Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They Say They're Looking Out For You, But...

I received a flyer from The Pacific Technology Alliance inside today's Spokesman-Review. (From what little I could find on the subject, newspaper inserts are a cheaper method of distribution than mailing.)

In it they claim:

King County is asking the state legislature to allow Washington Counties to create hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes on utilities including sewer, gas, water and wireless services. Ratepayers across Washington State could see new taxes on their utility bills as a result.

The flyer says the source of this is the Summary Report of King County's 2009 Executive Proposed Budget. So I read that report which, by the way, portrays King County's budget woes in clear, straightforward language. On page 6, the Summary Report shows the sources of income for the state, counties, and cities. The state and cities can collect utility and B&O taxes. Counties cannot. Counties only collect sales and property taxes which the state and cities also get to add to the utility and B&O taxes. The primary source of income for King County is the property tax which was throttled by the passage of Initiative 747 back in 2001. Beginning in 2002, property tax increases were limited to one percent a year. Back in 2003 the King County Budget Advisory Task Force recommended that King County approach the state legislature about providing counties with, among other things, the ability to raise a utility tax in unincorporated areas.

On page 7 the report states:

King County provides city-level services to approximately 200,000 people living in urban unincorporated areas, making it the equivalent of the second-largest city in the county and the fourth-largest city in the state. These areas fall within the urban growth boundary, but have never been incorporated or annexed to an adjacent city as is intended under the State’s Growth Management Act.

I'd like to know how the annexations are supposed to happen and why they don't. And then on page 23:

If annexations do not occur, counties need the same revenue tools as cities to provide urban level service to residents in unincorporated King County. A local option utility tax for only unincorporated King County would provide equity with cities and give King County a tool to pay for local services.

That's sound logical and reasonable to me and hardly seems to warrant the shrill "A New Tax On Working Families" warning from The Pacific Technology Alliance.

According to The Pacific Technology Alliance web site:

The mission of the Pacific Technology Alliance (PacTech) is to educate citizens and policy makers about emerging technology issues and to promote policies that foster competition, innovation, increased choice and access to technology.

When I read through their site I get a pretty strong feeling they're a front for business interests. Formed just last year they claim to be a grassroots, technology organization. But with organizations like PhRMA and US Chamber of Commerce as members, I think I can safely assume that working families are not PacTech's priority.

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