1. While Gov. Jay Inslee's own passion about the environment took up the bulk of his State of the State speech yesterday—"the acidity of our waters;" "asthma rates in our children;" our "moral obligation;" something called the "Pacific Coast Collaborative;" and a call to "fashion a Washington carbon pollution action plan" (he's proposed a cap and trade system that charges the state's biggest polluters $12 per-ton of carbon emissions per-year )—Inslee's prolonged green interlude was only met with perfunctory applause in contrast to what came next.
It was the final snippet of his speech that drew sustained, booming applause.
Washington has the nation’s most unfair tax system. The nation’s most unfair tax system. Our lowest-paid workers pay nearly 17 percent of their income in taxes while the top 1 percent pay less than 3 percent. A new teacher pays three times more in taxes as a percentage than our wealthiest citizens.
This is the exact same rhetoric voters heard in 2010 when they turned down a progressive ballot measure, led by Bill Gates Sr., for a high-earners income tax. But four years on—after SeaTac and Seattle have passed local $15 minimum wage increases and President Obama has called for an increase in the minimum wage—the energy in the room was palpable.
Green Gov. Inslee has a deep blue (collar) agenda this year, which he outlined at the end of the speech: a capital gains tax that would hit the top less-than-one percent of taxpayers, a tax rebate for poor families, a paid sick leave ordinance, and a higher minimum wage. In another populist passage from his speech, Inslee decried cuts-only budgeting, noting that $12 billion in social service cuts over the last six years "to balance our budget ... [is] no longer working."
"What can seem invisible to some of us is painfully real to others."—Gov. Jay InsleeReferencing a recent Washington State Supreme Court decision against using emergency room hospital beds as stand-ins for mental health facilities and also the McCleary decision to fully fund K-12 education (and adding a clear dose of class consciousness), Inslee said:
We’ve reached the place where multiple courts have said we cut too much or neglected to fund adequately and have now ordered us to do a better job on foster care, mental health and protecting vulnerable children.
I know some people say they haven’t noticed the cuts. Let me tell you: The man handcuffed to a gurney in an emergency room due to lack of beds in a mental health ward ... he notices. The woman who was a victim of domestic violence and couldn’t get emergency housing ... she notices. The college students whose tuition went up 50 percent ... they sure notice.
What can seem invisible to some of us is painfully real to others.
Tomorrow Democratic state Sens. Pramila Jayapal (D-37, SE Seattle) and Cyrus Habib (D-48, Kirkland) along with Reps. Jessyn Farrell (D-46, N. Seattle) and Laurie Jinkins (D-27, Tacoma), sponsors of $12 minimum wage and paid sick leave legislation, are holding a press conference to unveil their bills.
Unions such as SEIU 775 and UFCW 21, who will be rallying outside the legislative building at the same time to show support for the legislation, released a statement this morning.
Few issues before the Legislature can match the overwhelming level of broad-based public support across the state for this pair of bills to raise up workers, communities, and our whole economy. Approximately two-thirds of voters support a statewide $12 minimum wage, and paid sick days garner an even stronger majority. At the same time, greedy corporations are lining up to maintain the status quo.
They also noted that it takes nearly $12.50 an hour to afford a studio apartment in Washington state and that nearly one million workers statewide don't have paid sick leave, concluding with this data point: Washington State’s job growth has led the nation since voters passed our landmark 1998 minimum wage law.
The state senate Republicans passed a procedural rule on Monday, the opening day of session, requiring a two-thirds vote to take up a new tax. The new rule makes it highly unlikely that Gov. Inslee's capital gains tax (or carbon tax for that matter) will pass.
Editorializing here: But the Blue/Green divide seems artificial. A carbon cap on big polluters is equally populist to the minimum wage or paid sick leave. (The rich have a much fatter carbon footprint than the poor, yet the poor suffer disproportionate consequences; in his warning about asthma, Inslee concluded "particularly in low-income communities and communities of color.")
2. I got lots of reaction to yesterday's Fizz item aobut the Seahawks' and Vulcan's schmoozing with Mayor Ed Murray at last Saturday's playoff game at CenturyLink. The main question folks had: In addition to getting tickets, where exactly was Murray sitting?
The Seahawks officially hosted Murray in their suite, the McCormack Boardroom.
3. As I said yesterday when I noted I was skittish about a Republican bill that would allow mopeds to use bike lanes, Pedestrian Chronicles is watching the legislative session.
Another bill that has come to my attention is Rep. Gerry Pollet's (D-46, N. Seattle) bill to increase neighborhood control over proposed development.
The bill, which he tried to pass last year, certainly sounds reasonable; it ensures that neighbors get a chance to weigh in on proposed nearby development. But urbanists worry that it's a way to thwart new density and in-fill housing in single family neighborhoods.
4. Another bill worth noting: A parade of Democrats have filed a bill that would authorize Sound Transit 3. No Republicans have signed on.