Tag Archives: Republicans

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.

Most Americans Don’t Share in Growing Economy

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.

Koch Brothers Enter Washington State Governor’s Race

The infamous Koch Brothers have entered the 2012 Washington State Governor’s race.  Surprise – they are supporting Republican Rob McKenna. McKenna is running against former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee.

On Thursday, October 18, 2012, Americans for Prosperity, based in Arlington filed a C6 with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission that they were spending $27, 985 on a radio ad supporting Rob McKenna.

Americans for Prosperity  was founded by the oilmen Koch Brothers –  David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch, both of Koch Industries.

Wikipedia notes that:

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is an American conservative political advocacy group headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. AFP’s stated mission is “educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process.” The group played a major role in the Republicans’ 2010 takeover of the House of Representatives, and has been called “one of the most powerful conservative organizations in electoral politics.”

Sourcewatch writes that:

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a group fronting special interests started by oil billionaire David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries). AFP has been accused of funding astroturf operations but also has been fueling the “Tea Party” efforts.  AFP’s messages are in sync with those of other groups funded by the Koch Family Foundations and the Koch’s other special interest groups that work against progressive or Democratic initiatives and protections for workers and the environment. Accordingly, AFP opposes labor unions, health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create. AFP was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s “green jobs” czar, Van Jones, and has crusaded against international climate talks.

So far the spending by Americans for Prosperity is small potatoes in this state but this could quickly change. Kirby Wilbur, the Washington State  Republican Party Chair, was the state coordinator for Americans for Prosperity in 2010 and they successfully dumped money into last minute mailers against Democratic legislators who did not have sufficient time to respond to the last minute mailers. They are spending lots of money nationally and are doing it without disclosing their donors. This needs to change in disclosure laws.

As the Guardian in a just released articles states:

Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-aligned group part-funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, is building a state-of-the-art digital ground operation in Ohio and other vital battleground states to spread its anti-Obama message to voters who could decide the outcome of the presidential election.

The group hopes that by creating a local army of activists equipped with sophisticated online micro-targeting tools it will increase its impact on moderate voters, nudging them towards a staunchly conservative position opposed to President Obama’s economic and healthcare policies. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is spending tens of millions of dollars developing its local strategy, already employing more than 200 permanent staff in 32 states. …

AFP has already spent $30m so far this election cycle in opposing President Obama and other prominent Democratic candidates and their policies. It says it aims to reach up to 9 million targeted voters in crucial swing states, through the efforts of its 2 million activists.


Republicans’ True Colors Emerge to Expose Their Relentless Agenda Against Women.

Sometimes the unexpected happens in campaigns to change everything and it happened this week in Missouri. Republican Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, running against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, spoke out about his beliefs on rape and abortion and shocked even his own party by his outspokenness. The result threatens Republicans up and down the ticket.

As reported by CNN on Sunday, Rep Akin :

Answering a question about whether or not he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape, Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed bodily responses he said prevented pregnancy.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said of rape-induced pregnancy in an interview with KTVI. A clip of the interview was posted online by the liberal super PAC American Bridge.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin continued. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted “legitimate rape.”

He added: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

The Republican response was seemingly to denounce Akin’s comments. As the Washington Post reported on Monday:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the entire GOP national political apparatus launched a swift and relentless crusade against one of their own Monday, seeking to drive Rep. Todd Akin out of the U.S. Senate race in Missouri after his controversial comments on rape and pregnancy threatened the party with widespread political harm.

But the reality of the situation is that Akin’scomments are mainstream Republican these days. And Romney’s running mate illustrates the hypocrisy. While asking Akin to leave the Senate race, the truth is that Ryan  is a Republican ally to Akin in  attempts to oppose all abortion. As noted in a New York Times editorial entitled “New Frontiers of Extremism”:

Mr. Ryan has said he doesn’t believe in a rape exception when outlawing abortion, and he worked with Mr. Akin in the House in trying to narrow the definition of rape so Medicaid would pay for fewer abortions of poor women. Mitt Romney says he supports a rape exception, but many of the politicians he has invited to speak at next week’s Republican convention disagree with him.

