Bill and Issue Advocacy

My contacts with legislators and the governor's office.
HB 2848/SB 6665 Sales and Tax exemption Hog Fuel

Feb 27, 2020
​From: John Roskelley
​To: Legislators
Cc: drew.shirk@gov.wa.gov’; ‘david.postman@gov.wa.gov’; ‘charles.Knutson@gov.wa.gov’; ‘amye@spokesman.com’; ‘lisa.brown@wa.gov.wa’; ‘kelly.wicker@gov.wa.gov’

Gentlemen:

I didn’t receive any replies to my email below, even to explain why this bill is moving forward so quickly and with so much support, so I am writing again to express my dismay at the gifting of public funds to a small number of big and profitable corporations (I added a few other recipients). As I emphasized below – any business is eligible for tax exemptions based on the criteria given for hog fuel users. These are businesses that pollute the environment with toxic chemicals and are some of the most prolific carbon dioxide polluters in the state. Yet, the legislature and the Governor’s Office seem intent on allowing this to continue for another 20 years.
Why not in 5 year increments; or even 10?
I watched several of the TV hearings, one from the House and the most recent from the Senate. May I say the public process is a joke? For instance, at the Senate Committee meeting yesterday, February 27, 2020, two members of the committee were in attendance at the beginning of the hearings – TWO! When HB 2848 was brought to the floor, another member walked in as the lobbyists sat down, and in the middle of the testimony by a variety of pro-lobbyists another member walked in. In other words, there was not even a quorum in attendance during the hearing of this bill. All testimony was from highly paid lobbyists by the beneficiaries of the bill. I can’t afford to drive or fly over to get 3 minutes in front of any number of biased committees. For instance, on the House Finance Committee, Representative Chapman, the sponsor of the bill, has two of these facilities in his district. As the lobbyists from the Northwest Pulp and Paper Association left the hearing table, Chapman gave him the thumbs up – as if it all was a done deal. He showed complete bias toward the industries involved.
I want to point out some of the facts in the 19-08 FINAL REPORT: 2019 TAX PREFERENCE PERFORMANCE REVIEWS: LEGISLATIVE AUDITOR’S CONCLUSION.

  • California, Montana, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and even Georgia do not allow this exemption. They are timber states. In the Northwest, only Washington, Idaho and Oregon allow an exemption for this activity.
  • Five of the businesses that use hog fuel did not report any value of the exemption in 2017. Several have not reported in numerous years. Why?
  • Avista Corporation, which operates a hog fuel plant in Stevens County, reported $490,419 in exemptions in 2017, the most of any of the companies claiming this exemption.
  • Avista Corporation had a net income of $197 million in 2019; a net income increase of $50.8 million from 2018.
  • Based on Avista’s bottom line, the state is gifting funds to a corporation that should be going to state, county, city and special districts.

Attached is a photo I took of the Boise White Paper, LLC Paper Products plant in 2013 as I paddled the entire length of the Columbia River. This plant is on the shores of the Columbia River just south of the mouth of the Snake River in Walla Walla County. It’s not just steam coming out of this facility, but a number of toxic chemicals polluting the surrounding area, including Badger Island, a few hundred yards upriver, which is the location of the only known nesting colony of American White Pelicans in the State of Washington (information dated 2007), and listed as an endangered bird in Washington.

Again, think seriously about gifting state, county, city and special district funds to these 18 to 23 facilities. Avista isn’t the only business of the 23 which is providing big dividends to it’s shareholders thanks to HB 2848 and other tax exempt laws. That money would be better used for public benefit, not private industry and shareholders.

Link to study quoted above: http://leg.wa.gov/jlarc/taxReports/2019/HogFuel/f_ii/print.pdf

Sincerely,

John Roskelley
509-954-xxxx
Address
Mead, WA 99021

Tax exemptions for special interests are a form of taxation on the general taxpayer

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 11:39 AM
To: Legislators
Cc: ‘drew.shirk@gov.wa.gov’ <drew.shirk@gov.wa.gov>; ‘david.postman@gov.wa.gov’ <david.postman@gov.wa.gov>; ‘charles.Knutson@gov.wa.gov’ <charles.Knutson@gov.wa.gov>
Subject: HB 2848/SB 6665 Sales and Tax exemption Hog Fuel

Gentlemen:

