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Posts published in December 2005

The tougher budgets

The old adage has it that the toughest budgets - in public organizations, if not private - are those where expected revenues exceed expected expenses. That extra money is just so tempting.

The northwest states are facing some of this. Oregon has no legislative session next year, so the pressure is less immediate in the Beaver State. But already the talk has arisen about eliminating the corporate kicker. What's notable about this talk, as showed up in the Oregonian today, is that even the corporate lobby isn't trying to defend it. The fact that two-thirds of the rebate would head directly out of state provides a real shift to the argument.

Washington appears headed, this next session, for a $1.4 billion surplus, which takes any discussion of tax increases off the table. Democrats in the legislature (or some of them) will see this as an invitation to spend a little extra, and Republicans (some of them) will similarly agitate for a tax cut.

Governor Christine Gregoire shows indications of trumping both views by emphasizing the temporary nature of the surplus. Talking with a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter, she said that by the time the 2007 budget cycle rolls around, there will be no surplus - in fact, she said, "There's no scenario after we fund the mandates that doesn't result in us having a deficit going into the next [2007] biennial budget." Sounds like a line in the sand for a rainy-day fund, which could be the logical centrist approach. Her challenge will be holding the center together.

Idaho is looking at a similarly substantial surplus, and its Republican legislators will be tempted to go the same route they did when a big surplus appeared in 2001, and they sliced state income tax rates. That earlier cut came back to bite them, hard, in 2003 when the state's economy took a dip, and a - horrors - tax increase was required (by Governor Dirk Kempthorne) in response. Will that lesson have been learned? There will be pressure too for doing something about increasing property taxes. Will the state surplus provide a handy, albeit tricky, solution for some of them?

Sam ain’t Star

She really ought to appeal. It's expensive, yes, and it would mean she's carrying the load for the benefit of a lot of other people more than for herself.

Still.

The case concerns a coffee shop owned and operated in Astoria by Samantha Buck, specifically what she chose to call it. One of the matters of business regulation in this country is that you can't call your business absolutely anything you want; if it is highly misleading, or if it confuses customers and others with another business, then some limitations do come into play. Most of us find these generally reasonable.

Sambucks CoffeeOne of the usual principles of long standing at play, though, is that - as long as you make reasonable effort to avoid impinging on someone else - you can use your own name in the business. Hence, in this case, a coffee shop called "Sambuck's." Ooperated, on site, by one Sam Buck.

You see where this is headed: Starbuck's, notwithstanding that it has no coffee shop of its own in Astoria, took umbrage and went to court. Sam Buck's use of her own name was dilution of the corporate image-building, it contended. (They obviously couldn't have used the confusion argument: Look at the logo.) Whether it prevailed in federal court because it had the larger share of the law or the larger portion of paid legal counsel on its side, the result was as you might expect: By court order, Sam Buck can no longer use her own name for her business.

She should start a legal defense fund, with controbutions sought from all the other small business owners who may well one day run similarly afoul of a behemoth.

Grant blogging

We will try to keep track here of campaigns which use blogging (regular, daily, consistent blogging, not just a dead page posted week after week) as part of their campaign efforts.

To that end, attention is directed to Grassroots for Grant, a blog from the campaign of the Democrat running in Idaho's 1st congressional district. Say this: There's already plenty of material on it.

Tales of two recalls

Spokane Mayor Jim West probablywould like to swap places with David Young right about now.

Young has been the target of a planned recall, but yesterday the Canyon County residents who were behind it acknowledged they were falling short, failed to get the required number of petition signatures by their November 30 deadline, and settled for saying that, well, at least they got a discussion of Young's record out there. But there were less labor-intensive ways to do that. (more…)