Washington State Democrats Oppose Eyman’s Initiative 1366

The Washington State Democrats at their April 18, 2015 quarterly meeting in Pasco, Washington passed a resolution opposing Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1366. Initiative 1366 is expected to be on the Nov 2015 ballot.

Initiative 1366 is a Senator Ted Cruz Tea Party style measure, trying extortion tactics to impose minority rule over Washington State’s budget and revenue policy. In what is probably an unconstitutional move, it intends to slash a billion dollars a year from the Washington State budget unless Legislators put a constitutional amendment for 2/3 votes to raise revenue or repeal tax exemptions on the ballot.

The Washington State Constitution says only Legislators have the power to place a constitutional measure on the ballot by a 2/3 vote of both houses. Eyman is ironically unable to convince legislators to do what he wants them to do and so is resorting to extortion tactics. He could just as easy have said Legislators would not be paid unless they vote for a constitutional amendment, or they would lose their driver’s license or they would be sent to jail until they vote for what he wants. That is extortion and not legal.

Here is the official ballot title and summary from the Washington State Secretary of State’s website:

Ballot Title
Initiative Measure No. 1366 concerns state taxes and fees.

This measure would decrease the sales tax rate unless the legislature refers to voters a constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and legislative approval for fee increases.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would decrease the state retail sales tax rate on April 15, 2016, from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent. The sales tax rate would not be decreased if, by April 15, 2016, two-thirds of both legislative houses refer to the ballot a vote on a constitutional amendment that requires two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and majority legislative approval to set the amount of a fee increase.

View Complete Text PDF

 

Below is the text of the resolution passed by the Washington State Democrats:

Resolution Opposing Initiative Measure 1366

WHEREAS Tim Eyman, Mike Fagan, and Jack Fagan have sponsored and are circulating petitions for Initiative 1366, filed on January 5th, 2015 as an initiative to the people for 2015; 

WHEREAS I-1366 would reduce the sales tax, and therefore approximately $1 billion in state revenue every year, thereby preventing the increased spending on K-12 education  required by the McCleary decision, while jeopardizing higher education, transportation  and the social safety net, unless the State Legislature follows the dictates of the initiative  and sends to the voters a constitutional amendment undemocratically requiring a two- thirds vote in each House of the Legislature to raise revenue or repeal any tax loophole; 

WHEREAS the Washington State Supreme Court in February 2013, in League of  Education Voters v. State of Washington, struck down as unconstitutional a  requirement of a supermajority vote to raise revenue, and Eyman’s I-1366 comprises a  devious attempt to evade that ruling by coercing lawmakers into colluding in his  underhanded scheme to overturn it by holding all state funding hostage; 

WHEREAS either the loss of a billion dollars per annum to our common wealth or the  undemocratic modification of our Constitution to require two-thirds votes to raise and  recover revenue would result in serious long-term damage to the communities of  Washington State; 

WHEREAS our state’s founders understood that democracy requires majority rules  with minority rights, and, after much debate and deliberation, they wrote a  Constitution for Washington specifying that bills in the Legislature are passed by a  majority vote, defined as greater than fifty percent – no more, and no less; 

WHEREAS any higher threshold for the passage of legislation would result in power  being concentrated in the hands of a few (rather than the many), such as one-third of  one house of the Legislature – as when I-601 and its clones I-960, I-1053, and I-1185 were  illegitimately in effect; 

WHEREAS allowing tax exemptions to be created by a majority vote, but repealed only  with a vote of two-thirds or greater, represents an unfair double standard that would  make it nearly impossible to reform our outdated and regressive tax system; and 

WHEREAS I-1366 would further violate Article IX of the Washington State Constitution  by making it impossible for the state to fulfill its paramount duty of educating  Washington’s youth; 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Washington State Democrats urge all  Washingtonians to refuse to sign Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1366 and, if it is placed on the  ballot, to oppose the measure; 

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we encourage every activist and  citizen who supports the values that Washington was founded upon to join the  coalition opposing I-1366.

 

Does Hillary Get It?

As Michael Brenner recently wrote, the challenge for progressive Democrats in the upcoming 2016 Presidential election is determining whether or not there is a new Hillary that both gets it and is willing to act on it.  What is it? It is the need to understand that the economy and economic inequality is distorting everything else in this coming election cycle and that strong leadership for change is needed to motivate Democrats to work hard and elect a Democrat as President. Others have written about this.  I am not the first.  But I agree.

After the 2012 Democratic debacle where Republicans took over the Senate and extended their domination over State Houses and Legislatures across the country  it was clear that the Democratic leadership had been out maneuvered and had fallen into a trap saying “we are not as bad as the other guys”, instead of challenging the GOP on their jaded view of government being for the corporations and the wealthy instead of the people.
As Michael Brenner wrote for the Huffington Post right after the Nov 2014 election:

“At a time when Americans feel more discontent and view their prospects more darkly than on any occasion since the depths of the Great Depression, the Democrats have defaulted. They offer no interpretation that conforms to their bedrock principles; they offer no narrative that fits the pieces into a comprehensible whole; they offer no vision for the future. Instead, they have adapted themselves to the Republican narrative and Republican motifs. They present no robust defense of government as the people’s instrument for meeting communal needs and wants. Rather, they incline toward the assumption that government and public programs should be viewed skeptically.”`

Forward to April 2015.  Hillary Clinton has announced she is running for President. No surprise.  So where does this leave us. An incessant critique from the left right now seems to be that Clinton is just more of the same and is no different that what has resulted in the Democratic decline in voting and the loss of Democrats at all levels in the past.

Others offer a more positive voice. Robert Borosage in a post on Nation of Change entitled Hillary’s In: Challenges for the New Populism  writes that there are five simple propositions about Hillary’s candidacy we need to consider:

1. The central question is the economy.

2. Hillary’s challenge is to rouse the democratic Coalition

3 People are looking for a champion but that isn’t an honorary post.

4. Populist movements offer an answer, not a threat.

6. Hillary’s candidacy will test the New Populism.

Borosage sums up the situation and challenge nicely:

“The wealthiest 1 percent% is capturing 95 percent of the income growth coming out of the Great Recession. This doesn’t happen by accident. It happens only because the rules have been rigged to benefit the few. It can only be altered with fundamental changes in policy and direction. Despite the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression and the worst military debacle since Vietnam, the elites and institutions that dominate our economic and national security policy remain largely in place.
As Frederick Douglass taught us, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” The lesson of the Obama administration is clear. Those movements that continued to mobilize, drive the debate and challenge the administration made progress. Those that folded into the White House operations got lost.
After a quarter century at the apex of American government, Hillary Clinton is an unlikely champion of the fundamental changes we need. But she is brilliant and resilient. It’s clear that the argument posed by Elizabeth Warren has already concentrated her mind. She’ll lead the charge only if populist movements and upheavals make her do it. This isn’t a time to stand down in the name of party unity. This is a time to turn up the heat.”

Ann Werner on Liberal United in an article entitled “The Warren /Sanders Effect on the Clinton Campaign” adds further to the impact that Senator Elizabeth Warren and also Senator Bernie Sanders is having on Hillary Clinton:

“The truth is, even without a Democratic opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton is being moved to the left. Every time another petition urging Elizabeth Warren to run circulates, every time Bernie Sanders is interviewed about a possible run and people get fired up and say YES! we want a progressive who will stand up for us, she sees the writing on the wall. The mere presence of those two on the planet, and the fact that they are not afraid to speak up and speak out, is moving candidate Clinton to take positions one would expect from either of them.
President Hillary Clinton won’t make the same mistakes President Obama made. She is fully aware that the far right Republicans will never cooperate, no matter what she does. She’s been there, done that and knows it’s a fool’s errand to think that will change.
So I say this: Keep on holding her feet to the fire. Keep on letting her know that we’ll have her back as long as she has ours.”

Many on the left question who Hillary will represent. These are legitimate questions. But we need to be careful while advocating for Clinton to address the issues Democrats have failed to take on in recent years. Constant incessant negativity against Clinton is not going to help move a progressive agenda. The challenge is to put pressure on Clinton to move left and address issues of concern to progressives, including promoting more progressive candidates. The last thing we want to do is turn Democrats off from voting altogether. The Republicans taking over the White House and continuing to expand their advocacy for the wealthy and corporations and special interests running our country for their further concentration of wealth is the last thing we want. Promoting a progressive agenda and not a negative diatribe against Clinton, makes sense in trying to move forward.

Eyman’s I-1366 is a Con Job on Most Washington State Taxpayers

Washington State has a tax problem but it is not one Eyman’s Initiative 1366 will help. Requiring a 2/3 vote by Legislators to raise taxes would make Washington’s tax situation worse and would put special interests, the wealthy and corporations in charge of  running Washington State by giving them the ability to dictate our tax structure by having to only control the votes from 1/3 of the members of either the House or the Senate.

No longer would a majority or even up to 66% of Washington Legislators be able to decide how we would fund state services like educating our children. Seventeen State Senators out of 49 or 33 House Member out of 98 would  be able to overrule a majority in both Houses.

The problem is that requiring a 2/3 vote to raise taxes is a con job by those benefiting most – corporations and the very wealthy. Those less well off are paying the greatest proportion of their income in taxes – the rich pay much less -that’s why we are labeled the most regressive tax state in the nation.

From Mother Jones

“The nation’s most regressive tax code belongs to Washington, a state that was ranked by The Hill last year as the bluest in the country based on its voting patterns and Democratic dominance. The poorest 20 percent of Washingtonians pay an effective state tax rate of 16.8 percent, while the wealthiest 1 percent effectively pay just 2.4 percent of their income in taxes.

There’s a clear explanation for that: Washington has no income tax and thus heavily relies on a sales tax that disproportionately affects the poor. What’s harder to grasp is why Washington’s liberals put up with it.”

The 2/3 vote prevents repealing tax loopholes that are giveaways to special interests like oil companies. It prevents even revenue neutral tax reform to make our taxes less regressive because any increase in a tax, even if revenue neutral, requires a 2/3 vote.

And ever since I-601 in 1993 the Legislature has, except for a few years, had the 2/3 requirement as state law. When it was ruled unconstitutional in 2013 by the Washington State Supreme Court, Republicans controlled the Senate preventing even a majority vote to make changes.

Big oil companies like BP and Conoco Phillips gave Eyman money to support the 2/3 vote in the past – not to help low income folks with their taxes but to prevent the legislature increasing a tax on cleaning up toxic substances like oil spills. The 2/3 vote requirement would allow 1/3 of the Legislators in one House to block any tax increase. That is why it is a con game. It would transfer the cleanup costs to taxpayers.

Do not sign I-1366.  If it gets on the ballot because Eyman is using paid signature gathers paid for by a few wealthy contributors like developer Clyde Holland and Kemper Freeman who owns Bellevue Square, vote NO!

Eyman’s 2015 I-1366 is a Repeat of Eyman’s 2014 I-1325

Initiative 1366, sponsored by Tim Eyman, is a citizen’s initiative for the Nov 2015 Election. It is a refiling of Initiative 1325 from 2014 which Eyman failed to get enough signatures on to qualify. Here are a couple of comments from last year  about this proposal.

Spokesman Review – Jan. 10, 2014 Editorial – “Eyman’s Tax Initiative Looking for a Problem”

Tim Eyman has a new idea, his worst ever, and that’s saying something.
The watch salesman turned initiative promoter submitted a proposal to the Washington Secretary of State on Monday that would compel the Legislature to enact and pass along to voters a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote by state lawmakers or voters on any tax increase.
How compel?
Initiative 1325 would cut the state sales tax rate to 5.5 percent from 6.5 percent. The change would reduce annual revenues by about $1 billion. But the reduction would not occur if the Legislature endorses the amendment by April 15, 2015.
In other words, the initiative puts a $1 billion gun to the head of legislators.
Eyman calls the incentive “oomph.” Blackmail is more like it.

This is not about protecting taxpayers. I-1325 is about keeping Eyman in business.

