufficient.

The best way for Washington to dig out of its current budget crisis is to do it together as one state solving problems collectively.

. . .

. . . six counties contribute 75 percent of the state's total tax revenue and many others receive more in services than they pay.

If this is all about having a conversation about the imbalance, discuss at will. But the constitutional idea is going nowhere. That involves the state sloughing problem areas off to counties, which are in no better shape than the state.

Lawmakers must engage in solid budget cutting endeavors that do the least harm to all of Washington.

Editorials | Note to state budget cutters: We're in this together | Seattle Times Newspaper

The Seattle Times Editorial Board fails to offer a meaningful argument against the legislation, just that it would be "bad". The reality the Seattle Times is refusing to face is that the voters did vote down tax increases and so we are seeing a natural reaction of self preservation. In this state those that "have" also happen to have the population to ensure the counties that "have not" get exactly what they claim they want, less government.

Government in this little exercise is expressed in dollars.

Expect government to be transferred to the local level where possible, that is, taxes collected and kept at a local level. This local government will naturally invite people to question why tax money in some cases is held at the local level while in other cases it is redistributed in grossly uneven quantities to other counties.
Expect it, because that is where we are.

Last Tuesday, Goldy at The Stranger wrote a pretty good story on this, Since Red Counties Enjoy a Disproportionate Share of the State Budget, They Should Expect a Disproportionate Share of the Cuts
(see his groovy map below)