And the Republican Party as a whole supports this position and has for years, based on the Party platform. As noted on the Huffington Post:

Draft language for the 2012 Republican Party platform includes support for a constitutional ban on abortion without specifying exclusions in the cases of rape or incest, according to CNN.

One issue that seems left out of most of this current discussion is if the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. While Romney is saying he does not support Akin,  an article in New York Times today again raises a question as to what he believes:

Mr. Romney’s views align with that of the Mormon Church, which opposes abortion except in cases of rape and incest or when the life of the woman is in danger. He has said he is personally opposed to abortion; as a Mormon bishop in the 1980s he attempted to talk a congregant out of terminating a pregnancy after doctors advised her to do so because of a potentially lethal blood clot.

Romney has changed his views repeatedly on issues like abortion.  The real question is which Romney would show up as President. The above quote indicates that by trying to persuade a woman to not terminate a pregnancy he was seemingly not even consistent with his professed Mormon beliefs. What is one to believe regarding Romney and the Republicans these days. The best guide is perhaps to look at their history and as the same article notes:

… as a legislator, Mr. Akin has a record on abortion that is largely indistinguishable from those of most of his Republican House colleagues, who have viewed restricting abortion rights as one of their top priorities. …

It is an agenda that has enjoyed the support of House leaders, including Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who has called anti-abortion measures “obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our pledge to America.”

If you believe that rape, incest or circumstances that threaten the life of a woman should be grounds for terminating a pregnancy, it would be a mistake to vote for putting Republicans in power. They are hell bent to restrict and end abortion for women no matter what the circumstances.

The same New York Times article also had the following which sums it up very well:

“All you need to know is that the House Republicans were willing to shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, in an e-mail on Tuesday. “This is in keeping with their efforts — whether it’s Congressman Akin or Chairman Ryan or others — to deny investments in critical women’s health services, weaken the definition of rape, and take away access to preventive care like cervical and breast cancer screenings.”

Eric Cantor and Republican Revisionist History

Republicans are great at continually revising history to fit their myth making. A prime example is their constantly using Ronald Reagan as the Great Tax Cutter. What is left out is that Reagan also raised taxes a number of times.

Widely circulated right now is the video of the  60 Minutes interview this last weekend with House Republican and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. When Leslie Stahl asks him about Reagan also being a compromiser and having raised taxes, Cantor falters as his press secretary off screen yells that’s not true.

One wonders where Cantor’s press secretary got his education. And Cantor seems to feel no need to be more responsive or truthful.  It’s a prime example of right wing dogma trying to deny historical reality and rewrite history. 60 Minutes did the public a service by not editing out the press secretary’s comments but making them part of the story.

Here is the interview on Crooks and Liar’s entitled Eric Cantor’s Press Secretary Interrupts 60 Min to Claim Reagan Never Raised Taxes. It includes a a video clip of the exchange with Leslie Stahl, Eric Cantor and Cantor’s press secretary and a clip of Reagan noting the need to compromise.as a reason he raised taxes.

Crooks and Liars in fact goes further than 60 Minutes

“As has been noted here at C&L, the Republican myth about Ronald Reagan being unwilling to raise taxes is just not true. Heaven forbid, Reagan raising taxes 11 times, not just several as the 60 Minutes report stated, might get in the way of their talking points about St. Ronnie.”

The Raw Story carried the story in a post entitledCantor refuses to admit Reagan raised taxes”   They note that:

After his huge tax cut in 1981 slashed all tax rates to 23 percent, sparking a   budget crisis, Reagan realized he’d also have to raise taxes in the years that followed. He raised taxes four times between 1982 to 1984, increasing the payroll tax, broadening the base of Social Security payees, applying the income tax to higher earners and rolling back corporate and individual tax breaks.

Reagan’s historic tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, whose rate went from 70 percent to 28 percent during his administration, ultimately forced the president to raise taxes on more people than any other U.S. president during a time of peace, according to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

In total, Reagan raised taxes 12 times during his two terms in office.”

