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Public vote amendment was last means effort to soften new tax bill

The Daily Sun News recently published a personal opinion column, "Street maintenance utility tax is for the birds," which misrepresented my views about a very bad tax bill proposed in the House Transportation Committee.

House Bill 2618 sought to give city governments the authority to establish an expensive street utility tax. In the personal column, Editor Bob Story erroneously stated, "Yakima's Norm Johnson, a self-proclaimed Republican, isn't opposed to it."

In reality, I'm very much opposed to it. That is why I issued a press release Jan. 21 which stated, "I don't like the fact that advocates for this bill are calling it a 'fee' instead of a tax, and attempting to sell it as a normal run-of-the-mill utility charge, much in the same way municipalities charge for water, sewer and garbage. The fact is, this is a tax, and it could be very devastating to citizens and businesses, especially now as people are struggling in this economy."

Here's why I issued the press release:

1. I was concerned this bill, which had immense local government support, would easily pass the committee, even though I and other Republicans planned to vote against it.

2. If we could not stop this measure, I felt voters should have the final word. That's why the press release said I was considering "an amendment that would require the issue have a public vote." It also stated, "Overall though, he (Johnson) is concerned how a street tax could affect businesses, jobs and families."

Reflecting over that release, I can understand how Mr. Story inferred my primary concern was a public vote, when instead it was my opposition to a terrible tax and, as a last means effort, allowing a public vote if we could not stop it in the Legislature. I accept responsibility if the press release was unclear. Citizens may read it on my Web site at: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov/Johnson.

I wish to set the record straight. I do not support this street utility tax. I never have, and I will not support tax increases during this session.

I also happily wish to report we were successful in killing HB 2618. So the issue is now moot.

Washington has the highest unemployment rate in two decades. Struggling families do not need, nor can they afford, higher taxes. I will continue fighting on their behalf and to ensure all voters have a voice in their government.

/s/ Rep. Norm Johnson,

Yakima

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