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WITA News 12-15-16

What's New this Week

Port of Whitman legislation

In an effort to head off a bill being pushed by the Port of Whitman, WITA arranged a meeting with the sponsoring legislator and others who represent our members in southeast Washington.  Gail Long, Dale Merten and Betty Buckley, along with Cathy Dahlquist from Frontier, met in Olympia with Rep. Mary Dye, Rep. Joe Schmick and Rep. Terry Nealey to discuss the challenges of providing broadband in high cost areas.  Rep. Dye’s bill would give all ports the ability to wholesale broadband services.  Currently only “rural port districts” may wholesale broadband services.  It would also give them eminent domain, give them the authority to sell services directly to other government entities and allow sole-source contracting.  Theoretically the bill is designed to give ports the ability to aggregate business in large geographic areas and then contract with one entity to provide services in that area.  As was pointed out to Rep. Dye, there is nothing in current state law that would prevent the Port of Whitman from doing this with their own system.  The potential roadblock is the federal requirement to provide open access to networks built with BTOP dollars.

It was also noted that despite the Port claiming that they do not want to get into the retail business, providing services directly to other government entities is retailing.

In DC this week Betty confirmed another challenge presented by this bill:  giving government entities retail authority puts them in a position to be an unsubsidized provider.  This was mentioned at the earlier meeting in Olympia and will be repeated at an upcoming meeting with Rep. Dye at Pioneer Telephone which Betty will also attend.

 Governor’s Biennial Budget

Governor Inslee released his budget on Tuesday and, not surprisingly, it increases taxes almost $4.5 billion on a biennial basis.  A major element of his proposal creates a new carbon tax, starting in 2018, that would raise a little over $1 billion in the current biennium.   In the 2019-21 biennium, it would raise approximately $1.9 billion in tax revenues. 

As expected it also raises the B & O tax on services and and makes a host of other changes in an attempt to meet the public school funding mandates set by the Washington State Supreme Court.

The Governor's proposed revenue increases equal $4.469 billion.

In the days and weeks to come we will continue to analyze Governor Inslee’s budget proposal and provide additional information as it becomes available.  



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