Crosscut, Feb 6, 2014 – “A 2/3 vote for tax bumps?  Tim Eyman will rise again” – article on a vote by the Legislature for a constitutional amendment for a  2/3 vote for revenue to be placed on the ballot. It received a vote of 25 to 21, far short of the 2/3 needed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

“Minority Democrats countered that the Legislature struggled to meet financial requirements when the two-thirds requirement was in effect. They unsuccessfully tried to remove the two-thirds requirements to close tax breaks and to allow majority approval of some fund transfers covered by the supermajority requirement in Roach’s bill. The Democratic attempts failed.
Also, Democrats pointed to the need to comply with a 2012 Supreme Court ruling to upgrade education and to restore a frequently suppressed voters initiative to provide cost-of-living increases to teachers.
Democratic Senate budget chief James Hargrove of Hoquiam noted that it took two extra special sessions in 2013 to close two tax breaks to balance the state budget — with a simple majority rule in place. He said 17 senators — 12 percent of the entire Legislature  — could hold the budget hostage in order to get their pet bills passed. “It’s called the rule of 17, a super-minority,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.

From the Washington State Secretary of State’s website:

Ballot Title
Initiative Measure No. 1366 concerns state taxes and fees.

This measure would decrease the sales tax rate unless the legislature refers to voters a constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and legislative approval for fee increases.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would decrease the state retail sales tax rate on April 15, 2016, from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent. The sales tax rate would not be decreased if, by April 15, 2016, two-thirds of both legislative houses refer to the ballot a vote on a constitutional amendment that requires two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes, and majority legislative approval to set the amount of a fee increase.

View Complete Text PDF

Initiative 1366 is an Ted Cruz style of coercion measure, threatening to remove $1 billion a year in revenue from the state budget. It would severely cripple funding for education in this state.  It is a libertarian ant- government, anti-tax initiative intended  to lock in tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy and severely limit funding of public services by requiring a 2/3 vote to raise revenue or repeal tax loopholes.

Do not sign or support or vote for Initiative 1366!

I-1366 – Another Eyman Initiative to Help Corporations and the Wealthy

Initiative 1366 is another Washington State initiative attempt by libertarian Tim Eyman to help the wealthy and corporate America avoid taxes and tax reform. With the most regressive tax structure in the country it is  a blatant attempt to prevent the Legislature from engaging in tax reform or eliminating tax exemptions that do not benefit the state or its citizens. It proposes to use an extortion tactic reminiscent of Senator Ted Cruz’s trying to shut down the Federal government to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

I-1366 would eliminate $1 billion in sales taxes per year  from the  state budget if the Legislature does not vote to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for a vote. Eyman’s proposed amendment would require a 2/3 vote by the Legislature to raise taxes or eliminate tax exemptions.

Eyman is not able to secure anywhere near the required 2/3 vote required by the Washington State Legislature to normally put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.  So he is attempting this extortion tactic which requires only a majority vote of the public to reduce the sales tax by a billion dollars unless the Legislature takes a 2/3 vote and puts his “corporate tax loophole preservation amendment” on the ballot.

Something just stinks about this sort of extortion style tactics to get what you want rather than following the normal political process.  Eyman of course is trying to sell this to low and middle income voters as a way to keep their taxes low. The problem is that the reverse takes place. Washington State has the most regressive tax structure in the country according to a 2015 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The ITEP report states that the lowest 20% of income earners (non-elderly) making less than $21,000 pay 16.8% of their income in state and local taxes. Meanwhile the wealthiest top 1% earning over $507,000 pay only 2.4% of their income in state and local taxes.

This is not the first year that Washington State held this distinction but it is an ongoing one because for many years Washington state has had a 2/3 vote requirement to raise revenue as well as repeal non-performing tax exemptions. Raising revenue as defined also includes the legislature changing a revenue source even if the overall revenue raised is neutral. This has made tax reform extremely difficult.

The 2/3 vote requirement first put in place by Initiative 601 in 1993, suspended several times and re-enacted several times by initiative until finally ruled unconstitutional in 2013 by the Washington State Supreme Court. The court declared that the 2/3 voting requirement to raise revenue violated Article II, Section 22 of the Washington State Constitution which stated that for a bill to become law it needed a majority vote.

Eyman uses the fear of tax increases by the legislature on those hurting the most by the regressive tax structure of our state. This fear recently saw another defeat of an income tax initiative – I-1098 which would have shifted more taxes to the wealthy and reduced the regressiveness of our  state’s tax structure.

Voters need to understand that 2/3 vote requirements like Eyman is proposing help the wealthy and corporations the most. They allow a minority of 1/3 of the Legislators in either Legislative house who are anti – government anti- tax to overrule a majority of Legislators that want both to enact a fairer tax system and also fund public services like educating our children and helping the needy. Eyman is motivated by an anti-tax anti-government libertarian agenda that puts wealth accumulation and concentration in the hands of a few.  There is no trickle down – it is more like a waterspout with only the rich having the buckets to collect the money.

Don’t sign I-1366 and if it gets on the ballot vote NO. Support tax reform to help end wealth inequality and tax regressiveness. Support raising the minimum wage. Don’t enact a law like I-1366 which will take a billion dollars out of funding for state education for our kids.  Don’t support passing legislation like I-1366 which helps corporations keep their tax loopholes and the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than low and middle income earners.

 

Brad Owen Voids Republican Senate Rule as Unconstitutional

In a ruling on March 2, 2015,  Brad Owen, the Lt Governor of Washington State and presiding officer and President of the Washington  Senate did the right thing. He declared that the Senate rule passed by the Republicans in the Washington State Senate earlier this year to require a 2/3 vote to raise revenue was unconstitutional and thus void. As noted in a press release by the Northwest Progressive Institute, Brad Owen stated:

“The President has previously stated, The Senate cannot pass a rule that violates the state Constitution,” …: “Perhaps that statement should be clarified to read, The Senate may adopt an unconstitutional rule, but the President will not enforce it.”

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that requiring a 2/3 vote of legislators to raise revenue was unconstitutional because the Washington State Constitution said laws shall be passed by majority votes. As written in the Tacoma News Tribune at the time:

The language and history of the constitution evince a principle favoring a simple majority vote for legislation,” wrote Justice Susan Owens for the 6-3 majority (previous posts mistakenly said Chief Justice Madsen wrote majority). “The State’s proposed reading of article II, section 22 would fundamentally alter our system of government, and such alteration is possible only through constitutional amendment. Washington’s government was founded as a representative democracy based on simple majority rule.” “The Supermajority Requirement unconstitutionally amends the constitution by imposing a two-thirds vote requirement for tax legislation. More importantly, the Supermajority Requirement substantially alters our system of government, thus enabling a tyranny of the minority.”

Brad Owen based his decision on the Washington State Supreme Court decision. As reported by the Tacoma News Tribune :

“The state Senate’s presiding officer said Monday he won’t enforce a Senate rule making it harder to raise taxes. The rule violates the state constitution, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen ruled. With the ruling by Owen, a Democrat, the votes of 25 of 49 senators are required to move a tax through the Senate, the same 50-percent-plus-one majority as required in the House. The rule required a two-thirds supermajority to bring a bill to a final vote if the bill created new taxes. In invalidating it, Owen relied on a 2013 state Supreme Court ruling striking down voter-passed requirements for two-thirds supermajorities for taxes.”

Unfortunately the Tacoma News also gives a plug for libertarian anti tax Tim Eyman who for years pushed the unconstitutional 2/3 voting requirement in initiative campaigns. He is now pushing a “Ted Cruz style shut down the government stop educating our kids until I get my way” initiative. While he likes the 2/3 voting proposal when it suits his purpose, he hates it when it is an obstacle to get his way.
The Washington State Supreme Court said the only way a 2/3 rule could apply was if it was in the Washington State Constitution. But that’s the kicker – it takes a 2/3 vote of the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Eyman doesn’t have anywhere near what he needs for 2/3 since Republicans are his main base of support.  And they are in the minority in the House and barely 2 votes over a majority in the Senate.
Eyman’s answer –Initiative 1366 – have voter’s cut $1 billion from the state budget until they put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Voters would be ill served by starting to hold the legislature hostage to ransom since voters would be the ones suffering by seeing public education and other services cut even more.
Many voters miss the connection that who really benefits are large corporations who don’t want to pay taxes like for cleaning up their pollution. Big oil companies like BP and Tesoro gave Eyman big money in the past so the Legislature couldn’t raise funds from them to clean up oil pollution. It the average individual and family taxpayers who suffer as a result because they have to pay instead of the polluters who are making huge profits.
In addition BP and other corporations don’t want to see their tax loopholes end.  While they only take a majority vote to enact, under the 2/3 proposal it would take a 2/3 vote of the Legislature to end them, even if they provided no benefit to the state. The 2/3 vote proposal actually puts the minority in charge of tax policy since 1/3 of the Legislators in either house could then block tax legislation.
All in all it is a bad dealer for working families and most taxpayers in our state. Corporations love the idea. Don’t be fooled.  Don’t support Eyman’s latest corporate benefiting initiative that would further damage education in our state. Don’t sign Initiative 1366. And don’t vote for it, if his paid signature gatherers help him make it onto the November ballot.

King County Legislative Town Hall Meetings March 14, 2015

This Saturday, March 14, 2015 is a great time to meet with your Legislators across King County and urge them to act on  Democratic priority legislation.  Most legislative districts are holding town hall meetings.  You can attend your own LD or any other you want. Take this opportunity to get updated on the current status of bills. Use it to ask questions about the issues and bills you are concerned about and support or oppose.

Use the King County Democrats 2015 Legislative Agenda to focus in on Democratic priorities. Use the latest  bill tracking status (updated 3/9/2015)  to check the status of specific bills the King County Democrats are following.  Then let Legislators know your priorities and ask them to work to pass specific bills.

Other things you can ask include:

Are you going to fund K-12 education as mandated by the Washington State Supreme Court?
Are you going to eliminate any tax loopholes?
Are you going to pass a capital gains tax?
Are you going to address carbon pollution?
Are you going to make rail transport of oil safer?
Are you  going to raise the minimum wage?

Legislative  Town Hall Meetings

Saturday March 14

1st District – Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, Reps. Derek Stanford and Luis Moscoso WhereNorthshore Senior Center in the Wellness Center, 10212 East Riverside Drive, Bothell, WA 98011 When: 10 a.m.. – noon

11th District  – Sen. Bob Hasegawa, Reps. Zack Hudgins and Steve Bergquist  Where:  King County Regional Communications & Emergency Coordination Center (RCECC) 3511 NE 2nd Street, Renton, WA 98056
When:1-3 p.m.

 30th District – Sen. Mark Milosca, Rep. Carol Gregory, Rep. Kochmar
Where:
  Federal Way City Hall, Council Chambers, 33325 8th Ave S,, Federal Way, WA  When: 10 a.m. – 11:30 am Where: Milton City Hall, 1000 Laurel St, Milton, WA When: 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm.

32nd District – Sen. Maralyn Chase and Rep. Cindy Ryu Where: Shoreline Fire Dept. 17525 Aurora Ave. N. Shoreline, WA 98133 When: 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

36th District – Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Reps. Reuven Carlyle and Gael Tarleton Where: Phinney Neighborhood Association, community room, 6532 Phinney Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98103  When: 10 a.m. – noon

37th District – Sen. Pramiia Jayapal, Reps. Tomoko Santos and Eric Pettigrew Where: Rainier Valley Cultural Center—3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118 When 9-11 a.m.

41st District – Sen. Steve Litzow, Rep. Tana Senn, Rep. Judy Clibborn Where: Somerset Elementary School, 14100 Somerset Blvd, Bellevue, WA  When 10 a.m. – 12 noon

43rd District – Sen. Jamie Pedersen, Speaker Frank Chopp and Rep. Brady Walkinshaw Where: Erickson Theater, 1524 Harvard Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122 When:1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

45th District – Sen. Andy Hill, Rep. Roger Goodman, Rep. Larry Springer Where Woodinville High School Auditorium, 19819 – 136th Ave NE, Woodinville, WA When: 10 am – 11:30

48th District- Sen. Cyrus Habib, Reps. Ross Hunter and Joan McBride Where: Redmond City Hall, 15670 NE 85th St., Redmond, WA 98052 When: 10 a.m. – 12 noon

Please attend a town hall meeting this Saturday and urge legislators to pass our priority legislation.  There will be no LAC meeting this Sunday, March 15th because we believe directly talking with Legislators this weekend is the best use of your time.