I write to encourage you to work against passage of HB 2848 (companion bill SB 6665), which exempts sales and tax revenue for the 18 hog fuel industry taxpayers in the state until 2045. I know the House passed it overwhelmingly and, I suppose, the Senate will eventually do the same, but it is another special interest exemption with the standard esoteric reasons behind it, such as “mills would benefit from the exemption”; “good jobs”; “the industry has invested in workers”; will “allow these mills to make necessary capital investments”; and “increase the ability of beneficiary facilities to provide at least 75% of their employees with medical and dental insurance and a retirement plan.”
Not one of these reasons is a REQUIREMENT. Any business in Washington can qualify for an exemption if this was the criteria.
But there are facts that are not disputed:

  • The General Fund will lose $2,276,000 per biennium. The State GF over the 20 years of this exemption will lose approximately $45,520,000.
  • Counties will lose $216,330 per biennium. Counties over the 20 years of this exemption will lose approximately $4,326,600.
  • Cities will lose $180,655 per biennium. Cities over the 20 years of this exemption will lose approximately $3,613,100.
  • Special Districts will lose $216,815 per biennium. Special Districts over the 20 years of this exemption will lose approximately $4,336,300.
  • There are over 600 special interest sales and tax exemptions allowed in Washington, which need to be examined and, if found to be similar to this Hog Fuel exemption, eliminated.
  • This was a bill promoted by the Northwest Pulp and Paper Association and the Washington Forest Protection Association, two very special interest groups that fight all environmental regulations to the detriment of the public good.

If this (and other fatally flawed exemptions) passes, it continues a gifting of public funds to special interest businesses and groups at the detriment to public resources provided by the state, counties, cities and special districts. It’s up to our legislators to see through these gifts and give-away programs and make decisions based on what’s good for citizens. If there were REQUIREMENTS placed on these 18 businesses to make necessary capital improvements to operate under Best Available Science to reduce carbon and heavy metal emissions; provide for medical and dental for all employees; and work only with those companies that provide hog fuel through environmental programs; then maybe a partial exemption might be allowed. But not this wholesale gift program the legislature seems bent on continuing.

Stand up for those of us who do pay our taxes and refuse to provide these exemptions for nothing.

Sincerely,

John Roskelley
Spokane County Commissioner 1995-2004
509-954-xxxx
Sent to the Governor’s Office

From the House Report:

(In support) The JLARC reported that this tax preference is meeting its goals.  There are many mills across the state that would benefit from the exemption.  These mills provide good jobs and this bill would show that the state supports the industry.  The industry has invested
in workers and is accountable with the JLARC review, so it deserves to receive the preference.
Biomass, such as hog fuel, is very important for renewable energy production in the state.  Historically there was not a good use for hog fuel; this is an environmentally friendly way to use the hog fuel that could replace fossil fuel.
Carbon neutrality and forestry or forest products manufacturing are synced together.  The current renewable energy standard in the state is to have no fossil fuel used in electrical generation by 2045.  This puts pressure on the pulp and paper industry to invest in their mills to transition to a completely renewable portfolio.  Extending the tax exemption would allow these mills to make the necessary capital investments to meet this goal.

The specific public policy objective is stated to extend the expiration date of the preference in order to increase the ability of beneficiary facilities to provide at least 75% of their employees with medical and dental insurance and a retirement plan

From the Fiscal Note:

LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL NOTE Department of Commerce
Bill Number: Title: 2848 HB Hog fuel sales tax exemption
Legislation Impacts: X Cities: decrease in sales tax revenue X Counties: decrease in sales tax revenue X Special Districts: decrease in sales tax revenue

C.  SUMMARY OF REVENUE IMPACTS Briefly describe and quantify the revenue impacts of the legislation on local governments, identifying the revenue provisions by section number, and when appropriate, the detail of revenue sources.  Delineate between city, county and special district impacts.
The exemption is currently enacted through June 30, 2024 so there would be no fiscal impact until fiscal year 2025 and beyond.

According to the Department of Revenue, local governments would lose $620,000 in the first full year of impact in 2025.
ASSUMPTIONS — Extending the exemption past June 30, 2024, creates 12 months of impact in Fiscal Year 2025. — Hog fuel use will remain about the same as the average use reported by taxpayers for Calendar Years 2015 through 2018. — These exemptions effect approximately 18 taxpayers.
DATA SOURCES Department of Revenue data from annual tax performance reports
LOCAL GOVERNMENT IMPACTS Counties: FY 2025     $216,330
Cities: FY 2025     $180,655
Special Districts: FY 2025     $216,815
METHODOLOGY: The distributions in this note for cities, counties, and special districts are based on DOR data for local sales and use tax distributions from Calendar Year 2018. Mitigation payments and distributions to hospital benefit zones are not factored into this distribution. This results in a distribution of 35.24 percent to counties, 29.43 percent to cities, and 35.32 percent to special districts. The one percent DOR administrative fee has also been deducted.

