King County in Washington State has about one third of Washington State voters, is strongly Democratic and has typically provides the margin of difference in many state wide races for Democrats. Every two years State, County and Legislative District Democratic organizations reorganize and elect new officers. On Saturday Dec. 6th, 2014 some 840 precinct committees officers elected in the August 2014 Primary are eligible to meet and vote to elect a new Chair for the King County Democrats.
This year there are 3 candidates running for Chair of the King County Democrats – Rich Erwin, Omaha Sternberg and Betsy Walker.
Rich Erwin is a former Chair and Vice-Chair of the 41st LD Democrats, Omaha Sternberg is the current Chair of the 33rd LD Democrats, and Betsy Walker is the current Chair of the King County Young Democrats.
Here is the contact information to learn more about these candidates:
website Rich Erwin for KCDCC Chair
facebook Rich Erwin for KCDCC Chair
facebook Omaha for Chair
facebook Betsy Walker for KCDCC Chair
The 46th LD Democrats on Nov 20th held a forum for the Chair candidates. You can watch the video here:
The reorganization meeting will be held on Dec 6th, 2014, with sign in starting at 8:30 AM and the meeting starting at 9 AM. The meeting will be held at the Aerospace Machinists Union Hall at 9125 15th Pl S in South Seattle. Also to be elected at this meeting are four Vice Chairs, a Secretary, a Treasurer and a male and female Committee member to represent King County on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee.
The main reason voters gave for their voting as they did in the Nov 2014 election was the economy as it affected them. Despite job growth going up and unemployment going down and the stock market going up and GDP increasing, most Americans were not sharing in the economy doing better.
As Steve Rattner points out in a New York Times article entitled “Inequality Unbelievably, Gets Worse” :
“Inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell between 2010 and 2013, with those near the bottom dropping the most. Meanwhile, incomes in the top decile rose.”
Democrats got blamed for the impacts of this growing income inequality in the US. Ironically conservative Republican policies rather than progressive Democratic policies have exacerbated this inequality. Republicans did a better job of blaming people’s economic woes on Obama and deflected their own culpability and contribution in opposing things like repealing tax loopholes on big oil and other profitable corporations and pushing for lowering taxes on the rich.
In charts presented in Rattner’s piece, he notes that because of the US’s relative low tax rate compared to that of other developed countries, less funds are available to help people in need of government assistance. The result is that the US ranks at the top as having the most inequality. Rattner says:
“That’s because our taxes, while progressive, are low by international standards and our social welfare programs — ranging from unemployment benefits to disability insurance to retirement payments — are consequently less generous.
Conservatives may bemoan the size of our government; in reality, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, total tax revenues in the United States this year will be smaller on a relative basis than those of any other member country.”
Democrats unfortunately did not talk about what they and Obama had been doing to help working families despite Republican opposition. Again Rattner noted:
To his credit, President Obama has succeeded in keeping income disparities from growing even wider, by such measures as by forcing tax rates on the wealthiest Americans up toward fair levels.Meanwhile, on the programmatic side, among the many meritorious aspects of the much-maligned Affordable Care Act are its redistributionist elements: higher taxes on investment income and some health care businesses are being used to provide low-cost or free health care to a projected 26 million Americans near the bottom of the income scale.
Democrat Jason Ritchie is running in Washington’s 8th Congressional District against incumbent Republican Dave Reichert. Washington state’s 10 congressional districts are currently held by 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Picking up an additional Democratic Congressional seat would help in the Democrat’s national effort to take back the US House of Representatives from the Republicans. Considering that President Obama won the 8th Congressional District when he ran for re-election in 2012 makes a Democratic pickup possible. The 8th CD is one of only 17 CD’s nationally where Obama won and a Republican Representative won.
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Democratic Representative Cyrus Habib announced today that he was going to run for the State Senate seat in the 48th LD in east King County. Candidate Joan McBride, former Mayor of Kirkland, announced that she was dropping her bid for Senate and would run for Habib’s House seat.
Joan McBride was the lone Democrat to challenge Senator Rodney Tom in the 48th LD. Rodney Tom, while professing to be a Democrat, bolted the Democratic Party two years ago when he aligned himself with the Republicans in the State Senate. This Legislative session he was the so-called Majority Leader as a result of joining with another Democrat professing to also be a Democrat – Tim Sheldon of the 35th LD, and aligning themselves with the minority 24 Republicans to be part of a “Majority Coalition”.
