Like other State Senators throughout the State, 10th District Senator Mary Haugen held Town Hall meetings Saturday March 12th. I attended the one at the Camano Island Senior Center. The audience consisted of about 60 local citizens of all ages. Politeness prevailed even though feelings were aroused by the negative news Senator Haugen candidly delivered. The state lost 200,000 jobs during the recession. Although billions have been cut in State services and public employee’s compensation since 2009, the state still needs to cut 4.5 billion more. But How? The Senator claims that even if we cut all spending on education, the prison system and environmental efforts, the State still would not balance its budget.
More so than in many other States, Senator Haugen reported that Republicans and Democrats are cooperating on the budget and that the legislators have good relations with Labor. She praised the WA State Ferries’ union workers for coming to an agreement that will provide savings and reduce ‘Waste in the Water’. A 25 cent surcharge is being proposed that will go towards building a new boat.
Resentment was high among many in attendance. They felt tax loopholes and special tax exemptions should be eliminated first before the public is asked to make more sacrifices. A member of the citizens’ coalition called “Our Economic Future” passed out a list of what they considered unfair tax exemptions. I totaled them up to 313 million dollars. That would equal about half of the amount already cut from the State education budget. When asked why these loopholes were not being closed, the Senator reminded the audience that Court Rulings had declared that closing the loopholes would be equivalent to raising taxes, which requires a super majority. So unless the State elects a much larger percentage of Democratic legislators a super majority that would close loopholes is unlikely.
Senator Haugen and many in the audience believed the US Supreme Court’s decision in 2010 - Citizen United vs Federal Election Commission - has already adversely impacted WA. The American Beverage Association spent over 14 million to pass initiative 1107 last Fall that repealed the small taxes on soda pop, bottle water, candy and gum. The money funded k-12 education and social services. For more info click here.