Currently viewing the tag: "Washington State"

Washington state’s tax system is broken. We have pressing state needs but do not fairly collect  revenue to adequately fund needed state public services like education and health care. We rank in the bottom third of states in raising revenue.  The Department of Revenue in January 2013 stated:

Washington ranked 36th from the top in state and local taxes paid per $1,000 of personal income in 2010, according to Census Bureau data published by the Washington State Department of Revenue.

At the same time we are ranked by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy as having the most regressive tax system in the country.

Washington State, which does not have an income tax, is the highest-tax state in the country for poor people. In fact, when all state and local sales, excise and property taxes are tallied up, Washington’s poor families pay 16.9 percent of their total income in state and local taxes.

Meanwhile the top 1% pay only 2.8% of their income in state and local taxes. This is a terribly unfair tax system that has shifted taxes onto those least able to pay.

Don Smith and I co-authored a MoveOn.org petition calling for the Washington State Legislature and Governor Inslee to pass legislation and funding to create a new Tax Reform Commission to study and recommend ways to fix our broken tax system.

We ask that you show your support for a new Tax Study Commission and the need for reforming our tax system by signing our petition. Add your name to the 3800 people  have already signed. Thanks.

Click on the headline directly below to sign the petition.

Let’s fix our unfair tax system in Washington State

Washington State has one of the most regressive tax systems in the country. In order to fix our broken, upside-down tax system, we first need to educate the public about the facts. But neither Governor Inslee nor the state legislators are making significant effort towards educating the public about why we need progressive taxation. We ask Governor Inslee to appoint a high level commission to evaluate our regressive tax system and propose changes that would allow the state to adequately fund education, social services and other essential needs. The commission should hold hearings throughout the state, solicit input from the public, and publicize its findings widely. We also call on Governor Inslee and the Democratic leadership to make speeches, publish essays, and hold public forums for discussion of this central issue.

Petition Background

In Washington State, the middle class and poor pay a higher percentage of their income in state taxes than do the rich, due to a reliance on the regressive sales tax to fund state government.

Even the Business and Occupation tax is regressive: it taxes revenue, not profit, and so it favors profitable corporations over struggling small businesses.

Another cause of unfairness is the existence of tax loopholes for certain wealthy corporations.

In fact, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the nation. The poorest 20% of non-elderly Washingtonians pay 17% of their income in state taxes; the richest 1% pay under 3% of their income in state taxes. (Source: http://www.itep.org/pdf/wa.pdf .)

The state desperately needs a reliable source of funds to pay for education pursuant to the State Supreme Court decision in the McCleary case, which declares that the legislature is underfunding K-12 education.

Additionally, in recent years the state has had to slash funding for social services and for higher education, causing real suffering among vulnerable people, threatening our prosperity and safety, and drastically raising the cost of a college education.

Voters in 2010 rejected I-1098, the initiative to establish a high earners’ income tax in Washington State. Most voters were voting against their own self-interest, because only the richest 2% of citizens would have seen their taxes rise.

But up until now, only a few advocacy groups have spoken up about this issue. Our political leaders should make the effort to educate the public about all the ways we need government and about progressive taxation. In other words, our political leaders should actually lead and not just follow.

The proposed high level commission, hearings, speeches and essays will help move the state towards a sustainable and equitable funding model.

For discussion of this effort, please visit:

http://fairtaxesnow.us/

https://groups.google.com/d/forum/wafairtaxes

To see the list of signers and their comments, please visit: http://waliberals.org/WATaxFixers.html

Initiative 517 is a Tim Eyman initiative that is on the November 2013 ballot in Washington State.  It is a measure to promote Tim Eyman’s  business – which is making a living off of putting conservative libertarian measures on the ballot.  In this case Eyman wants to create a 25 foot signature gathering zone around petitioners where people can not speak out and oppose his business. It is a direct infringement on the free speech rights of citizens, violating the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.