Expanding the UGA without public services

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2019 8:11 AM
To: Legislators
Subject: HB 1600

Gentlemen:

HB 1600 and any companion bill in the Senate is an attempt to expand urban growth areas without the services required by the GMA. In fact, as you will recall, mobile home parks EVEN WITHIN AN ESTABLISHED UGA, are except from hooking up to sewer. Allowing mobile home parks and manufactured housing outside the UGA would essentially gut what an important part of the GMA is all about – containing urban growth in areas where services are required and preventing sprawl.

Please do not allow this bill or its companion bill out of committee.

HB 1600 – Modifies the Planning Enabling Act to authorize counties to allow for the development of mobile home park subdivisions or manufactured housing subdivisions for persons age 55 or older that are located outside of urban areas. Modifies the Growth Management Act to authorize mobile home park subdivisions or manufactured housing subdivisions for persons age 55 or older to be located outside of urban growth areas.

Hunting cougars with dogs after the voters said no

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2019 9:55 AM
To: Legislators
Subject: Cougar bills and Native American Voting Rights act

Gentlemen:

I noticed in today’s SR that there are two bills related to cougar control. The WDFW is said to be neutral on both bills – SB 5100 and SB 5320. I don’t know the House companion bill numbers. Please stop both of these bills in committee.

Whether a voter comes from Seattle or Republic, they have an equal voice in our system of government. The voters in 1996, by a considerable margin of 63%, said they did not want cougars (mountain lions) hunted down with dogs. State legislators throughout the west continually give stockmen, ranchers and agricultural interests far to much influence in our wildlife management issues, and Washington legislators have also catered to these strong special interest groups. The killing of entire wolf packs in Northeast Washington counties is a prime example of this influence. Why would the state spend hundreds of thousands of dollars killing primary predators, when MXXXXX and a few other ranchers fail to use a number of methods to eliminate wolf predation on cattle? We have to keep in mind that wolves are opportunists and, if these ranchers keep putting a steak in front of a wolf, then it’s difficult to keep the wolves from doing what they are meant to do. Keep in mind, the WDFW is killing wildlife that has intrinsic value to our wilderness and human psychology just for killing a few cows that the ranchers butcher for profit after 22 months of life. The rancher gets paid for the beef regardless!

At any rate, the commissioners and legislators who live in Northeast Washington must cater to the few ranchers in this area. Both bills harm cougars in their natural habitat. Using dogs to hunt cougars is unsportsmanlike. Cougars will run a distance and then tree. During winter, they are already stressed from lack of food. Using dogs takes away any chance the cougar has of escape and that’s why the voters sent a strong message to the state legislators – no dogs!

As for SB 5320, dog owners can train their dogs with cougar scent placed on a pad and dragged along behind a snowmobile or four-wheeler. They do not need to chase live cougars, which are stressed in winter from deep snow and lack of food. There is no excuse to torture an animal and that’s what this bill allows.

The Native American Voting Rights Act is a good bill. If you’ve ever been to Inchelium, Nespelem, or any number of small tribal communities throughout the state, you know Native American’s are different and their lives on the reservations are different. That goes for their homes and way of life. We need to make it as easy as possible for these people to vote and this is a good start.

Sincerely,

John Roskelley

Bill removing single use plastics from the waste stream

John,

Thanks for sending the link and thanks for your interest in the issue. I agree that the impacts on the marine environment are intense. Attached is a pdf about Ecology and Governor’s policy push for sustainable recycling (SB 5545). Another bill being heard today is SB 5397, Concerning the responsible management of plastic packaging, is also getting some attention. I’m hopeful that we’ll see some progress on plastics policy this session.

