Lawmakers err in suspending all of I-960

The public should be informed when legislators are imposing higher taxes and fees.

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The Democrats who control the state Legislature were in a dither on Wednesday when they discovered they approved the wrong version of legislation aimed at suspending Initiative 960.

Lawmakers had apparently approved a version of the bill that suspended only part of the voter-approved measure that mandated a two-thirds majority vote by the Legislature for any tax or fee increase.

Democrats said they had intended to suspend all of I-960, including the provision that mandates the Office of Financial Management estimate the 10-year cost of proposed taxes and fees and alert the public to those proposals as they move through the Legislature.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, the Democrat from Hoquiam who sponsored the legislation to suspend I-960, said the mistake occurred because of miscommunication over the version that was to be voted on.

"I ultimately have to take responsibility for not having read that closer," Hargrove said. "Sometimes with the way things are moving as quickly as they are moving, we don't check as closely as we can."

Wow, that's not very reassuring. One would think -- or at least hope -- that important legislation such as this would be gone over with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. This thing wasn't even read.

Ultimately, legislators called for a redo and approved the total suspension of I-960.

Frankly, we believe lawmakers got it right the first time, particularly in regard to the public notification provision.

"The taxpayers should be outraged," said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla. "They're removing the transparency (voters) put in place."

It is an outrage. Alerting the public to the impact of tax and fee increases isn't expensive, yet it is important. It's a way to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions.

Yes, it does force lawmakers to slow down and justify their actions.

That, too, is a good thing. After all, the public has an expectation that lawmakers have given careful consideration before casting each and every vote.

Clearly, after Wednesday's error-filled suspension of I-960, we know that isn't always the case.



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