Morning Fizz: The Precarious Situation
Caffeinated news and gossip featuring taxes, charters, and Boeing.
1. Seattle city council member Tim Burgess alerted Fizz to perhaps the most problematic aspect of pro-viaduct activist/erstwhile mayoral candidate Elizabeth Campbell's $15 minimum-wage initiative: In order to offset the cost of the new, higher minimum (which would only apply to large businesses and would exempt workers undergoing "training"), the measure would cut the city's business and occupation tax rate by half.
That change, Burgess says, will effectively reduce the city's B&O tax receipts by "about half" as well—from around $200 million a year to $100 million a year.
Campbell's initiative, as we reported yesterday, is an initial shot across the bow; city council member-elect Kshama Sawant has pledged to file her own initiative if the city doesn't adopt a new, higher minimum itself.
Kshama Sawant has pledged to file her own initiative if the city doesn't adopt a new, higher minimum itself.
2. At the 43rd District Democrats' holiday party earlier this week, outgoing 43rd District state senator and mayor-elect Ed Murray announced he would be resigning his seat on Monday (December 16), earlier than initially planned (the end of the month), to give the King County Council enough time to officially appoint Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill) and Gates Foundation staffer Brady Walkinshaw to the legislature so they'd be in place as soon as the session begins on January 14.
The pair was picked by the district precinct committee officers to fill the open state senate and house seats, respectively, earlier this month.
3. A King County Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that part of Washington's charter school initiative, approved by voters in 2012, is unconstitutional, and both sides in the debate are spinning it as a victory.
In her ruling yesterday, Judge Jean Rietschel said designating charter schools as "common schools" is unconstitutional since they are not under the control of the voters in the district; thus, they cannot use Washington's common school funds for things such as school construction.
The rest of the law, however, allowing charters to operate, remained untouched.
"As attorney general, it is my job to defend the will of the voters,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “The court has held the vast majority of the charter schools initiative constitutional, and the state will continue to implement this law.”
The ruling gives charter school adversaries hope to continue fighting the law.Charter school advocates agreed. According to the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters), the judge upheld the most critical parts of the law, such as allowing 40 charter schools to operate. In a statement yesterday, WA Charters interim CEO Marta Reyes-Newberry said, "We applaud the court’s decision recognizing that public charter schools will be a part of a great range of solutions that will enable every child in Washington to have access to a great education."
However, the battle is not over for the coalition that filed the lawsuit. The ruling gives charter school adversaries hope to continue fighting the law. "This confirms what the coalition has believed all along," said Rich Woods, spokesman for the Washington Education Association (the teachers' union)—part of the coalition questioning the constitutionality of the initiative. The WEA and other plaintiffs argue that the charters, which don't have to follow standard public school rules, divert money from the traditional K-12 schools and "impede" the state's obligation to fully fund K-12 education.
Though the decision allows the majority of the law to move forward, Woods said attorneys are reviewing the decision, and it's possible the case will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The ruling comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in July challenging I-1240, the pro-charter schools initiative that passed in 2012; it was brought by several groups, including the WEA, the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza, and the Washington Association of School Administrators, representing more than 1,600 school administrators across the state.
If the law is upheld, the first charter schools are set to open in 2014.
4. There was a double dose of glum news re: Boeing yesterday.
The machinist union and the aerospace giant failed to reach a contract agreement after machinist leadership rejected Boeing's latest offer; the rank and file will, however, be given a chance to vote on the offer themselves. Without the contract, Boeing is expected to move its 777X work—which translated into $20 billion in economic activity last year and supports 56,000 jobs—to another state.
Meanwhile, Boeing announced yesterday that it was shrinking its workforce by 1,200 jobs anyway.
Gov. Jay Inslee, who, between the transportation package mess and the precarious Boeing situation, needs some good news, issued the following statement last night:
Despite today's setback, I remain convinced that an agreement between the Machinists and Boeing would be in the best interest of all parties—the workers, the company and Washington state. We have submitted our state's proposal and I still hope that the company will recognize that the best way to ensure that the 777X is delivered to its customers on time and at the least cost is to build it here. I'll be talking to both sides tonight and will continue to do everything possible to secure the 777X for Washington.