Midday Scan: Ed Murray into the lion's den on taxes; new shot at light rail to Federal Way

The improbable edition: Ed Murray won on gay marriage, but does he have any idea what he will be up against on a capital gains tax? Oregon lawmakers try to make it a crime to gather a flash mob. And a Republican has an idea on how to extend light rail to Federal Way.

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State Sen. Ed Murray

The improbable edition: Ed Murray won on gay marriage, but does he have any idea what he will be up against on a capital gains tax? Oregon lawmakers try to make it a crime to gather a flash mob. And a Republican has an idea on how to extend light rail to Federal Way.

State Sen. Ed Murray is aping Superman. After shepherding the marriage-equality bill though the upper chamber (the signal achievement of a long legislative career) Murray is now elbowing for a non-regressive capital gains tax to help underwrite education.

Murray could soon discover, however, that human rights are more tractable than taxes.   

"The Senate's chief budget writer on Monday proposed a plan that would have voters decide not only on a temporary sales tax increase this year, but also on a permanent capital gains tax that would be dedicated to paying for education for the long term," the AP's Rachel La Corte writes. "Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, told the Associated Press that he doesn't want the bulk of education cuts or cuts to critical care hospitals to be decided by voters, as proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in November." 

Murray's tax leadership rises to the challenge posed by Crosscut's Anthony B. Robinson, who writes this morning,"we can look forward to a referendum on marajuana legalization and monitor bills to outlaw plastic shopping bags, while the state budget, and higher education, can expect further cuts from the Legislature and K- 12 education can expect no relief despite a court decision against the state for insufficient funding." Murray, answering the call, will need to cajole tax-weary Republicans to come to the table. (Think one part Superman, two parts Pangloss.)

Pay no attention to the man behind the budget curtain. The Washington Legislature has dedicated a chunk of time to issues like marriage equality. Ed Murray notwithstanding, are lawmakers prepared for the unpleasantness of tax talk and budget austerity? The News Tribune'sPeter Callaghan writes, "A budget solution that has been framed since November — at least in terms of how much must be cut and from where — likely won’t be approved until the waning days of this 60-day session. That means cuts will have to be deeper to compensate for the lost months of December, January, February and March. That, in turn, means any statewide vote on a temporary tax increase to soften the impact of cuts might not come until summer. Which means the amount it could collect even if approved is incrementally lower. Which means those deep budget cuts will have to go even deeper."  

Oregon lawmakers understand the perils of distraction, especially when it comes to tweeting. In Salem a proposal pegged the "flash mob" bill has died a sudden, well-deserved death. As the Oregonian's  Harry Esteve observes, the flash-mob bill was but "a flash in the pan." (Only a killjoy would make mobilizing a flash mob a felony — yes, a felony!)

Esteve writes that, "11 Republicans and one Democrat signed onto Senate Bill 1534, which would have created the crime of 'aggravated solicitation.' And we're not talking street corners here. Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, said he asked for the bill because he heard from retailers about being victims of flash mobs that steal stuff. It wasn't meant to stifle free speech, he said, but to bring law enforcement up to date with the modern era of social media and instant communication."

Federal Way, the south King County city named in honor of a highway, could eventually get a boost from light-rail. State Sen. Tracey Eide, a Democrat, and King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, a Republican, are working in concert, recognizing that funding currently isn't available.  

"The goal is federal approval of a route to Federal Way. Sound Transit says having a plan will help it compete for federal and state grants and other money that could bring that day closer," the News Tribune's  Jordan Schrader writes. "A proposal von Reichbauer unveiled today and will make to the rest of the Sound Transit board would add $24 million to the agency’s 2012 budget for environmental study that now stands at $17.5 million, he said." All of this pressuposes that significant infrastructure funding will be available in a post-Great Recession America.

Lastly, light-rail boosters should look north to understand the political maneuvering necessary to land federal-transportation dinero. Simply put, Alaska's seasoned Congressional delegation knows how to work it.

"Subsidies for rural Alaska air travel survived the cost-cutting talk as Congress passed a four-year funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday after years of dispute," the Anchorage Daily News'  Sean Cockerham writes. "Alaska is part of a hotly contested federal subsidy program known as Essential Air Service. The advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste called the subsidies 'low hanging fruit, something all members of Congress should oppose.' Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain tried to kill the program entirely."

Link Summary

Seattlepi.com, "Key lawmaker wants vote on capital gains tax"

The News Tribune, "With gay marriage debate over, it's budget time"

Oregonian, "Attempts to criminalize tweets that solicit lawbreaking fizzles in Oregon legislature"

The News Tribune, "Environmental study sought for Federal Way light rail" 

Anchorage Daily News, "Rural Alaska air travel subsidies survive budget cuts"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson