Eastern Washington may form its own state of Liberty.
The wonder of the age is why western Washington would want to stop it.
After all, who’s really getting exploited here? The people of King County pay nearly 43 percent of the taxes in Washington state and almost half of it goes somewhere else — including the economically parched communities Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, wants to stitch together under a banner of secession.
Pore over the numbers in a recent Office of Financial Management analysis. See if you like this picture:
l Asotin County — For every dollar paid in taxes, it gets $1.29. As of 2015, Asotin County paid $32.9 million in taxes, but got $42.6 million back. In other words, if Asotin County had to pay its own bills, taxes would go up 29 percent.
l Garfield County — It gets $1.14 back for every $1 paid in taxes. As of four years ago, Garfield County generated $4.2 million in taxes and spent $4.7 million.
l Whitman County — With a state university in its backyard, Whitman County gets $1.94 back for every $1 of tax paid. The county raised $78.2 million in taxes and took in $152 million.
l Even Spokane County — to be designated as the political and economic hub of the 51st state — is on the receiving end of western Washington’s generosity. For every $1 in tax it pays, the county spends $1.25. Spokane generated $1.018 billion in taxes in 2015 but spent $1.271 billion.
Secession would be a windfall for the west side.
If the taxpayers of King County were allowed merely to pay their own bills, they might expect a 46 percent tax cut.
Freed of the need to prop up the other side of the state, Snohomish County could get by with about 17 percent fewer taxes.
Of course, it’s not completely black and white. Pierce County is a different story; it gets $1.24 back for $1 in tax paid.
Transportation funding is more of a mixed bag. Asotin County comes out behind on highway spending. For every $1 in transportation taxes paid, it gets back 56 cents.
But Garfield County more than makes up for it — collecting $3.69 for every $1 of tax paid. And Whitman County comes out ahead, too — it takes in $1.25 for every tax dollar collected.
So if eastern Washington goes its own way, its citizens will be looking at paying much higher taxes or enduring a dramatic cut in services.
Maybe it’s worth it.
Galen Sorenson of Anatone thinks so.
On Monday, he told Asotin County commissioners that the west side sees eastern Washington as a bunch of rubes.
“Our belief is, fundamentally, they really don’t understand us over here,” Sorenson said. “We tend to have more conservative values, and they tend to disrespect us in the Legislature. Our votes are completely outnumbered by votes from the urban-density side of the state.”
As far as “conservative values” go, you won’t find more of them than in Idaho. Is that what Sorenson wants?
Would he trade the nation’s second highest minimum wage at $12 an hour for the lowest at $7.25 an hour?
Would he exchange one of the nation’s highest average teachers’ wages at $72,965 for something closer to to $50,757?
Would Sorenson really prefer a state supreme court that acquiesces to stingy lawmakers over a Washington Supreme Court that insisted legislators adhere to the constitution and adequately fund public education?
The closer Liberty gets to Idaho values, the closer it moves toward legal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Conservative values certainly do not embrace Washington’s liberal marijuana laws. The more Liberty looks like Idaho, the greater the likelihood it will throw the book at potheads.
If you take their word for it, the people promoting this movement would leave behind popular, common-sense gun safety laws passed by a majority of Washington voters that seek to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and people who might hurt themselves. Presumably, that means they’re predisposed toward following Idaho’s conservative values, where anyone old enough to vote is entitled to carry a concealed weapon — without any training.
Of course, if Shea and Sorenson want to leave Washington behind, they don’t have to drag half of a state along with them.
They merely need to move to Idaho — if they don’t mind fading into the background. — M.T.