Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Frank Watson
Gazette Columnist 

State of Liberty


May 16, 2019

I was headed into the grocery store the other day for bread, eggs, and milk when I noticed a line outside the door. I thought it might be some free samples, so I went over to see what they had. It was a line to sign a petition for a ballot initiative to create Liberty State. I had heard a little about the proposal, and had dismissed it as the rumblings of anarchists and the ultra-right. I was more concerned with my bread, eggs, and milk, so I bypassed the gathering and proceeded to get my shopping cart. After securing my purchases and barely avoiding a collision with a six passenger pick up in the parking lot, I let my thoughts wander to the crowd still in the line to sign the petition. They didn’t look like radicals, but you never know. We already have two Washingtons and surely don’t need a third. Spokane Valley is confusing enough. I decided to learn more about the issue generating the crowd, so when I got home, I visited the Libertystate.org website.

The movement is not new but is recently gaining momentum. In a nutshell, the proposal draws a line down the crest of the Cascade Range and divides our state in two parts. The western, liberal, part keeps the name, capitol, and all existing government bodies and functions. The eastern, conservative, part becomes a new state and must create a new capitol, government, etc. The arguments for and against are easily found on google. I questioned the constitutionality of such a proposition and was assured that it is not prohibited, and precedent exists. In 1861 contrary to the wishes of the western part of the state, Virginia seceded from the Union. The dissenting counties formed their own state and was formally admitted to the Union in 1863. So, I guess it is possible for Washington to follow a similar path.

I thought the Liberty State proponents would have no chance of success until I reviewed the activities of our most recent legislative session. With both houses of our legislature controlled by liberals, the legislature was able to run amok, create programs that were west coast specific, and pass the largest budget increase in history. Everyone knows the mess they made of school funding, but relatively few voters are aware of the bevy of new taxes passed during the last-minute surge. These bills were passed in dark of night with no public input and without the critical eye of the press. These secret proceedings included a new tax on gasoline to be added to the increases already passed, making Washington gas prices among the highest in the nation. Banks will be subject to increased state taxes. They have no choice but to pass these increased costs along to their customers. The state tax on your home will increase, and the rate will vary with the appraised value of the property. If you recently purchased a new home, your tax can more than double.

Another big kicker was the increased tax on businesses. When this tax became public, a spokesman for the administration said it was an increase on a small select group of services. This is simply not true. I read the bill. The list is neither small nor select. It includes: anything related to technology or software, newspapers and news agencies, on-line shippers, lawyers, engineers, etc., etc. Did I mention that the new law also increases the cost of health care? The escalating cost of health care is already a national crisis, and our legislature jacked up the cost even more. I think the logic is that when the bill comes, it will be in the form of higher insurance premiums. The legislature can then blame the dirty rotten insurance companies. The saddest part is that the increased taxes are not needed. Our economy is booming, and state revenues have increased over 22% since the last legislative session. No thought was given to what will happen when the economy cools, as it surely will. The budget is not sustainable.

When the whirlwind session was over, Governor Inslee joined the liberal legislators in celebration. Is there any wonder why the Liberty State initiative is gaining momentum? Next time I am at the grocery store, I just might sign the petition.

(Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and a long time resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free lance columnist for more than 19 years.)


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