Jon Snyder
Outdoor recreation and Economic Development
Senior Policy Advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee
Office: 360-902-0488   Mobile: 360-584-3804
jon.snyder@gov.wa.gov

Email communications with state employees are public records and may be subject to disclosure, pursuant to Ch. 42.56 RCW

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2019 10:00 AM
To: Legislators; Governor’s Office
Subject: Plastics and the marine environment

https://www.forbes.com/sites/anagarciavaldivia/2019/01/22/the-end-of-plastic-cutlery-plates-and-straws-eu-market-says-goodbye-to-single-use-plastic-products/?fbclid=IwAR2HpploYVmqo-uQEaBvLOqoD4aN1qfiEFuksl3pKmvbyK_pOPpp3d_9WD0#14dce0a51565

Gentlemen:

Attached is an article from Forbes Magazine. The EU has decided to ban, not just plastic bags, but a variety of single use plastics, such as plates, utensils, and straws by 2021, a huge step in getting control of plastics entering the marine environment. The EU, of course, is composed of numerous countries that are bordered by marine waters, including the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and North Sea, Baltic Sea and Norwegian Sea.
There are some takeaways from the EU’s action.
First, European countries have recognized that plastics are a major source of marine pollution and have decided action must be taken – and quickly.
Second, tourism, fisheries, and the health of one of the world’s most important resources will continue to decline, if action is not deliberate and immediate.
Third, the EU countries cannot wait for a world body or organization to police themselves. The EU must take it’s own action and hope other countries and/or smaller units of government will follow suit.

You know, as well as I do, that under the present administration, nothing will be done to preserve any part of the environment, either on land, water, or in the air. So it is up to the individual states, such as Washington, to pass regulations and laws that are forward thinking and mirror good environmental action, such as that of the EU. Washington has a huge marine environment, one that is continually being degraded because politically we lack the fortitude to make the leap to a workable solution. Politically, we chip away at a problem that continually outpaces whatever we finally come up with. The EU’s action skips all the “running in place” and chipping away at the edge and gets right to the heart of the issue.

Please read the article and let Washington be the first state in the union to take this step of banning single use plastics from our environment. We can do this, but it takes work and heart. Do we have it here in this state to get it done? You guys have the seniority. Now’s the time.

Sincerely,

John Roskelley

Uphold the Open Public Meetings Act

Aug 23, 2018   email
From: John Roskelley
To: Legislators
Gentlemen:

I hope you all read Vestal’s opinion piece today in the Spokesman Review. He expresses exactly what many of us felt when the legislature created and passed the bill to exempt legislator’s from the Public Records Act – in the dark of night, so to speak. Please, control yourselves. Examine any piece of legislation as if you were on the other side of the table. Looking outward, rather than from within, gives you a much better perspective on how we, your constituents, feel. Ask yourselves – is this legislation leading to Good Government? If not, stand up and speak out against it and finally vote for Good Government.
In the end, I strongly suggest all of you print out Vestal’s piece (link below) and pin it to your office wall to remind you what you’re there for – the public – and we have a right to know how you arrive at decisions and who is influencing our government.

Sincerely,

John Roskelley
http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/aug/23/shawn-vestal-legislators-continue-to-miss-the-poin/

Public Records Act holds legislators accountable

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 10:08 AM
To: Legislators
Cc: Governor’s Office
Subject: SB 6617

Dear Legislators:

To say I was disappointed in your vote to pass SB 6617 is an understatement. I was reminded of a statement by Frank Malone, a Democrat pundit here in Spokane, when I first ran for office. “Just remember,” he said, “good government is open government.” I took that to heart and tried everyday to remember who I was working for and my responsibility to them – provide good government.
I wrote the paragraph below to Governor Inslee in hopes that he vetoes your bill. I spent nine years working under the Public Records Act and did not find it onerous – even when the Homebuilders Association under Mark Richard badgered my office every six months for all my emails and phone calls. He didn’t request Kate’s or Phil’s, just mine. But I knew it was part of “good government” and watchdog groups are important to our democracy.
I’m particularly dumbfounded by your insistence, Marcus, that commissioners should not have to work under the Public Records Act. That it would be better to have five commissioners so they could talk out “ideas”. Commissioners are the poster children for the reason we need the PRA. You and the others who voted for SB 6617 have worked under the erroneous concept that legislators are exempt from the PRA. The courts finally said no, you are just like other elected officials and constituents have a right to know how you make your decisions and the public business.
If the Governor vetoes SB 6617, I hope when you are given another opportunity to do what’s right, all of you will vote no – to protect democracy and good government.
All of you, please return to your originally selves when you were first elected and wanted to do the right thing.

John Roskelley

Dear Governor Inslee:
Please veto SB 6617. As a former county commissioner, I worked each day with the knowledge that my office was under the Public Records Act. I believed in its importance to our democracy and did not find it a burden. County commissioners deal with as many or possibly more issues than legislators. We receive email, texts, phone calls, hold meetings, and use all other forms of communication to do our job. Legislators need to be held accountable for their decisions like any other elected official. That includes who has contacted them, the issues, the facts that led to their decision on an issue, the money, and many other factors. Like you stood up to Trump yesterday concerning arming teachers, do the right thing at home – send a message to our legislators that they cannot exempt themselves from the law. I will be contacting my legislators to express my disappointment in their vote to pass this bill.

