Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Neros of Pullman

Last week, the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development announced its long-awaited appeal to the city's final SEPA threshold determination for the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter. I imagine PARD's strategy will be to delay the construction as long as possible through one frivolous appeal after another. What does that mean for Pullman? It means that we will all be less safe.

PARD has made the absurd contention that the large Wal-Mart parking lot will become a "party zone" and drive up policing costs. Some ACTUAL reasons policing costs are going up are high gas prices and rapid population growth combined with a lack of funding. That is the reason why Proposition 1 will be on the ballot September 20. If approved, it will add 1/10 of one percent to the sales and use tax to pay for desperately needed upgrades to the county jail in Colfax and putting more deputies back on patrol.

I was concerned when I heard that the city government told the Pullman Fire Department that there is no money in the general fund to purchase needed equipment such as a new Jaws of Life rescue system or a pump truck to fight brush fires. I think we all clearly realize the danger brush fires represent in populated areas after the School Canyon Fire last month.

The city’s general fund receives the vast majority of its revenue from property and sales tax. Even though Pullman is currently growing faster than the state average, Whitman County has some of the lowest sales tax collections in all of Washington. Why? Pullman is severely under-retailed, and so suffers sales tax leakage to neighboring jurisdictions. I-695 has been a further blow, as the city has lost millions of dollars in motor vehicle excise tax collections that had been used to make up for low sales tax receipts.

The retail sales tax revenue that Wal-Mart brings will go a long ways towards alleviating these public safety funding problems. The first priority of any local government is to raise funds to provide for the protection of citizens and their property, not to judge if the source of that income is “politically correct” to a particular group or not.

It is dangerous for PARD to suggest that we continue exporting our tax dollars by asserting, “One Wal-Mart is Enough!” Does anyone in Moscow answer when you dial 911?


Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

Check Wednesday's Evergreen for more comments on PARD in the opinion section. It highlights the possible love the Evergreen has for PARD and their connection to the new Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Money talks!

Ray Lindquist said...

Thanks for the tip Sarcastic I will check it out. We need Wal-Mart bad. As Tom has pointed out in past posts, the drawing in of other stores around Wal-Mart will be nice. To help the STOP "leakage" that he points out in this post.

Ray Lindquist said...

Oh, yes by the way I will be voting for Proposition 1. I am not happy about it but I will. I do want someone to respond if I dial 911. If we would have had Wal-Mart, Home Depot, ect and few others here we would not be needing that. I would not be spending large amounts of gas to go to the valley or Spoakne for some of those shopping runs.

Tom Forbes said...

Ray, I agree. It's unfortunate that a new tax has to be the answer, but what else can we do? We need a jail. Every day that PARD drags out the Wal-Mart process is that much more money Pullman and Whitman County misses out on.

It's a crying shame that as much as Pullman is growing that our firefighters have to go begging hat in hand for equipment they should already have. That is why I personally know of several firefighters that are backing Wal-Mart.

Did you see the letter to the editor yesterday from a couple claiming Wal-Mart will "lower their property values?"

Must everyone be so shortsighted and selfish? It's the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) CAVE (Citzens Against Virtually Everything) and BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Around Nearly Anything) crowds that get you everytime.

April E. Coggins said...

I plan to vote no. As a business owner who must compete with lower sales taxed areas and the no taxed Internet, I would like to see more emphasis on retail development, which would increase sales tax revenue without decreasing sales for existing businesses. Trust me on this, the customer is smart enough to notice sales tax differences. Pullman businesses lose customers every day because of 2.6 percent. Let's not give the consumer 2.7 percent more reason to shop out of town, county, and state.

Tom Forbes said...


You bring up an EXCELLENT point. I love having your small business perspective on the issue. Wal-Mart is still well over a year away from opening, and I know Sheriff Myers has some immediate needs.

But you're absolutely right. Idaho LOWERED its sales tax 1% over the summer. Not that Pullman can compete, being so underretailed, but the playing field is getting more uneven.

The front page of the Daily News had a banner headline today that Washington was experiencing an economic boom with lots of tax revenue to fill the coffers. Unfortunately, not here. The county is having to propose this tax to try and scrape through, while Pullman firefighters have to beg for equipment they should already have. Do people not see the disconnect? If Prop. 1 doesn't pass, it will reinforce how badly we need new sources of retail sales tax.

The only debate there should be about Wal-Mart is how soon can they build it and what time does T.V. Reed's VW bus leave town?

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

Tom, It would nice if we could go over and start the VW up for him.