art cred: Tradnor
Exactly a year ago in this space, I offered some advice to the then-pending 2007 state legislature ["Couples Counseling," Dec 6, 2006.]
I suggested decoupling light rail and roads. At the time, the $9.5 billion light-rail expansion and the $7.4 billion roads package were wedded; both measures had to pass for either one to pass. Rather than taking my suggestion and making them file for divorce, the legislature moved in the opposite direction and turned light rail and roads into one blissful measure.
We know how that turned out. The $17 billion extravaganza was too much, and voters killed it; 56 percent voted no. Two separate post-vote polls now suggest that light rail would have passed on its own.
Okay, since you guys like to do the opposite of what I say, here's some advice for 2008.
(1) Don't do anything about property taxes. Deputizing Tim Eyman as a de-facto legislator during last week's special session by extending his property-tax-cap law obviously solved the problem. Who cares if middle- and lower-income households will still be paying twice as much as a percentage of their incomes as the richest 20 percent of homeowners? Don't sweat it. Locking a law into place that wasn't easing the burden on those being taxed out of their homes and was simultaneously preventing local governments from funding basic services as inflation outpaced revenues seems smart. So, again: Don't do anything about property taxes—nothing crazy like pegging property taxes to income.
(2) Don't do anything concrete about the environment like capping emissions or curtailing strip mining on Maury Island. That blue-ribbon panel Governor Gregoire put in place last year was all she needs for her 2008 campaign. Don't follow up with any real legislation that might piss off the Building Industry Association of Washington and jeopardize her reelection chances. And the 34th District didn't really mean it when they made Maury Island's premier environmental activist, Sharon Nelson, their new state house representative. Was Nelson's ascendance a sign that Democrats feel burned by last year's cave to strip miners Glacier "$$$$Frank Chopp$$$$" Northwest? Not a chance. Please, don't do anything about the environment.
(3) Don't use your Democratic supermajority to get the Democratic State Party's back and fix the loophole in campaign law that allowed Dino Rossi to set up a fake nonprofit so he could campaign and raise undisclosed amounts of money from undisclosed donors.
(4) Don't let rookie Democratic representative Roger Goodman (D-45, Redmond), who spent his first session last year being cool and making alliances, use his political capital this session to work on his top priority, drug reform. After all, you might jeopardize your supermajority and then you wouldn't be able to reap donations from the payday loan industry, Glacier Northwest, and the BIAW.
(5) Don't deal with the millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks.
(6) Don't let voters consider light rail on its own. After all, 2008 would be a bad year to put a mass-transit measure on the ballot; it'll bring out all those anti-tax voters and they might screw up Gregoire's reelection chances. Oh, I know 2008 also promises big Democratic turnout as voters line up to end the Bush era. But as we saw in 2004 when 74,000 Kerry voters didn't also vote for Gregoire, she's not so great with the base. So, you'll want to prioritize her over transportation and keep light rail on hold.
Those are this year's suggestions. Do with them what you will.