Jason Mercier of the conservative “free market” Washington Policy Center writes about Initiative 517 in today’s Thedailyworld.com under a headline of “Heavy hitters line up against I-517“. Mercier in his opinion piece brushes aside some of the concerns about Eyman’s self serving initiative as non-controversial.  That is not the reality.

This measure is not as uncontroversial as Jason Mercier suggests. One of Eyman’s provisions is to create a 25 foot no harassment zone around signature gatherers.  There are already penalties for harassment that work just fine. I-517 tries to go much further by shutting down free speech activities around petition gatherers.

Eyman’s measure infringes on 1st amendment rights by setting up a 25 zone around petitioners saying that certain activity can result in disorderly conduct charges including activity that is “…intimidating, or maintaining an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures”.  To most petitioners someone standing 5 feet away and carrying a sign saying “do not sign this measure” or merely saying out loud that citizens should read the measure before signing it causes petitioners to say they are being harassed.

This measure is an attempt to shut down public discourse and dialogue in  public places and silence those opposing Eyman’s measures.  This violates 1st amendment free speech rights and goes too far.  Eyman wants a free pass to collect signatures without anyone questioning him.  Trying to silence those that dissent peacefully with others is what you would expect in a totalitarian society, but not in America.

We will publish more of our concerns about Initiative 517 over the next few months but believe it goes too far.  The public strongly supply the initiative process in Washington State and it has been used by both right and left leaning groups in pushing Washington policy and law. But there is a balancing act necessary to protect rights of both supporters and opponents of specific initiative measures in the public arena.

Initiative 517 is a “solution” looking for a problem and there isn’t one in this case. Eyman has not had a problem getting initiatives on the ballot and neither have others, especially if they have money. This measure would make it easier for Eyman to get more of his measures on the ballot and that is why he is pushing it.

For progressives thinking this will make it easier for them to get measures on the ballot, the downside is that they will also have to spend more time fighting more conservative measures put on the ballot by Eyman, including those at the local level. It’s already hard enough to fight an Eyman measure year after year.  Think what it will be like with two or three Eyman measures on the ballot each year and 4 or 5 others at the same time at the local level.

We elect a Legislature to do the people’s business after public hearings and review.  While initiatives are a healthy outlet  for the public to act when the legislature doesn’t, running our state more and more by initiative puts the process of making our state laws up for sale to the highest bidder.

Unfortunately the highest bidder is usually corporate and special interests that can afford to spend millions to get their message out to the voting public.

 

 


									

On Monday two Washington State Senators elected as Democrats  became Turncoats and turned control of the Washington State Senate over to the elected Republican minority. So much for party loyalty and adhering to the supposed principles and beliefs they ran on. The print edition of the Seattle Times headline says it all – “Senate power shifts into GOP hands“.  The two Democrats who bolted the Democratic Party are Rodney Tom of the 48th LD in Medina and Tim Sheldon from Mason County.

Yesterday culminated a month long process that was already in play and not a surprise. Calling themselves the Majority Coalition Caucus is a joke.  The GOP heavy “coalition” is comprised of the 23 Senators actually elected as Republicans and two Senators elected as Democrats but who have now joined with the Republicans to run the Senate.  This shift gave the new “majority” a 25/24 vote margin and the ability to take over.

Rodney Tom was originally a Republican who switched it appears now mostly in name only to the Democrats when he ran last time. Tom and Sheldon both benefited heavily personally in this power switch with Tom becoming the new “majority” leader and Sheldon the president pro tempore. Both Tom and Sheldon were involved in a similar power shift at the end of last year’s budget process in the Legislature.

Rodney Tom is up for election in two years and the Democrats in the 48th LD last week passed a resolution condemning Tom for his actions:

The following resolution was adopted by the 48th Legislative District Democrats by a vote of 30-8, including Senator Tom’s vote against.

