What tax hike proposals are Washington lawmakers running the numbers on? Good question. Wish I could tell you.
Several weeks back I filed a public disclosure request with the Washington Department of Revenue. I asked for information on any tax increase proposals the Department has analyzed for members of the Legislature and the Governor since January 1st. It took awhile, but I finally got the information on communications with the Governor’s office. There were some emails about tax breaks, but not tax hikes. Not surprising since Governor Chris Gregoire has been beating the no-new-taxes drum since before the November election.
But getting information on what tax proposals lawmakers are cooking up is proving much more difficult. I keep getting apologetic emails from the very nice public disclosure designee at Revenue saying it will take a bit longer to fulfill my request.
The latest email confirmed what I suspected. The email reads in part: “…more time will be needed to finish our response to your public records request. The remaining records consist of communications between the Department of Revenue and the State Legislature. The Department and the Legislature are currently evaluating whether any exemptions or privileges apply to the documents that are responsive to your request.”
Translation: The Legislature maintains it can invoke “legislative privilege” when it doesn’t want to make public certain documents. This includes emails. It also apparently includes when lawmakers ask a taxpayer funded state agency to analyze a potential piece of legislation.
So while Revenue and the Legislature hash out what can and can’t be released — the clock is ticking. The Legislature is only in session for 105-days. We’re almost at the midpoint. This bureaucratic delay is convenient for lawmakers who don’t want me (or you) to know what tax increases they’re pondering.
Revenue is now promising me an answer to my request by March 9th — but I’ve been warned that what I may get is an explanation of why my request has been denied. Stay tuned; I’ll let you know what happens.
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