Washington state voters recently passed a ballot initiative that slashes taxes but leaves the state's clean-air program gasping for breath. The initiative cuts license plate fees from an annual percentage based on car value to a cheap $30 and dictates that any increase in taxes for state government and schools must be voted on by the people.
Republican Sen. Pam Roach says Initiative
695 is a backlash from frustrated voters who have had no meaningful
tax relief. But the initiative leaves lawmakers $750 million
A laundry list of state services,
including the clean-air program, will fall by the wayside. "We'll
have to do less of a lot of things," says Washington Department of
Ecology's Larry Altose.
About $11 million in the
next two years has been axed from his department's budget. Altose
says this means less pollution monitoring, less public education
about pollution, and less basic science. If the state fails to meet
clean-air standards, he says, the federal government can withhold
money slated for new freeways and mass transit
"Great minds are working to figure out
where additional funding might come from, but in the event that
doesn't happen, the air pollution account will most certainly be
out of money by Jan. 3," says Altose.
Locke wants to declare an emergency, which would allow the state to
use excess funds from other areas for local government and
programs. Right now, panic is in the
"There's a lot of competing needs out there.
We're looking for ways to restore the department of ecology
program," says Ed Penhale of the governor's budget office. "But
exactly how to do this hasn't been decided yet."