–Phil Kouse, 2013-2014 Chair

State Senate Leadership Rightfully Belongs
to the Elected Democratic Majority

Whereas

the 48th District Democrats, according to our bylaws, exist “to contribute to the growth, development and influence of the Democratic Party” and to “support … those candidates who, by their records and reputations, are in general agreement with the [party] platform;” and

Whereas

State Senator Rodney Tom was elected as a Democrat in 2006 and 2010 with the endorsement of, and financial and volunteer support from, the 48th District Democrats and other Democratic organizations and elected officials; and

Whereas

Senator Tom has announced his intentions to oppose ratification of the Senate leadership and committee chairs chosen by the elected Democratic majority, instead installing Republicans to chair important committees, including Healthcare, K-12 Education, Judiciary, and Ways & Means; and

Whereas

Republican control of the Senate would be a barrier to enacting legislation that advances Democratic goals and values, such as funding for K-12 education, broadened access to higher education, mental health counseling, insurance parity for reproductive care, and implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act (“Obamacare”);

Therefore, be it resolved

that State Senator Rodney Tom is advised to vote to ratify the leadership chosen by the elected Democratic majority caucus; and

Be it further resolved

that by failing to vote for this leadership slate, Senator Tom will be thwarting Democratic values and the will of the people, rendering himself ineligible for our future endorsement and support under our bylaws.

Adopted this 9th day of January 2013, by the 48th District Democrats

A similar resolution is being considered by the King County Democrats and it is expected that the Washington State Democrats will likewise condemn Rodney Tom when they meet the beginning of February. Rodney Tom’s actions have pretty much guaranteed that if and when he runs for re-election in 2014 that this seat will be hotly contested. Likewise Democrats statewide will need to make a concerted effort to try and pick up other Senate seats to ensure that they have a real Democratic majority.

Between now and then don’t expect much to get done by the legislature on raising new revenue or repealing unneeded and costly tax loopholes.  If action is to be taken in these areas it will have to be undertaken through an initiative from the people or at best a referendum by the legislature.  The problem is that Republicans are so knee jerk anti-revenue, cut government only, that things may well get worse before they get better for the state budget and the state economy.

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.

 

The Washington State Governor’s race is far and away attrracting the most money this year, followed by the race for Washington State Atttorney General. Through May 2012 Jay Inslee (D) and Rob McKenna (R) have each raised over $6 million dollars.  The next campaign finance report through June 0f 2012 will be released July 10th. Full reports and contributor’s names are available on the Washington State  Public Disclosure website.

here are the most recent reported numbers:

Name                                       Raised                                  Spent                             Owed

Governor

Jay Inslee (D)                         $6,195,567                           $2,604,808                $131,065

Rob McKenna  (R)                $6,333,189                           $2,601,872                  $58.028

Lieutenant Governor

William Finkbinder (R)          $103,327                                 $39,869

Brad Owens (D)                        $134,017                                  $78,134

Attorney General

Reagan Dunn (R)                    $878,303                               $358,223                    $1,756

Robert Ferguson (D)               $852,147                                $303,231                 $46,074

Auditor

Troy Kelley (D)                       $107,584                                  $12,956                   $10,254

Mark Milosca (D)                     $61,287                                  $29,471

Craig Pridemore (D)               $115,190                                  $43,167                    $5,500

James Watkins  (R)                 $45,515                                   $11,23o                  $20,000

Public Lands Commissioner

Clint Didier  (R)                         $4150                                       $1659                      $1656

Peter Goldmark  (D)            $289,626                                  $98,268

Insurance Comissioner

Mike Kreidler (D)                  $87,000                                   $29,665

Martin Reilly (R)                      $9,937                                    $7400

Secretary of State

Kathleen Drew                     $101,598                                       $75,429                   $3800

James Kastama (D)              $52,524                                        $37,215

Gregory Nickels (D)            $105,661                                       $57,667                 $10,700

Kimberly Wyman (R)         $102,443                                       $41,105                   $1,103

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Randy Dorn (N)                    $99,522                                      $60,532

Treasurer

James McIntire (D)             $83,642                                        $35,671                    $8,584

no opponent

 

 

 

June 11, 2012

To the Shoreline City Council

Regarding your proposed Tree Code Amendments, I wish to express my concern that they appear to do little to add tree protection to Shoreline.  My wife and I have owned a rental house in Shoreline for about 15 years.  My observation has been that trees continue to come down and replacement trees are not planted. One neighbor next door removed an evergreen tree taller than their house and a mature Mountain ash.  No replacement trees were planted. Several older Douglas firs have also been cut on other properties in the neighborhood and these are only ones I saw cut down and had firsthand knowledge of.