Republicans seem to have no limits these days to telling stories and making up history. It is important for the media to help sort out the myth making and revisionist history from the historical reality.  And voters need to realize that a lot of what is said by Republicans these days is just campaign talk and not true.


What Congressman Inslee Thinks about the Republican Plan to Privatize Medicare

Congressman Jay Inslee thinks the Republican plan to privatize Medicare is a bad idea. The Republican proposal by Republican Congressman Ryan would basically shift the burden of paying for Medicare from the nonprofit public sector onto seniors. The costs would increase dramatically over time to seniors as the voucher proposal is static and would not increase over time.

In addition as medical costs increase, seniors would be asked to pay these increased costs as well as salary increases for private health care administrators, financial returns to investors and shareholders and rising costs due to inflation.

As noted in a recent press release from the Center for Economic and Policy Research:

“The Ryan plan does nothing to control private-sector waste in health care costs,” said David Rosnick, an author of the report. “As a result of the waste in the private system, beneficiaries will end up paying substantially more for Medicare, in effect paying a hefty new tax on their health care.”
The report, “Representative Ryan’s $30 Trillion Medicare Waste Tax, documents the potential effects of replacing Medicare with a system of vouchers or premium supports and raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 as suggested in the Ryan plan, which was passed by the House of Representatives with almost unanimous support from Republicans and no votes from Democrats. The authors note that each voucher under the plan will initially be worth $6,600, but would be frozen at this amount over the program’s 75-year planning window, paying less and less of a beneficiary’s health care costs over time.
In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the Ryan plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while Ryan shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected based on the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis”.

The following is an email sent out by Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee stating how he feels about this Republican plan and urges you to sign a petition opposing this blatant effort to end Medicare as we know it and shift the costs unto seniors instead:


Lesson number one for any elected official worth their salt is that you can’t outrun the public record. But that’s exactly what many members of the GOP are trying to do. As public opposition to their Medicare privatization plan mounts, they’re doing everything they can to run away — despite overwhelmingly supporting it in the House as part of Rep. Paul Ryan’s extremist budget.Here’s the truth: Rep. Ryan’s budget plan ends Medicare as we know it. It forces seniors into the private insurance market where they’ll pay far more and get far less.The good news is our efforts to show how much people oppose their privatization scheme are having an effect. The privatizers are on the defensive, and if we can keep the pressure on, we stand a good chance of stopping this in the Senate when it comes to a vote next week.Join me and thousands of others who are already speaking out — urge the Senate to oppose this Medicare privatization scheme!Supporters of this plan have made a big show of claiming that it will bring costs down, but they’re not being honest. It doesn’t bring medical costs down — it just shifts them onto the backs of America’s seniors.No one is trying to hide from the fact that we need to seek out creative and comprehensive solutions to fix our long-term deficit. But trying to do that by telling Americans who’ve paid for Medicare throughout their careers that they’re on their own is unfair and wrong.We can win and protect Medicare, but to do it we need everyone who supports preserving this program to stand up and fight back. Can you help?Urge the Senate to oppose this Medicare privatization scheme!Thanks so much for your help.Very truly yours,Jay Inslee      

Tell the Senate: Oppose Medicare Privatization

Tea Party Hypocrites; says abc News report

Tea Party members in Congress are ranting against government expenditures while collecting money from the government. Judge them by their actions, not their talk.

As abc NEWS notes in an article entitled “Tea Party Hypocrisy? Some Lawmakers With Tea Party Ties Are on the Government Dole” (You can also access a video by first clicking on this link):

The Tea Party swept into the 112th Congress with promises of cutting government spending. But according to a report out today, at least five lawmakers with Tea Party connections have been longtime recipients of federal agricultural subsidies.

“There’s nothing too surprising about hypocrisy in Washington,” Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, told ABC News. “This particular group, you not only have to look at the hypocrisy but you need to watch your wallet.”

While the majority of American farmers receive no government money at all, at least 23 current members of congress or their families have received government money for their farms — combining for more than $12 million since 1995 according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.

The abc NEWS analysis notes that since 1995 23 current members of Congress, mostly Republicans or their families, have collected some $12,671,166.