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Non-presidential election years like 2014 can be tough for Democrats who have tended to do better in years when more voters turn out. Will 2014 be better? A lot is at stake for Democrats on the national level with the Republicans pushing to take over the US Senate and keep control of the House. The New York Times published a 2014 Senate Landscape Analysis on 3/2/2014 breaking down the upcoming Senate races.
Senators serve for six years. The current makeup of the US Senate is 53 Democrats and 2 Independents who vote with them, and 45 Republicans. Republicans need 6 more Senators to get the majority and flip the Senate. The New York Times analysis shows 34 continuing Democrats and 30 continuing Republicans. Of the seats up for election in 2014 they count 6 solid Democratic seats and 5 leaning Democratic. They count 12 solid Republican seats and 1 leaning Republican. And in the middle there are 12 states that could “flip” and go either way.
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The Tax Exemption Transparency and Accountability Act has been filed as bills in both the House and Senate in the Washington State Legislature. The prime sponsor of the House bill, HB 2721 is Representative Gerry Pollet. A total of 17 Legislators have signed onto the bill when it was dropped. The prime sponsor of the Senate bill SB 6477 is Senator Maralyn Chase. Eight Senators had signed onto the bill when it was dropped.
`Tim Eyman is trying to convince voters that Washington State needs a constitutional amendment to allow 1/3 of the Legislators to decide issues regarding raising revenues in Washington state. He has filed Initiative 1325 to try to force the legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot by a coercive tactic of proposing to cut the state component of the state sales tax by 15% if they don’t. Eyman calls it a 2/3 vote measure but the reality is that it allows 1/3 of the Legislators to make budget decisions on raising revenue rather than a majority.
Eyman’s attempt to enact his 1/3 constitutional amendment is a repeat of the recent Republican extortionist proposal regarding raising the debt limit in Congress by shutting down government. The 15% cut under Eyman’s measure if the Legislature doesn’t play by his rules would occur by reducing the current 6.5% state sales tax to 5.5%. This would equal over a billion dollars a year. Of course to Eyman the one billion dollars has no significance, it is merely a tool to try to use as extortion to promote his libertarian view that taxes and government can do no good and the more we cut them the better.
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Nation of Change in a post entitled Democrats Swipe Right Wing ‘Soundbite Magic’ offers the following as what Democrats will talk about in 2014:
“Democrats will bang the drum this year: 1) to keep government open, 2) raise the minimum wage (with midterm ballot propositions), 3) keep unemployment insurance going, however marginal, 4) defend to the death the sanctity of Medicare and Social Security, 5) urge immigration reform overdo for decades, and 6) take pot shots at the open Citizens United spigot. Most will gingerly endorse climate change and gay rights. This campaign only has to be bold enough to dramatize the rightwing contradiction of spending billions to get elected to government, then methodically gumming up the works to prove that government is the enemy.”
Left out is the relationship between the economy and jobs and income inequality. Andy Stern, speaking at Town Hall in Seattle on January 7, 2014 in a talk entitles “Innovation and the Future of Labor” presented a much more complex dialogue that is emerging and that progressives are talking about. What’s happening is that the “economy” is growing but growth in jobs and wages are not. The issue is not just raising the minimum wage, which is important, but in ensuring that all Americans share in the economic growth, not just the top 1% or 2%.
Stern noted that 11 million jobs were lost since 2008 and only 8 to 9 million have come back. And while GDP has gone up by 50% and profits have gone up 70%, wages have gone up only 4%. The profits have gone to the very wealthy at the top, not to the average wage earner. Since the recession started low wage jobs increased from 24% to a majority now.
Many factors have contributed to this but one Stern spent time discussing was the continued increase in the use of robots. The real emerging issue here is as there is less and less need for human labor how do you provide economic support to the masses of people who really can’t find work through no fault of their own. It is not because they are lazy and want to leech off the employed. Our nation is undergoing a real transition in the nature and composition of its workforce and citizens economic livelihood as a result.
Republicans are not addressing these issues at all, falling back on outdated moral righteousness outrage and blaming government overspending and placing blame for issues like unemployment on the victims. Democrats, while increasingly concerned about the profound changes occurring, need to also update their basic understanding of what is happening and work for solutions to address the new economic reality facing our society.