These first hand observations lend concern to your Urban Tree Canopy Assessment of March 2011. While the accuracy of evaluating canopy area has significantly improved by the 2009 study, I find it difficult to accept any statement that canopy cover is about the same as in 1992 and 2001.  As the study acknowledges the earlier studies are “rough estimates of canopy and impervious land cover based on coarse 30 meter resolution land use data “.  30 meters is over 90 feet or about a third of the length of a football field. Later it says that the 30% values for canopy “are approximates” and “This data is generalized and therefore not to be compared to the more detailed CITYgreen data.”

What this says to me is that you have a much more detailed and more accurate analysis based on the 2009 data that indicates a present value of about 30.6% canopy. This is below your stated goal of 35%. What you do not have are reliable comparison points because of the lack of resolution of the previous studies. You also state a goal of not losing more canopy.

Besides reducing the number of trees that can be removed over a three year period based on lot size you are really not increasing tree protection in my view.  This is particularly true when one considers that removing the prohibition on removing trees from undeveloped lots will increase the probability of more trees being removed. This is a step backwards and increases the probability of trees in remaining groves being reduced.

You put in place no mechanism for tracking trees being removed which is what a permit system does.  Requiring permits for trees over 30 inches to be removed only deals with one segment of the trees in the city. A 30 inch Douglas fir is going to be about 75 years old and 100 feet tall.  One problem here is that by only giving some protection to the oldest trees you allow younger replacement trees to be cut.  What happens when the old trees die if you do not have replacement trees to take their place. A healthy urban forest needs a range of tree ages and sizes for both replacement as old trees die and also for varied habitat for birds and insects. Bird species typically stratify in trees such that older Douglas firs for example actually have 3 different vertical layers of bird habitat.

I believe a permit system is the best way to track tree loss and also understand the health of your urban forest. It also functions to educate people about the value of trees. Such a system is important in maintaining a diverse habitat for wildlife and replacement. Such a permit system does not have to be cost prohibitive but can be set up as an online system with approval given online. Google street maps for example have street views which can be used to visually see things from a street level as well as Google maps viewing from space.

It also seems imperative if you don’t want to lose canopy and trees that you must require replacement of equivalent trees either on site or off site. While canopy may increase due to existing tree growth, without replacement you are decreasing the absolute number of trees as well as the potential diversity of trees.  From a stormwater runoff sense coniferous trees provide value year round.  Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall.  They provide little help in the winter. This is another reason to track tree loss, to see which species and what size trees are being cut down.

Another issue that needs to be considered is the use of native trees for replacement trees.  Native trees are supportive of native insect and bird species as well as adapted to climate and rain conditions in the NW.

Tree canopy as defined in your 2009 study is also only two dimensional whereas the value and worth of canopy to the urban forest is also based on canopy volume.  Cutting tall old conifer trees and replacing them with small trees like street trees are not an equivalence in value to the city in terms of the benefits different size and species of trees provide to the city and its residents.

Something Shoreline should look into is setting up a tree wiki like San Francisco and Philadelphia have.  It is an excellent tracking tool for change and a great educational tool for citizens, students, community groups and others.  You can check these out at these two links:

http://urbanforestmap.org/  and http://phillytreemap.org/

Seattle Audubon currently has a grant to start up a tree map wiki in Seattle. Joining this effort by adding Shoreline would be a great asset for both cites in trying to evaluate and protect the urban forest resources both have. I urge you look into this.

