In November, while recommending Republican Greg Cheney for representative from the 18th Legislative District, The Columbian’s Editorial Board noted that he demonstrates a detailed vision of the issues facing Washington and the duties of a legislator.
To live up to that assessment, Cheney — a first-term lawmaker from Battle Ground — should focus on attainable, pragmatic goals while working to keep the Democratic majority in check. In other words, quixotic pursuits are a waste of his time — and a disservice to his constituents.
This comes to mind with news that Cheney has co-sponsored a bill that would create a constitutional amendment requiring a statewide vote for tax increases in Washington.
As one section of House Joint Resolution 4202 reads: “Any act passed by the legislature that raises taxes is subject to an automatic, mandatory referendum at the next succeeding regular general election. As used in this subsection, an act ‘raises taxes’ when it increases state tax revenue deposited in any fund, budget, or account, regardless of whether the revenues are deposited into the general fund.”
In other words, if the Legislature decides to increase the fee for a cosmetology license in Washington (currently $35), it would be put to a statewide vote. The same goes for increases to licenses for court reporters, home inspectors and professional boxers. Not every revenue increase in Washington is related to property taxes or gas taxes or some other issue that would raise billions of dollars and impact millions of residents.
“The people continually tell the Legislature ‘no’ and the Legislature has continually increased taxes. It’s time for that to stop,” Cheney said, according to a press release.
“Some of the issues that came up as I traveled around my district this past year, were the issues of affordability and cost of living. … Every aspect of life can be financially draining. I think in response to what my constituents are saying, further parameters and protections against unwanted and unnecessary tax increases is justified.”
The reason for bringing this up is not to single out Cheney; he is one of eight co-sponsors of the bill, and the only one from Southwest Washington. No, the reason is to point out the deleterious impact of unrealistic, performative, nonsensical politics.
Such a bill is silly on its face. In addition, it has no hope of passing a Democratic-controlled Legislature. But for many lawmakers, taking a supposed stand against tax increases is an easy way to score points with some voters, even if it is detached from reality.
Legislating, however, requires a firm grasp of reality. It requires a focus on things that actually can be accomplished and that have a chance to improve the lives of constituents.
That can be difficult for Republicans in this state, with Democrats holding a 58-40 majority in the House and a 29-20 advantage in the Senate. But working to keep the worst tendencies of the ruling party in check should be the goal.
Among other things, Republicans can likely draw enough Democratic support to limit the governor’s emergency powers, can lend innovative ideas for dealing with the state’s housing and homeless crises, and can work to support small businesses while reducing the tax burden on them.
As a member of four committees — including Consumer Protection & Business — Cheney has an opportunity to work on legislation that is meaningful to Washingtonians. But that means focusing on things that matter rather than following the most dogmatic proclivities of his party.