Washington State Senate Republicans Again Want to Ignore State Constitution

“”The Republicans in the Washington State Senate when the Legislature convenes on Monday will try to bypass the Washington State Constitution calling for majority votes to pass legislation. Two Republicans – Doug Erickson of Bellingham and Mike Baumgartner of Spokane – have announced that they  intend to try to amend Senate Rules to require a 2/3 vote of the Senate to bring any  legislation calling for a tax increase to the floor for a vote. In a great display of hypocrisy, this vote will require by their calculation only a majority of Senators to pass it.

Republicans in the Senate have a 26 to 23 majority but it seems they are not content with even that – wanting to give 1/3 of the sitting Senators veto power over the other 2/3.  Thus a minority of 17 Senators, if this rule change passes, would have veto power over the wishes of 32 Senators – a clear coup of rule by the minority.  As the Spokesman Review’s Jim Camden notes ” This would cover bills with new taxes …, raises in existing taxes and reduction or elimination in tax exemptions, sometimes known as loopholes — unless they had a referendum clause that was sending them to the ballot for voter approval”

This rule would require that any attempt to repeal non performing tax exemptions or reduce the exemption would also need to have a 2/3 vote to come to the senate floor for a vote. In again a  twisted sense of majority rules it would only require a simple majority to pass a tax exemption.  All of the current 650 plus tax exemptions in place only required a majority vote. Yet even if the Legislature through its JLARC review process determined that a specific exemption was not resulting in any benefit to state taxpayers, like increasing state employment and jobs, 1/3 of the members of the Senate could prevent the exemption being cut. This is the power of minority rule – whereby even if a majority wants to eliminate a tax exemption because it is not benefiting the state or meeting state priorities, the minority position wins.

The framers of the US Constitution looked at this issue in the Federalist papers.  Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers No.#22 noted:

“To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser.” …

“…The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority. In those emergencies of a nation, in which the goodness or badness, the weakness or strength of its government, is of the greatest importance, there is commonly a necessity for action. The public business must, in some way or other, go forward. If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority, respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule that of the greater, and give a tone to the national proceedings. Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good. And yet, in such a system, it is even happy when such compromises can take place: for upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or fatally defeated. It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of inaction. Its situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes border upon anarchy.”

Ironic isn’t it that Republicans who profess they want to uphold the Constitution would try to impose rules of legislative action that run opposite of what the framers of the US Constitution felt that government needed to do to be effective.  Majority rules for legislative action must be adhered to in passing legislation, not the imposition of rule by a minority to impose their will on the majority.

The Washington State Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue of majority votes being requires for passing legislation. It has ruled that requiring a supermajority like a 2/3 vote of all legislators is unconstitutional. This latest Republican proposed attempt to circumvent the Washington State Constitution shows the repeated hypocrisy of those that profess the need to adhere to the Constitution, in this case the Washington State Constitution, but repeatedly attempt to come up with ways to bypass it or ignore it to further their personal political agenda.

Voters need to take note of Washington Legislators like Senators Ericksen and Baumgartner who are not willing to abide by the intent and language of the Washington State Constitution and the Washington State Supreme Court and vote them out of office.

2015 Washington State Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.47/hr.

Washington State’s minimum wage will increase 15 cents on January 1, 2015 to $9.47 per hour.  Every year Washington State’s minimum wage increases based on inflation increasing the  Federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) over the last 12 months ending Aug. 31 of each year.  Initiative 688 passed by voters in 1998 was the first state in the nation to add the requirement that the minimum wage each year must be increased based on inflation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures  website has a list of all states and what their minimum wages will be next year. They note that nine states will have an increase based on their state laws requiring they be indexed to inflation. These state are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington. Oregon will have the second highest state minimum wage after Washington State next year at $9.25 per hour.