Steve Zemke

Chair – Save the Trees – Seattle

Note added for update:

On June 18, 2012 the Shoreline City Council by a vote of 4 to 3 did approve most of the recommendations of their Planning Commission, including reducing the numbers of trees that could be removed in a 3 year period from 6 on all lots to a variable 3-6 depending on lot size.  They also required a permit to remove trees over 30 inches in diameter at breast height.

for more information see – Of Paramount Importance – “Shoreline’s Trees: A triumph of Hope Over Fear”

Election Day is upon us Tuesday, Nov 8, 2011. 
What if you first realize after 5 PM that you forgot to mail your ballot?
Well there is one last thing you can do. Put it in a dropbox for voting by 8 PM!
You can also put it in a mail pickup box by 5 or 6 PM depending on the location. Ckeck for the last pickup time before you put it in a Post Office Pickup Box. It must have a stamp on it.
King County Elections Dropbox locations (no stamp needed) are listed below:

You can also go to King County Elections for locations and maps of drop boxes.Locations include:
Crossroads Shopping Center
15600 NE 8th Street
Bellevue, WA 98008
Federal Way City Hall
33325 8th Avenue South
Federal Way, WA 98003

Issaquah City Hall
130 East Sunset Way
Issaquah, WA 98027
King County Elections
919 SW Grady Way
Renton, WA 98057
Lake Forest Park City Hall
17425 Ballinger Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155Regional Justice Center
401 4th Avenue N.
Kent, WA 98032
Redmond City Hall
15670 NE 85th Street
Redmond, WA 98052
Tahoma School District Office
25720 Maple Valley-Black Diamond Rd SE
Maple Valley, WA 98038
King County Administration Building
500 4th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Magnuson Park
6344 NE 74th Street
Seattle, WA 98115
Ballard Branch Library
57th Street & 22nd Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98107
Remember -all ballots must be placed in Balot Drop Boxes by 8 PM today

With the passage of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053 last year requiring 2/3 votes of the Legislature to raise revenue, Wall Street interests and their friends were the big winners. Citizens in Washington State were the losers.

The reality is that with the citizen’s help, corporations guaranteed that their special interest loopholes and tax exemptions in Washington State would be continued on and on, without any accountability.  Tax exemptions originally passed with only a majority vote now require a 2/3 vote by both houses of the Legislature to rescind or end. And this is almost impossible to do.

Wall Street and Big Business interests funding the campaign to protect their special interest tax exemptions included JP MORGAN CHASE, BP CORPORATION, BANK OF AMERICA, WELLS FARGO, CONOCO PHILLIPS, US BANK, TESORO COMPANIES INC, AND CHEVERON to name a few.

Why do you think they wanted voters to approve I-1053? It’s an easy answer.

Corporations basically were able to grandfather in their tax exemptions by passage of Initiative 1053. They were able to do this under the camouflage of limiting taxes on average citizens.  The net result is that corporations protected themselves from not just losing their special interest exemptions but it also made it impossible for the Legislature to consider any other revenue coming from these corporations regardless of how much profit they make.

Tax exemptions are expenditures of state money that would otherwise be available to fund basic services like education, health care, transportation or environmental protection. Tax exemptions need to be included in the state budget just the same as other state expenditures. And they need to have a sunset provision so that unless they are voted on to be renewed, they will automatically expire. Sunset provisions could vary from 4 to 8 years.

Tax exemptions should not be a permanent entitlement of special interests and corporations. Their continuation needed to be evaluated and voted on periodically. Their value to the state’s economy should be prioritized under the guidelines of a priorities of government evaluation.. Their continuation should be ranked as high, medium or low priority, the same as other expenditures in the state budget. When it comes time to create a state budget they should be considered the same as any other expenditure, not exempt as they now are.

This evaluation of tax expenditures is a function that the State Auditor could perform the same as is done with other programs. Tax exemptions that no longer perform a valid function for the State and its citizens should be eliminated.