Farm subsidies in 2009 totaled some $16.3 billion. Since 1995 some $246.7 billion dollars has been given out for farm subsidies.

“Self described Tea Party Patriot” and Republican Stephen  Fincher of Tennessee received $3,254,324 since 1995.

Republican  Representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri received $774,489.

Republican Representative Mark Stutzman of Indiana received $180,000 since 1997.

You can read the summary of the Environmental Working Groups report by clicking here:
Government’s Continued Bailout of Corporate Agriculture.

You can access the list of who received farm subsidies by clicking here:
Total USDA Subsidies in United States 1995-2009

Republicans Propose to Cut Programs for Pregnant Women, Children, the Disabled and Blind to Pay for the Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Republicans in the US House have come up with their budget cutting ideas and guess who and what loses out? Not the rich or wealthy or corporations but pregnant women and children, childhood immunizations, assistance for blind and disabled children, legal aid for the poor, family planning,  National Public Radio and public television, police hiring grants, job training grants, community health centers, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republicans, in December, held out for and got an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. As CNN Money reported this came to $81.5 billion over 2 years. No offsetting spending reduction occurred elsewhere and now the bill starts coming due. Republicans in the House of Representatives have come up with a proposal to cut some $74 billion from the current budget.

So just who do they propose should give up the revenue lost by extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy? None other than the people least able to help themselves in our down economy and who most need help. According to the Washington Post, the Republicans say this is necessary to create jobs.

Yet as has debated and documented, giving tax breaks to the wealthy does not stimulate the economy anywhere near what directly providing assistance to people out of work does. People with little or no money spend what they get right away and it goes into the economy. The wealthy have been shown not to spend the extra money they get.

As reported by Bloomberg.com news “rich Americans save their tax cuts instead of spending”:

Give the wealthiest Americans a tax cut and history suggests they will save the money rather than spend it.

Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under President George W Bush were followed by increases in the saving rate among the rich, according to data from Moody’s Analytics Inc. When taxes were raised under Bill Clinton, the saving rate fell.

So much for the benefits of a tax cut for the wealthy. Here’s some more details on what the Republicans want to cut to pay for the tax cut for the wealthy according to the Washington Post:

House Republicans sketched their vision for a smaller federal government Wednesday, proposing sharp spending cuts that would wipe out family planning programs, take 4,500 cops off the street and slice 10 percent from a food program that aids pregnant women and their babies.

Top White House priorities also would come under the knife: Key Republicans are proposing to defund President Obama’s high speed rail initiative, slash clean energy programs and gut the Office of Science by 20 percent – cuts that would deal a direct blow to Obama’s innovation agenda. They would also cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 17 percent.

Here are some more specific cuts attributed to the Associated Press in a Seattle Times article today.

GOP plan

Budget proposals released Wednesday by House Republicans:

Program eliminations:
AmeriCorps $373 million in 2010 budget
Police hiring grants $298 million
High-speed rail $1 billion
Family planning $317 million
Corporation for Public Broadcasting $531 million

Food aid to pregnant women and their children $407 million cut, or 6 percent
NASA $103 million, 1 percent
Environmental Protection Agency $1.9 billion, 18 percent
IRS $106 million, 1 percent
Legal aid for the poor $60 million, 14 percent
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention $894 million, 13 percent
Food and Drug Administration $61 million, 3 percent
Community Development Fund $600 million, 13 percent
Agricultural research $246 million, 10 percent

Washington State Minimum Wage Increases January 1, 2011

Washington State’s minimum wage continues to lead the nation. On January 1, 2011 it will increase 12 cents per hour to $8.67 per hour. As reported by Rachael La Corte in today’s Seattle Times, an attempt by business interests in Washington State to challenge the 12 cent increase was rejected by a Kittitas County Judge after a motion for summary judgement to prevent it going into effect on Saturday. The lawsuit still remains active according to the article.

Groups challenging the minimum wage increase included the Washington Restaurant Association, the Washington Farm Bureau and the Washington Retail Association.

