Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Gregoire keeps her powder dry

As reported in today's edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Gregoire has decided not to make a budget proposal to the legislature just yet:

OLYMPIA -- Anticipating a brighter-than-expected revenue forecast in March, Gov. Christine Gregoire said she will wait an extra month to release her first state budget proposal.

Gregoire had previously set Feb. 23 as the deadline for unveiling her 2005-07 budget, including her plan for bridging the state's projected $1.8 billion shortfall.

"I'm now going to wait," she said yesterday.

It would be an odd thing to let more time go by without making such a proposal, except for the fact that Gregoire's right to be in the governor's office has not been determined.

She knows that it's probable she will be removed from office when the contested election is decided, and she doesn't want to put herself at a disadvantage in the ensuing campaign by showing the voters what she would do regarding taxes and spending.

So, she waits and continues to give the impression that she doesn't favor tax increases:

The governor said she wanted to see the revenue forecast from Washington's chief economist, Chang Mook Sohn, due March 17, before completing her plan.

"I've bought myself some more time," Gregoire said. "I will never be able to create a budget from scratch with the amount of time I have. But my instructions remain the same. ... Give me a budget that has no new revenue."

It's not that Gregoire is promising not to raise taxes. She is keeping the option available by beginning to portray the alternatives as unacceptable:

Gregoire said it's still too early to talk about the possibility of raising taxes but wasn't thrilled about the trade-offs her top budget writer recommended instead of a tax proposal.

What do those trade-offs look like?

"This ugly one for that ugly one," Gregoire said.

Once her election is declared void by the court, Gregoire will need to go back on the campaign trail -- seeking enough legal votes to win legitimately.

She doesn't want to have to explain during the campaign a budget proposal that calls for higher taxes, if she can avoid it.

By March 17, one would hope the courts will have concluded their part in deciding the contested election.

If not, what will Gregoire do then to delay showing the voters just what she wants to do as governor? At some point, she can no longer keep her powder dry while waiting for the next campaign to begin.


Blogger north clark county said...

I was one of the members of the class action appellants in Hemphill v. State Revenue. I can't say how thrilled I was to see the prospect of getting my money back after being taken by some state bureaucrats, not to mention adding to the budget problems of former attorney general. Today's opinion by the SCOWS was right down the line a correct reading of the law.

If they can find the will to render the proper verdict when millions of tax revenues are on the line, it gives me hope that they can ultimately do the right thing whenever the election gets to them. Then the former attorney general won't have to worry about developing a budget in March.

In Hemphill, the state was arguing that when the law says that "No Washington return need be filed if no federal return is required", they can, by administrative ruling, redefine "federal return" into something that would have been filed if Congress hadn't changed the law in 2001.

They also argued that when the law says "A tax in an amount equal to the federal credit is imposed..." that the state, by administrative ruling, redefine it as the amount that would have been the federal credit if Congress hadn't change the law in 2001.

The SCOWS didn't buy it. The legislature can impose new taxes, but bureaucrats can't. Anyway, now that this issue is out of the way, bring on the election issues.

February 03, 2005 8:42 PM  
Blogger Micajah said...

Maybe if the supreme court slams the bureaucrats and legislators hard enough and often enough, they will figure out how a republic is supposed to function.

I had wondered what the estate tax case was about. Thanks for filling me in.

It sounds as though the bureaucrats in charge of tax regulations acted much like the bureaucrats in charge of elections acted when the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot was made available. Rather than amend the statutes, they engaged in some creative construction of existing law pertaining to "special absentee ballots" issued by auditors to people who cannot use the regular absentee ballot (sometimes called "sub ballots" because Navy personnel on submarines often use them):

In the case of the "FWAB" the bureaucrats never even put it in writing. They somehow got the word out that auditors could count the votes on those ballots, but there is nothing in statute or regulation that says so. (Apparently the people who publish the Federal Voting Assistance Guide actually paid attention to Washington law, since they didn't include anything to tip off overseas Washington voters that they could break the law and use the "FWAB" for state and local elections when their regular absentee ballots didn't arrive by election day.)

February 03, 2005 9:37 PM  

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