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Where does all your tax money go?
"Want to have an in-depth conversation with public officials about how they use your tax money?This year's Bainbridge Economic Vitality Conference will give you the chance.We hope to promote dialogue on where we are and what we do about the (tax) situation, said Jeff Brein, outgoing president of the Bainbridge Economic Council, alluding to recent citizen ballot initiatives on taxation and spending.We expect provocative discussions from the audience.The day-long conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 1, at Wing Point Golf and Country Club, and is open to the public.Voter approval of Initiative 695 persuaded the economic council that this year's conference should examine the public sector's role in the economy, both as a tax collector and a service provider. The purpose is not to imply that we think people are overtaxed, Brein said. But we have a different and challenging situation. The motor-vehicle tax is gone, so decisions have to be made about alternative sources of revenue or service cuts.U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, will address the conference at lunch. State Sen. Betti Sheldon, D-Bremerton, the Senate majority floor leader, will talk about the budgeting process in Olympia. Bainbridge Island Mayor Dwight Sutton and city council members Michael Pollock and Christine Nasser will discuss choices and trade-offs at the local level.Richard Davis of the Washington Research Council will talk about local-government responses to I-695. A panel discussion on transportation will include Paul Green, chief executive officer of Washington State Ferries; John Clawson, acting chief of Kitsap Transit; and islander Alice Tawresey, chair of the WSF tariff policy committee. We are trying to bring together people with direct responsibility for how the tax dollars are spent, Brein said.Conference organizer Christopher Snow said that while the conference would be part civics lesson, it does involve the economic vitality of the island. Virtually everything done at the policy level has economic implications, Snow said.Snow said he believed one of the underlying themes prompting passage of I-695 was a widespread belief that taxes are not well or wisely spent. The BEC board believed that it would be appropriate and timely to discuss how public funds are raised, he said, and decisions made about allocations in response to public demands.The BEC was formed in the early 1990s to work on the economic element of the island's comprehensive plan. After that task was finished, BEC remained active to foster education and communication on economic issues.People see the word 'economic' in the title, and they assume we're a pro-development group that wants to pave over the island, Brein said.That's not so. We're not pro-growth, we don't take political positions, and we don't endorse candidates. Our concern is for economic vitality, and our purpose is to bring topical issues to the forefront.The $25 registration fee for the conference includes a continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m., lunch at noon and membership in the BEC for the year 2000. Reservations are suggested at 842-8922. "