According to the article:

A Seattle-based lawyer for Justice for Immigrant Workers said the increase is “a big deal for a lot of people.”
“That 12-cent raise goes further than you think,” Rebecca Smith said. “It’s going to make a difference of a few dollars a week — but a few dollars a week buys an extra loaf of bread, another gallon of milk or a gallon of gas.”
The agency’s decision in October to raise the rate came after conflicting legal opinions from the state attorney general and the authors of the 1998 voter initiative that tied the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index.

The current Federal minimum wage is only $7.25 and has no consumer inflation index adjustment which means that each time inflation goes up nationally, jobs tied to the federal minimum wage see decreased purchasing power for the hours worked.  Republicans have consistently opposed Federal minimum wage increases while Democrats have supported them.

Ten states have minimum wages that adjust to index them to inflation.  Washington State was the first state to enact legislation to automatically raise the minimum wage based on increases in the consumer price index.  The voters enacted the current law by passing Initiative 688 in 1998.

As noted on the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries website:

Initiative 688, approved by Washington voters in 1998, requires L&I to make a cost-of-living adjustment to its minimum wage each year based on the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). This measures the average change in prices on a fixed group of goods and services such as food, shelter, medical care, transportation and other goods and services people purchase for day-to-day living. L&I recalculates the state’s minimum wage in September, and it takes effect the following year on January 1.

The minimum wage in Washington State was $8.55 in 2009 and stayed the same in 2010 because of a decrease in inflation.  The minimum wage will increase to $8.67 on Jan 1, 2011.  It will be the highest in the nation.

In this year’s Senate election in Washington State, Republican Dino Rossi, supported lowering the minimum wage. Other Republicans this year publicly supported lowering the minimum wage. Amanda Getchel notes that:

Republican candidates Joe Miller of Alaska, John Raese of West Virginia, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Linda McMahon of Connecticut have all called for reducing the minimum wage with Raese flat out saying it should be eliminated.

Only Rand Paul was elected by the voters.

The current Federal minimum wage law was passed in 2007. Washington State Republicans Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings joined with  other Republicans nationally to oppose the bill. All 233 Democrats in the House at the time joined with 82 Republicans to support the legislation. 116 Republicans in the House voted no. They include 9 of the incoming 12 members of the House leadership.

Of the members of the incoming House leadership,

Speaker of the House: Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)- VOTED NO

Majority Leader: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) – VOTED NO

Majority Whip: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – VOTED NO

Conference Chairman: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) – VOTED NO

NRCC Chairman: Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) – VOTED NO

Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) – VOTED NO

Conference Vice-Chair: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – VOTED NO

Conference Secretary: Rep. John Carter (R-TX) – VOTED NO

Freshman Representative: Rep.-elect Kristi Noem (R-SD) – NOT IN CONGRESS AT TIME

Freshman Representative: Rep.-elect Tim Scott (R-SC) – NOT IN CONGRESS AT TIME

Rules Committee Representative: Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) – VOTED NO

Chairman of the Leadership: Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) – VOTED YES

Nine of the 12 House Leadership members voted no to raise the minimum wage. Two other members of the incoming House leadership were not in Congress at the time. Only Greg Walden voted NO – Oregon voters previously passed an initiative to index their minimum wage to inflation. Oregon’s minimum wage is near the top in the country.

Prospects for any Federal increase in the minimum wage in the near future looks difficult as long as Republicans control the House.

As noted in a separate article in the Seattle Times seven states will see an increase in their minimum wage in 2011.

Poverty advocates say the rising minimum wages shouldn’t be seen as raises, just adjustments to keep the working poor at the same level as prices of goods rise.
The National Employment Law Project, a New York-based advocate for workers, estimates that about 647,000 people will see their paychecks go up in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Three other states with their minimum wage indexed to inflation did not see enough of an increase to see a rise in their minimum wage – Florida, Nevada and Missouri.

In the near term any increase in the minimum wage will probably have to take place at the state level. In previous initiative efforts to raise the minimum wage in Washington State voters have strongly supported raising the minimum wage. Initiative 688 in 1998 was approved by Washington voters by a 66% yes vote. A previous vote to raise the minimum wage in 1988, Initiative 518, passed with a 77% yes vote. It was not indexed to inflation.