It’s time now for citizens to take back their Legislature from the corporations.  Giving  corporations special rules to prevent their tax exemptions from being repealed by requiring higher voting requirements is contrary to the Washington State Constitution and subverts the citizen’s legislature.. Now is the time to repeal the special treatment the Wall Street interests – the Banks and other Big Corporations – gave themselves under I-1053 and return the Legislature to the people..

We need to go back to the voting system set up by the people for the Legislature by the Washington State Constitution. Passing legislation, including revenue and the state budget should be by a simple majority vote as set in the State Constitution. Requiring a higher number of votes on specific legislation winds up giving a smaller and smaller block of Legislators veto power. That gives Wall Street and Big Businesses and Big Oil power they don’t deserve and diminishes the power of the people to control their government.

It’s time to end Wall Street’s Special Protection.and return the Legislature to the citizens of this state. It’s time to repeal I-1053 and stop the unfair shift of taxation from the wealthy and special interests to the middle class.

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.

The Olympian has come out with an editorial strongly opposing Initiative 1053. It’s title “Initiative would give undemocratic veto power over budget” sums up one of the main arguments against Initiative 1053. Initiative 1053 would give 1/3 of the members of either House of the Washington State Legislature veto power over the state budget. What Eyman and special interests like Big Oil and Out of State Banks haven’t been able to achieve by electing a majority of legislators that support their position, they are trying to achieve by changing the rules by which Legislators can operate.

The Olympian’s editorial board recommends a vote against this Eyman initiative.

Why? We elect lawmakers to balance the budget. If we don’t like the way they do it, we can send them packing. But it’s unfair to take away one of their tools — tax increases. This initiative essentially gives a narrow minority — 17 senators or 34 House members, the difference of a simple majority and supermajority — veto authority on budget matters.

That’s not right nor is it democratic.

The Olympian continues with pointing out that the public expects the government to provide services yet doesn’t want to be taxed. People like Tim Eyman drone on endlessly and erroneously about the tax and spend Legislators. Yet as the Olympian notes:

Contrary to popular opinion tax increases are not the first solution for budget writers. In the past three years, lawmakers have dealt with a $12 billion shortfall. They’ve made $5.1 billion in program and service cuts; taken $3.6 billion in stimulus funds, transferred $1.7 billion from other funds; drawn down the ending fund balance and used money from the rainy day fund.

They’ve raised taxes by $800 million.

That’s a measured approach — certainly not “raise taxes as a first option.”

This nation and this state are on a financial precipice. We can tip in either direction. That economic uncertainty has consumers hunkered down and frightened.

This is no time to let a fraction of lawmakers dictate how this state’s budget is balanced.

Budget writing is a complex business with huge risks and people’s very lives at stake.

Tim Eyman’s “legislate by initiative” philosophy is an unwarranted intrusion into that complex decision-making process.

Vote “no” on Initiative 1053.

What the Olympian neglects to mention is that over a million dollars was spent to collect signatures using paid signature gatherers to put I-1053 on the ballot.  The big spenders as noted by Danny Westneat in the Seattle Times were not average citizens but special interests.

Why is Big Oil helping bankroll I-1053? It’s because they oppose Legislative efforts to slightly increase toxic waste taxes to help cleanup storm water runoff. They would rather citizens bear the brunt of toxic waste problems including cleanup while they deposit bank record  profits as they have in recent years.

“…Tim Eyman went more corporate than usual this year.

His Initiative 1053, to limit the Legislature’s tax-raising ability, has the type of stick-it-to-the-man appeal that you might think would get Joe Six-Pack to the ramparts.

Yet it’s on the ballot due to big cash from out-of-state oil companies such as BP, Tesoro and Conoco, which want to block any new oil taxes. Only about 12 percent of his more than $1 million came from individuals, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

I-1053 is an example of greed in action. Citizens need to vote NO on 1053 so polluters rather than citizens have to pay for cleanup or in it’s absence suffer continued polluting of Puget Sound and the environment.

For a list of other companies involved in greedy actions this years promoting special interest initiatives that pass the burden of taxes and/or lack of funding for public services  onto Washington taxpayers see http://www.stopgreed.org/

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