Stop or limit Avista's rate increases which hurt seniors and those on a fixed income

June 7, 2017
From: John Roskelley
To: City Council and City Council President

Dear Council President and City Council:
Hardly a year goes by without Avista asking the UTC for an electric and gas rate increase for its customers. The May 27th article in the Spokesman Review indicated that if approved by the UTC, the rate increase would raise the cost of electricity “for a typical household” $100/month and would raise the cost of natural gas $65/month. This is a sharp and dramatic rise in a monthly bill.
As a former county commissioner, I was in office when Avista tried to raise the cost of electricity and gas multiple times. Typically, elected officials choose to ignore the impact of increases, but I had our Utilities Director put together a spreadsheet on the impact of Avista’s request for a rather large increase in its service. The result was dramatic and would have had a significant impact on the county’s general fund and all of the budgets of our departments.
Armed with these very real and specific numbers, I wrote out a short presentation outlining the impacts to our budget and the county taxpayers, if Avista’s rates were approved, and presented it to the UTC at a public hearing. Warning – Avista does not like their paid-for puppets bringing facts and figures to a UTC meeting and disputing its need for a rate increase. The management at Avista immediately got their nose out of joint and literally accosted me outside the hearing room. But, I held firm that my job was not to keep my mouth shut because they gave me a few bucks for my campaign. I was elected to represent the people of Spokane County and Avista’s increase would not only do them considerable financial harm, but also indirectly through the rate increase to the county coffers. Remember, we have to pay the bills as well and $1 million extra from our budget was going to be difficult to make up.
So, you probably have guessed by now where I’m headed with this. It’s time for you to direct your utilities director to gather all the facts and figures concerning just what this increase would do to your bottom line and testify at the next UTC meeting against this increase in rates. If not the entire amount, at least propose something quite a bit more modest. Look at your budget and determine just what you can live with. Tell Avista the City of Spokane will testify against the increase, but you would be willing to work with them on a much smaller number. I encourage you to take this step regardless of whether you received Avista’s support or not. Yes, management will not be pleased and will most likely endorse a meek and mild mouse next time, but you will have gained a great deal of respect from your constituents, which is really what counts.

Sincerely,
John Roskelley

P.s. I also wrote a letter to the UTC in 2011 concerning another huge increase. At that time, the Spokesman Review had two articles in the paper: one describing the request for a huge increase, and the other outlining how large Avista’s reserves were and how high it’s stock had reached over the past year. Huge revenues and still they were asking for a rate increase. Go figure.

Protect the integrity of the GMA

Jan 18, 2019
Senator Billig:
I read through the bills in the Senate Local Government seen below. For the most part, all of them have at least new one addition or a subtraction from the GMA that is detrimental to the process.
For instance, SB5193 is an attempt to broaden LAMIRD’s. These are special urban-like areas that had to be contained, as they were necessary as our state developed, but are now in designated rural areas. They do not have the necessary public services required by urban development, so they should not be allowed to expand as if they are urban growth areas. Most need sewer, potable water (other than wells), police, fire, parks and public transportation. Many are reasonably close to designated UGA’s and will eventually be absorbed as real UGA’s are expanded.
All of the bills are written to eliminate real and concrete requirements the state needs to keep urban areas urban and rural areas rural. The bills do this by adding language, but also by eliminating key words and phrases throughout the document.
SB 5243 is another attempt to eliminate the public process by eliminating our watchdog groups, who pay attention to county’s and city’s actions specifically concerning critical areas, shoreline areas, and urban development. Citizens within the county or city are valuable partners in keeping commissioners and councils accountable, but we must allow knowledgeable parties who may not reside in the jurisdiction to have a voice in their state. Counties and cities are part of the state framework.
SB 5245, a bill designed to allow voodoo science into the evidence, should never make it out of committee. SB 5259, the “farmer’s urban growth bill on their own property” bill, should also die a fast death.
Cheers,
John

Gifting of Public Property

Dec 21, 2018  email
http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/dec/21/city-of-spokane-considering-giving-university-dist/
From: John Roskelley
To: Spokane City Council and Council President
Dear Spokane Council President and Council members:

Gifting public property, whether to a business, citizen, or other public entity, has consequences. There are properties owned by government that need to be disposed of at bargain prices or for $1 – the public property on Main is not one of them. As an elected official, you are all aware of snippets or unusable pieces of public land within the city that would be better off under the ownership of an adjacent property owner. These publicly owned parcels are usually headaches and budget-eaters for the road, utility, or parks departments because of their location, size or shape and would be better utilized by placing them back on the tax roll under private ownership.
The property on Main, though, has exceptional value due to its size and location within the community – a value that requires it to be sold rather than gifted. It is not adjacent to the University District nor is it a keystone parcel necessary for the district to compliment its campus. The University District is a creature of public funds from the generosity of the state legislature and Federal government. The funds came from income taxes and property taxes and “gifted” to this project that benefits very few, specifically a finite number of students, several hundred employees, and creates a minimal amount of revenue for the city and county. City and County leaders would like us all to believe that somehow our taxes spent in this way come back to each and every one of us in dollars or service, but in reality that’s not the case for the vast majority.
I encourage all of you to reconsider this “gifting” of public property. You have indicated you will be coming to the voters for a property tax increase for police and fire personnel in the near term. This will not send a good message to the voters (by the way, anybody who has worked in government knows you don’t take a grant for hiring personnel unless there is a long-term solution for keeping these people once the grant ends.) Here you have the opportunity to make close to $1 million for the public for whatever designated use public land sales can be used for. Sell it and explain to whoever is badgering you to gift the property that it’s the city council’s fiduciary responsibility and priority to serve the people, not a state-funded school or district that receives far more public revenue than necessary.
To end, government budgeting is not hoodoo science – it’s actually quite simple. There are basic rules to follow. Number 1 is work within the parameters of the revenue you have for the expenses you know are coming. Number 2 – follow number 1.
Cheers,
John Roskelley

Say no to five Commissioners

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Monday, March 5, 2018 11:14 AM
To: Postman, David (GOV) <David.Postman@gov.wa.gov>; Wicker, Kelly (GOV) <kelly.wicker@gov.wa.gov>; Phillips, Keith (GOV) <Keith.Phillips@gov.wa.gov>
Subject: HB 2887

Dear Mr. Postman, Ms. Wicker and Mr. Phillips:

I am a former county commissioner from Spokane County. I have contacted the Governor’s Office through it’s comment page and also a phone call, which does not seem sufficient enough. Thus, I’m also sending all of you this email concerning HB 2887. Please speak with the Governor and ask him to send the bill back to the legislature and have them insert a requirement of a VOTE of the PEOPLE. Thank you.

This is a bad bill for a variety of reasons (see below). Primarily, the legislature has taken upon itself the role of the voters of Spokane County. Not one of them has ever been a Spokane County commissioner, so has no idea why this bill is bad. The bill should allow us the opportunity to determine our own government destiny, rather than have legislators from all over the state determine that one county and one county only requires five commissioners.
The original bill by Rep. Riccelli only required the three commissioners and required them to be chosen by districts. I could have lived with this, although county commissioners should be voted into office by all county residents because they represent all citizens in the county, not just those in their district.
The Legislature has also put an onerous unfunded mandate on the citizens of Spokane County. The addition of two more commissioners is calculated to cost the general fund over $500,000. The general fund pays for almost all services, including the Sheriff, jails, Prosecuting Attorney, Public Defender, parks, Assessor’s office, Treasurer, Auditor and on and on. Half a million dollars out of this fund is critical when the budget is always close to the red.
Below is the comment I sent the Governor earlier last week.

Thank you for your time and trouble.

Regards,

John Roskelley
509-954-xxxx

Dear Governor Inslee:

Please veto HB 2887 as passed by the House and Senate. This is a very poor bill that morphed from a proposal of three commissioners elected by districts to adding an additional two commissioners elected by districts. It is unknown to me how or why this bill has succeeded, but ignorance of the job of county commissioner comes to mind. I served Spokane County for 9 years as a county commissioner and feel increasing the county commission from three to five has no basis. I have been in contact with Rep. Riccelli and other legislators throughout the session to at least give the citizens of Spokane County a vote on their own type of government, but have been rebuffed repeatedly for no good reason. The following reasons I wrote to Spokane legislators are why you should veto this bill or, at a very minimum, require the bill to allow a vote of the citizens.
1.            This bill is specific to Spokane County only. The process of good government and resulting legislation should work for the general public and for all entities, not just limited to one specific county or one specific city or one utility district.
2.            Any major changes to a system of government (or imposition of taxes, I will add) should be voted upon by those directly affected. If this system of five commissioners is so important and so great for the people then let them have a voice. Your bill is effectively shutting out the public and that is why so many people despise government and elected leaders. You are facilitators to the people, not dictators. Give the people a choice.
3.            The two extra commissioners and all their infrastructure will cost county taxpayers another $500,000 – minimum. The county continues to complain about too many expenses and not enough revenue. Where are they going to come up with this money every year from 2019 on? They certainly have not ability to control their spending.
4.            Is this bill resulting in an unfunded mandate? Doesn’t that go against state law? I’m not a lawyer, but some will see this as imposing a requirement on the county by the state to spend money.
5.            There is no need – I don’t care who you are listening too. When I took office in 1995, the three of us in office (Hasson, Harris, Roskelley in 1996; McCaslin, Harris, Roskelley in 1997-2004) had jurisdiction over the entire county sans Airway Heights and a few towns like Rockford. It wasn’t until 2001 that Liberty Lake incorporated and 2003 when the City of Spokane Valley incorporated. In other words, Kate, Phil and I had NO problem handling far more area and people than any of the other commissioners since. We were elected to do a job and there was never a complaint to get it done. We had just as big a budget – if not bigger! We took the county from a deficit to having a healthy reserve and from 1998 through 2004 banked the authorized tax increase for counties of 1% (this was wiped out by Mielke, Harris, and Richard two years later because they couldn’t control their spending.) IN OTHER WORDS, SPOKANE COUNTY HAS A SPENDING PROBLEM, NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM.
6.            Increasing the number of commissioners does not equate to better public service. It just takes better candidates for office and hard work. McCaslin, Harris and I worked on and passed more significant legislation for Spokane County than any two or three commissions since. They complain too much and work too little.

Uphold the Public Records Act for Legislators

March 1, 2018
From: John Roskelley
To: Jim Camden, Spokesman Review

Jim:

I provided numerous emails with five or more reasons to the Senate and House on why this bill should never see the light of day. A bit of homework on your part might have given the reader several sides to the issue rather than just butter and toast.  I think the most telling statement in the article is from Baumgartner, “Having only three members is a problem under the state open meetings law, Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said, because any time two of the commissioners are together, it can be considered an open public meeting.”
Excuse me? This is why the Open Public Meetings Act was written. Collusion! County commissioners are arguably the most powerful elected officials in the state. For instance, they can suggest legislation, schedule a public meeting, and then pass it. No oversight. No veto. No other legislative body to bring a different point of view or sanity. If you care to look deeper, Riccelli has been systematically trying to remove the public participation. He echoes Baumgartner’s reasoning when asked about the bill. Five commissioners will be rife with political bartering. For instance, two can get together, make a deal, and then they can speak to two more and crack the same deal. I’m not saying three commissioners is a perfect solution, but it’s much harder for them to make backroom deals. Riccelli also voted for limiting the Public Records Act, which also limits public participation. The legislature is attacking the public’s right to know and protections against graft.
Below is just one of the emails I sent to the legislators, committees and anyone else who would listen.
I encourage you in the future to dig a bit deeper than the superficial layer. There are other opinions out there.

John Roskelley

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Saturday, January 20, 2018 10:59:59 AM
To: ‘Mary Lou Johnson’; Billig, Sen. Andy; Riccelli, Rep. Marcus
Subject: RE: Responsible Representation Act – Election of County Commissioners by District – 2018 Legislation

Andy and Marcus:

As a summary to the discussion below, I oppose HB 3981 for a variety of reasons.

  1. This bill is specific to Spokane County only. The process of good government and resulting legislation should work for the general public and for all entities, not just limited to one specific county or one specific city or one utility district.
  2. Any major changes to a system of government (or imposition of taxes, I will add) should be voted upon by those directly affected. If this system of five commissioners is so important and so great for the people then let them have a voice. Your bill is effectively shutting out the public and that is why so many people despise government and elected leaders. You are facilitators to the people, not dictators. Give the people a choice.
  3. The two extra commissioners and all their infrastructure will cost county taxpayers another $500,000 – minimum. The county continues to complain about too many expenses and not enough revenue. Where are they going to come up with this money every year from 2019 on? They certainly have not ability to control their spending.
  4. Is this bill resulting in an unfunded mandate? Doesn’t that go against state law? I’m not a lawyer, but some will see this as imposing a requirement on the county by the state to spend money.
  5. There is no need – I don’t care who you are listening too. When I took office in 1995, the three of us in office (Hasson, Harris, Roskelley in 1996; McCaslin, Harris, Roskelley in 1997-2004) had jurisdiction over the entire county sans Airway Heights and a few towns like Rockford. It wasn’t until 2001 that Liberty Lake incorporated and 2003 when the City of Spokane Valley incorporated. In other words, Kate, Phil and I had NO problem handling far more area and people than any of the other commissioners since. We were elected to do a job and there was never a complaint to get it done. We had just as big a budget – if not bigger! We took the county from a deficit to having a healthy reserve and from 1998 through 2004 banked the authorized tax increase for counties of 1% (this was wiped out by Mielke, Harris, and Richard two years later because they couldn’t control their spending.) IN OTHER WORDS, SPOKANE COUNTY HAS A SPENDING PROBLEM, NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM.
  6. Increasing the number of commissioners does not equate to better public service. It just takes better candidates for office and hard work. McCaslin, Harris and I worked on and passed more significant legislation for Spokane County than any two or three commissions since. They complain too much and work too little.
  7. I’m disappointed that neither of you have contacted me and talked about these issues. Again, I don’t know who you’re talking to, but in my opinion they are way off base.