The current Federal minimum wage is $7.25. Twenty nine states and the District of Columbia next year will have a higher  minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage. Attempts have been made in Congress to raise the Federal minimum  wage which is not indexed to inflation but have been rebuffed by Republicans who have taken the approach to oppose any legislation being pushed by President Obama.

The Federal minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009 – over five and a half years ago. The wage increase was part of passage of the Fair Labor Practices Act.  As the US Department of Labor notes “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.”

President Obama has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Republicans who are more concerned about supporting corporate America than working families  have repeatedly opposed such legislation. President Obama in a direct attempt to circumvent Republican’s negative approach to addressing America’s problems  like income equality hurting those on the bottom of the economic ladder, signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for those working for Federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Climate Change

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee was a featured speaker at the Budget Matters 2014 Conference held Friday December 12, 2014 in Seattle Washington at the Washington State Convention Center. Remy Turpin, the Executive Director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center asked the Governor questions in a conversation on climate and income inequality.

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Remy Turpin and Governor Jay Inslee

Governor Inslee started out by responding as to why he was concerned about climate change and pointed out a number of reasons. One reason Inslee said was personal – it was about what kind of world we were going to leave our grandchildren and this was at risk in fundamental ways. Another reason is about economic passion – how we grow jobs. But he said it was also about health issues caused by pollutants released from burning fossil fuels. He noted that asthma rates are high along heavily traveled roads and industrial sites. Asthma rates statistically go up closer to freeways. Children are particularly vulnerable and Inslee commented on a 14 year old he recently talked with whose friends all had asthma and thought it was normal until realizing that not all children had asthma.

Inslee also noted the impacts of carbon pollution on  increasing ocean acidification and its impacts on sea life. Warming associated with climate change is also increasing health risks by increased forest fires and the resultant air pollution.

Carbon pollution is particularly hard on low income people who live in lower priced homes next to freeways or in or near industrial areas releasing  pollutants from burning carbon based fuels. The current economy while growing is mostly benefiting those at the top and is not working for many working families leaving them more vulnerable.

Asked about what type of legislation he was going to propose to the Washington State Legislature on dealing with carbon pollution, the Governor said that to reduce carbon pollution it was necessary to internalize the cost.  The costs to the environment, peoples’ health and the economy are not currently borne by those making money off of carbon fuels but is passed back to everyone else.  Governor Inslee said there were two main ways to internalize the cost and they were to pass either a carbon pollution tax or a cap and trade system that puts a fixed cost per ton of CO2 produced.

While Inslee did not say which way he was going to propose, he seemed to talk most about the benefits of a cap and trade system. British Columbia has a carbon pollution tax but Australia’s right leaning government earlier this year repealed it’s carbon tax. California three years ago moved forward on implementing its cap and trade system  signed into law by former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Inslee noted that eight New England states participate in a cap and trade system that is legally binding, that is limiting the number of pollution permits and that operate by a market system that auctions the permits. Cap and trade was also successfully used 20 years ago in the east to limit sulfur dioxide from coal burning.

Some 20 European countries also have a cap and trade system. While there has been some controversy over the declining permit costs to emit carbon pollution, the goals that were purposed to be met look like it is working. As noted in a New York Times post by Stig Schjolset:

“…the European Union experience suggests that designed in the right way, in line with the polluter-pays principle and with a strong compliance regime, emissions trading systems will put an effective cap on carbon emissions – a cap that can be gradually tightened as politicians sign up to more ambitious reduction targets.”

Governor Inslee warned that any attempt to put a price tag on carbon pollution would result in a full court press by the carbon extraction industries that are creating the pollution. Inslee said it was time to make ” the polluting industries rather than poor people pay.”  He said the fight would be expensive and like that the tobacco industry launched-  full of nonfactual and untrue statements.  He said the fight has already started  but that this effort will create thousands of jobs and help build infrastructure for repairing highways and education as well as help clean the air we all breathe.