It is a challenge for all of us but we need to start finding solutions soon. Our economic reality of increased joblessness, decreased wages for most Americans despite economic growth, drastically growing income inequality, increased pressures on many citizens ability to meet basic human needs, and the loss of real opportunity and equality for most citizens to better their economic security is increasingly affecting the future of our nation and its citizens.
Democratic Senator Adam Kline of the 37th LD has announced that he will not re-run this year for the Washington State legislative seat he has held for many years. He has been a staunch advocate on many progressive issues and will be missed. In particular, unlike many other Legislators, he was willing to publicly oppose Tim Eyman’s many attempts to be Grover Norquist’s surrogate in Washington State. Eyman would repeatedly say government was wasting money and pushed initiatives to gut government funding by opposing taxes of any kind. Kline demanded Eyman publicly say what programs he thought should be cut and Eyman never responded, choosing instead to hide behind empty libertarian anti-tax rhetoric.
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Tax Sanity has been busy drafting legislation to create a tax expenditure budget bill to increase transparency and accountability over Washington State’s ever growing tax exemptions. The most recent special legislative session saw the Governor and the State Legislature push for additional tax breaks for Boeing, creating the largest state corporate tax break in the nation. As Reuters reported, “The Washington state legislature … passed a measure to extend nearly $9 billion in tax breaks for Boeing through 2040 in an embattled effort to entice the company to locate production of its newest jet, the 777X, in the Seattle area.” And even it may not be enough to keep Boeing here as now a race to the bottom is occurring as other states compete to try to lure Boeing to their state.
Tax Sanity believes the continued push to create more and more tax exemptions is out of control. There needs to be more accountability for results and more transparency in who is benefiting and who is losing. They propose doing this by requiring the legislature to create a tax expenditure budget detailing all the exemptions, their cost and who they benefit that the legislature has to adopt every two years as part of the general appropriations budget or exemption will expire.
Their latest draft which they are urging legislators to adopt has also been filed as an initiative to the legislature. Initiative 626 has just received the following ballot title and summary:
Initiative Measure No. 626 concerns taxes.
This measure would require new and existing discretionary tax preferences to be authorized every two years in a tax expenditure budget and repeal requirements for advisory votes of the people on tax increases.
Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]
Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would require the legislature to approve new and existing discretionary tax preferences every two years, in a tax expenditure budget detailing the fiscal impact and purpose of each tax preference. The tax expenditure budget would be included in the biennial omnibus operating appropriations act. Tax preferences not included in the tax exemption budget would expire at the end of the fiscal year. The measure would repeal requirements for advisory votes on tax increases.
Washington State currently has over 650 tax exemptions. While some are required by our State Constitution or the US Constitution or by Federal law, the discretionary ones still number over 400. They are usually described as either an exemption, exclusion or deduction from the base of a tax; a credit against a tax; a deferral of a tax or a preferential tax rate. They are all off budget spending that once granted almost never is rescinded. Only 10% of them have sunset dates. They represent expenditures of tax dollars which if not exempted from collection would be available as state revenue to fund critical state needs like education or health care.
The magnitude of the situation is not clear to the general public. Yet last year the Washington State Department of Revenue in its once every four year report on tax exemptions listing the discretionary tax exemptions points out why they are more appropriately called tax expenditures. This is what most other states call them. They are revenue that is not collected from some taxpayers but is collected from others. They noted that while we collected some $6.5 billion in B&O tax revenue in the last biennium, we did not collect but “exempted” some $7.5 billion. We collected less than half the B&O tax revenue available if every business paid the same.
When the sales and use tax collection was added to the B&O tax collection, essentially the same net result occurred. The state collected some $21 billion in revenue but excluded $20 billion from collection. Tax exemptions continue to grow with the Legislature adding another 15 in the 2012 session.
The process is out of control. This is why Tax Sanity is urging the state legislature to let the public know the extent to which they are supporting tax expenditures, who is benefiting and how much they are receiving. No future legislature is bound by the actions of past legislatures. Legislators have a responsibility to use tax dollars wisely, including being judicious and wise in giving out tax breaks. The Legislature needs to be held accountable for the current out of control use of tax exemptions to benefit special interests and business while cutting public services like education and health care. Requiring them to adopt a tax expenditure budget every 2 years as part of the regular operating appropriations budget and end the shifting of state revenue to off budget spending that lacks accountability and transparency.
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