Cheers,

John

Protecting Seniors from property tax increases

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Thursday, October 19, 2017 9:39 AM
To: Billig, Sen. Andy
Cc: Burke, Kate
Subject: RE: Advisory Votes

Andy:

Thank you for your reply. As a favor to me, please read the following article from the Washington Post. It’s about seniors and living in today’s financial environment. So many seniors lost their retirement income later in life from the past two recessions and their 401(k) investment. Now they are feeling the pinch by government on health care and taxes, primarily property taxes that rise faster than their income. Politicians talk about boosting the middle class and lower income families, but seldom, if ever, concern themselves with the elderly/senior members of society. There’s this false premise that we’re all on retirement and social security backed up by years of savings. It’s not true. So many seniors are a dollar or two away from losing their home and others have to find extra work to make ends meet. Please talk about this to your peers and those in the House, as well. The legislature can’t keep using seniors through property tax, who are the majority of homeowners, as its deep pockets. There was no balance to the funding for education. It was just dropped on the homeowners and that’s wrong.
I’ll wait to see if my taxes really go down and from what point – the rise in 2018 or today’s tax bill. Once it hits a high, it’s very hard to turn that around. But, we’ll see…

My apologies for using you as my sounding board, but I can’t contact my own Senators because they do not hold my values.

Cheers,

John

https://www.washingtonpost.com/classic-apps/the-new-reality-of-old-age-in-america/2017/09/29/c4a422ce-94be-11e7-8754-d478688d23b4_story.html?utm_term=.708f86aa12f3&wpisrc=nl_rainbow&wpmm=1

Protecting seniors from Legislative property tax increases

From: John Roskelley
Sent: Friday, March 31, 2017 1:49 PM
To: Legislators
Subject: Ignoring Washington voters and proposing a non-voted 5% property tax

Gentlemen:

The House Finance Democrat committee members passed through a bill that would allow local city and county governments to approve larger increases in property taxes. This is why Democrats continue to be pegged as “tax and spend” Democrats.
The voters overwhelmingly voted for a limit on property tax increases to 1%. After a court said the initiative was illegal, the House, Senate and Governor reinstated the voter’s wishes. Of course city and county government leaders have been lobbying their representatives. It makes sense, since elected officials have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. When I was a commissioner along with Kate McCaslin and Phil Harris, we quickly got control of our spending, built our reserve and line-item budgeted for the nine years I was on the commission. It was tough belt tightening, but essential, and this was done prior to, during and after the 2001 initiative.
This was a party-line vote. I have to agree 100% with the Republicans on the committee, there is no compelling evidence that city and county governments, either on the west side or east, are struggling because of revenue. Rather, there is evidence they can’t balance their budget. Allowing these governments to raise taxes without a vote of the people is tantamount to putting the fox in the hen house.
I ask you to vote no on this bill. The governments already can ask the voters for authorization. If the need is there and it’s sold to the voters in an appropriate manner, like school districts and fire districts do now, then the voters might go with it. But if these elected officials just enlarge their budget because they can, there will be a revolt.
Please understand that property taxes hit the elderly and those on fixed income far more than the younger generations who are working. Senior citizens do not get raises or bonuses; we do not usually make additional income besides retirement (if you’re lucky) and Social Security (which didn’t add a dollar to my payment this year because every bit of the small increase was taken up by Medicare increases).
Again, please do not allow this bill to proceed through the House.

Sincerely,

John Roskelley
509-954-xxxx

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/mar/30/washington-counties-cities-could-levy-higher-prope/

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