Matt Shea is poised for a victory lap

Democrats could, on their own, censure the six-term lawmaker. But they probably won’t. Even a hearing on the content of the report looks very unlikely.

  • Friday, January 24, 2020 10:30am
  • Opinion

OLYMPIA — Matt Shea can’t take a victory lap around the state Capitol quite yet.

But the Republican representative from Spokane Valley can certainly start stretching his hammies.

He’s on course to triumph over every attempt to boot him from office before this legislative session ends.

After a report depicted him as an evil genius and associate mastermind behind three anti-government protests, House Democrats and leaders of the Republican caucus couldn’t shame him into resigning.

Authors of the House-commissioned report alleged Shea’s actions amounted to domestic terrorism. Though investigators did not find him to be an “imminent direct threat” to anyone, they concluded “on a more probable than not basis, Representative Shea presents a present and growing threat of risk to others through political violence.”

Since the report’s release in December, many majority Democrats have openly called for his expulsion. But they would need help from Republicans to do that. A two-thirds vote is required, and there are no GOP lawmakers offering to assist.

Democrats could, on their own, censure the six-term lawmaker. But they probably won’t. Even a hearing on the content of the report looks very unlikely.

The reality is Democrats are tired of talking about Matt Shea. They’ve gabbed about him extensively a couple of times in caucus in recent days. Separately, the Members of Color Caucus did too, for an hour.

On Tuesday (Jan. 21), the second day of the second week of the legislative session, caucus leaders pretty much threw in the towel.

“We don’t want to have Rep. Shea take away the good work we’re doing here in the Legislature,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington. “The focus of the session shouldn’t be entirely on Matt Shea, it should be on those issues that people really care about.”

So unless Shea is charged and convicted with a crime in the next 50 days — which at the moment seems unlikely — he will be sitting on the House floor at Sine Die.

Going forward, when a Democratic lawmaker is questioned about this situation, the best option might be simply to answer, “Matt Who?”

Before lawmakers ran out the door in 2019, they hiked taxes on tens of thousands of businesses to guarantee financial aid to thousands of college students.

Now they want to overhaul the tax before a single dollar is collected.

They’ve encountered a problem. Actually, a few. The popularity of the Washington College Grant — which promises money for all eligible students starting next fall — is greater than expected. The tax, technically a surcharge on professional services, isn’t going to bring in enough money for the state to keep its promise. And the surcharge is too darned confusing for those paying the tax and those collecting it.

On Tuesday (Jan. 21), the Senate budget committee considered a bill crafted by Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle. It substitutes what lawmakers enacted with an approach aimed at keeping the state’s promise and bringing in roughly $225 million more over the next four years than what’s on the books now.

Specifically, Pedersen ditches the workforce education investment surcharge. Instead, the general service business-and-occupation tax rate is boosted from 1.5 percent to 1.8 percent. This increase would only apply to businesses grossing more than $1 million a year. Also, an existing tax credit for small businesses is expanded.

Pedersen’s offering would mean an estimated 35,000 small businesses facing the surcharge will now not have to pay any B&O tax at all. An estimated 14,800 companies and professionals will be affected, however, including 4,400 that somehow didn’t have to pay the surcharge but will have to pay the higher tax rate. I’m still trying to figure that out.

One unanswered question is how much will Microsoft pay? This is a big deal, because last year company execs invited the increase and actually agreed to pay even more than the 1.8 percent rate. It appears the software giant won’t have to do so under this bill.

A different approach to this problem will be considered by a House committee Thursday.

If lawmakers want to act, there’s a time crunch. First payments of the surcharge are due next month, and a whole lot of folks would like to avoid sending the state a check.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.


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