1. State representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill) has picked up two notable endorsements in his campaign for retiring U.S. representative Jim McDermott's (D-WA, 7) seat: police accountability superstar and longtime public defender Lisa Daugaard and city council member Debora Juarez.
Walkinshaw is in a duel with state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle) for lefty/social justice/minority support in the primary—and Daugaard, a lead member of the community police commission, and Juarez, one of the first two Latinas elected to Seattle city council last year, help define Walkinshaw, a gay Latino, as a new generation progressive.
Jayapal announced earlier this week that she nabbed an endorsement from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, one of the most progressive unions in Seattle. (Jayapal's husband, Steve Williamson, is the community affairs director for UFCW 21.)
The city council's other Latina, Lorena González, has endorsed both Jayapal and Walkinshaw, though Jayapal has been touting a personal letter of support from González that features a pledge from González to work to elect Jayapal.
Democratic King County council member Joe McDermott (who his not related to Jim McDermott) is also running; Joe McDermott is gay, but he isn't battling for left wing, identity politics support that Jayapal and Walkinshaw need to define themselves against each other.
2. If Washington’s voters approve I-732, a carbon tax on major polluters, this November, the legislature will likely put it on hold in 2017.
That’s because the legislature has neglected this session to fix a projected four-year, $924 million budget hole that would be created by I-732—even though the house and senate had all session to deal with it; the rules governing initiatives to the legislature stipulate that lawmakers can either approve the proposal as is (turning it into law without a vote of the people), ignore or reject it (in which case it automatically goes to the people for a vote in the fall); or write up their own alternative, you know, like fixing budgeting problems (and sending that version to the people in a duel with the original.) The session ends March 11.
I-732 would levy a $25-per-metric-ton tax from on carbon emissions from fossil fuels—meaning smokestack polluters would pay a bundle. Simultaneously, in a pitch for business support and in a nod to the new source of state revenue, I-732 would trim the state’s sales tax by 1 percent and cut back on a business-and-occupation tax for manufacturers. Finally, the initiative mandates $1,500 rebate for low-income families.
The initiative’s backers contend I-732 is “revenue neutral.” That means the carbon tax increase and the trimmed taxes would cancel each other out. The state’s overall revenue would theoretically remain the same. However, the Office of Financial Management crunched its own I-732 numbers, and found the $924-million-across-four-years shortfall—a cut of $231 million a year.
Fast forward to now.
The legislature has continued to put off dealing with the most difficult parts of an earlier 2012 Washington Supreme Court decision—the McCleary ruling—until 2017. The legislature cannot delay action beyond 2017, or it will miss the Supreme Court’s deadline for coming up with a credible plan to pay for McCleary goals to hire more teachers, improve teacher pay, and stop making local property taxes cover school costs by overhauling the state’s property tax system and/or cutting lots of tax breaks.
So far the GOP-controlled senate has fought or delayed doing any of that. The Democratic-dominated house has no real clout to make the Senate address the matter. That $3.5 billion problem along with I-732's $924 million problem are looming large for the upcoming legislative session.
Senate GOP leaders shrugged off the matter in a press conference earlier this week, saying they were waiting for a House Democratic proposal.
State representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Des Moines) said his side has been waiting for a proposal from the senate Republicans. Fitzgibbon said Democrats took political hits from senate Republicans last year for thinking about about a carbon tax—and did not want to take the same flak this year by proposing something without the GOP already having its own plan on the table.
"We could still do this this session," Fitzgibbon said.
But judging from how the legislature has ignored the financial implications of voter-approved initiatives in the past, you shouldn't expect much work on this from lawmakers in the next ten days.
When Washington voters mandated annual cost of living increases for teachers back in 2000 (also named I-732) the legislature canceled those increases for six years to help balance the budget.
And in 2014, when voters passed I-1351, calling for reducing class sizes for Grades 4-12—estimated to cost $2 billion in 2015—the legislature delayed implementing the voters' will for four years.
Two costly initiatives. Two legislative punts.
That gives you a big fat clue on how the 2017 legislature will likely deal with the $924 million shortfall from this year's pending carbon initiative: Probably no anti-pollution tax. Probably no sales tax cut. Probably no rebate to the poor.
Carbon Washington, the group backing I-732, recently cited an unnamed poll that concluded 44 percent of respondents favored I-732 while 40 percent opposed it; 16 percent were undecided. After a "simple explanation" of I-732, 60 percent supported the initiative, Carbon Washington said in a blog post.
If "pro and con" messages are provided, the tally ended up 48 percent for the initiative, 47 percent opposing, and 5 percent undecided.
At this time, the Washington Public Disclosure Commission does not list any anti-I-732 campaigns.