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On Other Blogs Today: Taxing Legislators, Tolling I-90, and More

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By Erica C. Barnett July 10, 2013



1. The Columbian reports that state legislators are "cool" to a proposal by senate Majority Coalition Caucus leader Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), which we mentioned in OOBT yesterday, that would fine legislators $250 for every day they spend in special session.

The paper quotes both Republican and Democratic legislators who argue that the fines could lead to "half-baked proposals" from legislators who want to end the session and avoid the fines, and that legislators who aren't wealthy like Tom (who owns a $5 million waterfront house in Medina and lives off investments) can scarcely afford to spend $1,750 a week to stay in session.

Rep. Jim Moeller (D-49, Vancouver), for example, told the Columbian, "I think it's a great tool for the rich to again screw the poor and middle class. All they have to do is run out the clock. What's the incentive for them to get done when they have their own personal wealth to see them through?"

2. The News Tribune reports that despite the demise of the proposed state Reproductive Parity Act, which would have required insurers that cover maternity care to also pay for abortions, this year's state budget was "mostly kind to women's health."

That's only true if you're grading on a serious curve (or comparing Washington to Texas): The "good" news is that opponents of women's health (including things like screenings for breast cancer) failed to cut as many programs serving women as they had hoped to. 

Although anti-choice Republicans did manage to cut funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment as well as contraception, they failed to kill the state budget, which some opposed on the grounds that it expanded access to Medicaid, which will now cover birth control and cancer screenings for low-income women.

Image via TollI-90.com.

3. Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA, 8) has joined the chorus of conservative voices opposed to tolling I-90 to help pay for the new SR-520 bridge. 

Sammamish Patch reports that Reichert has written a letter to new US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx arguing that tolling I-90 may be illegal (on the grounds that tolls won't mitigate congestion between Seattle and the Eastside) and that the tolls could set an "influential precedent" (in Reichert's words) for other states "looking to toll Interstate highways to fund their transportation needs."

4. The Stranger has a story about why so few women run for office in Seattle. While the ad hominem attacks on the three women who are running for mayor (the paper calls them "jokes") are unnecessary, the story touches on many of the issues I mentioned in a brief piece for Seattle Met: The fact that many women bear the burden of caring for children; the fact that women are socialized to trust their own viability; and the fact that women are taught to seek "collaborative," rather than leadership, roles.

5. The Columbian's editorial board argues (just like the Tacoma News Tribune did earlier this week) that the legislature should revisit the controversial proposed "levy swap"—which would effectively lower local school property taxes in poorer (read: conservative, east-of-the-mountains) school districts while raising them in wealthier districts like Seattle by replacing local property taxes with state property tax—when it reconvenes. 

The levy swap is popular among conservatives (it was part of Rob McKenna's platform) for obvious reasons: As the Columbian notes, it would help out areas like Clark County at the expense of areas like King County. Liberals, meanwhile, tend to oppose the levy swap, arguing, essentially: Why should we subsidize conservative parts of the state whose lawmakers consistently oppose policies we want such as higher taxes?

But there's also a liberal argument for the levy swap (indeed, state house Democratic appropriations chair Rep. Ross Hunter, D-48, Medina, is the main proponent of the idea): It's hard to argue against in terms of fairness. Kids in poor school districts deserve a good education as much as kids in rich districts, regardless of their parents' or legislators' political beliefs—and a well-educated state population ultimately benefits Seattle, the job center of Washington.

And as Josh has noted before: Liberals who claim that rural districts don't support school levies are wrong. Out of 295 school districts in the state, only 15 haven't approved local levies; these are tiny districts, with just 2,182 kids in all.

The levy swap would force those districts to pay up. In the initial proposal, for example, Just like Seattle, those districts would see a $1.17 per $1,000 increase. 


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