John Laird: Praying politicians, vindictive voters and transit taxes

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

Published:

 
photoJohn Laird is The Columbian's editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at john.laird@columbian.com.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering what we do if some folks in one state oppose a bistate bridge but more folks in the other state support the same bistate bridge:

Lord, help us — Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke says he wants board hearings to open with invocations. Hey, how 'bout some benedictions, too? It's time to roll out the same old reminder that's needed every time a politician starts preaching about prayer in public meetings: Mielke is free to pray any prayer he wants, to any deity he chooses, before, during and after any and all board hearings. I don't know how much more freedom of religion he could want than that.

Ah, but we all know what Mielke really wants, don't we? Yeah, he wants everyone else to pray along with him.

Another reason for term limits — Left out of last week's column advocating term limits for Congress was this reality: With term limits, members of Congress would worry less about being "primaried." This fear rumbles in the belly of every senator and representative. Both parties are plagued by it, but these days the fear is especially rampant among Republicans. Many are kept on the fringe of policy stances because drifting to the ideological center, or compromising with the enemy, will result in some Tea Party whack-a-mole popping up in the next primary. And primaries are where radicals make their big moves. With term limits, this fear subsides and, theoretically, would be replaced by productive governing.

Cutting off the nose — Far be it from me to lecture the 53.4 percent of Battle Ground voters who rejected last month's school levy, but I have a few questions. Were you just being vindictive? And is being the only school district out of 50 across the state last month to reject a school levy a source of pride for you? Do you honestly believe cutting $16 million from the budget, and losing another $6 million in matching state funds, will improve the quality of education in your district? Did you understand that it was a replacement levy and not a new levy?

Also, do you think this vote improves or diminishes the reputation of your community? Does it inspire great teachers to apply for jobs there? Does it raise or lower morale among your educators?

Let's move to the bottom line: Might your collective decision last month — in the long term — help raise or lower your property values? And finally, will you make the same decision next month?

Anger trumps common sense — Rattling around the county is the boisterous (and incorrect) declaration that last November's failure of C-Tran's Proposition 1 was not just a rejection of a sales tax increase to fund maintenance and operation of light rail. Oh, no, more than that, it was a powerful rejection of the whole concept of light rail in Clark County.

But hold on a minute. Now the same folks are demanding that they be allowed to vote on light rail, even though they just got through insisting that light rail was roundly rejected last November. Which is it?

Evergreen State out of balance — The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy claims Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the nation. That's based on the fact that state and local taxes amount to almost 17 percent of household incomes among the poorest fifth of our state's families. Meanwhile, the middle fifth pays about 10 percent of family incomes to state and local taxes, and the richest 1 percent pay less than 3 percent of family incomes to state and local taxes. Of course, as the Washington State Budget & Policy Center reports, "most state tax systems take a larger bite out of lower- and middle-income family budgets than those of high-income households." However, "the gap remains larger in Washington state than any other state."

Analyzing elephants — Kudos to Columbian website commenter Thom Rasmussen for serving up this pearl of wisdom from Rachel Maddow: "If you don't want government to work, then government not working proves your point. And so, you probably shouldn't be trusted with the government."