From FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) and https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=134733849408 (June 30, 2009). See the section in bold for how the bill benefits Microsoft and for Rep. Ross Hunter’s role in promoting it. Hunter also led the charge for tax breaks for Microsoft.
Under a new Washington State law, foreign guest workers — and their families who are in the United States — will be allowed to attend college by paying in-state tuition, even though the law does not extend that same benefit to American citizens who are from other states.
The law — which started as H.B. 1487 in the Washington State Legislature — was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on April 25 and will take effect on July 1. The new law permits foreign workers with certain work visas, including H-1B visas, to access in-state tuition benefits. The law reduces Washington’s in-state residency requirement from three years to one year for foreign workers and also eliminates the requirement that students must attend a Washington State high school to qualify for in-state tuition. The new rules also provide reduced tuition to family members of certain visa holders. (WA Bill Action, 2009 Session; Seattle Times, June 22, 2009; and Bellingham Herald, June 22, 2009).
Critics point out that the law could not have come at a worse time for Washingtonians. The law is expected to contribute to a loss of revenue for the state university system. Initial estimates predict that the University of Washington will lose $430,000 in tuition revenue and that Washington State University could lose approximately $215,000. (Id.). Beyond revenue loss, others have pointed out that the law also reduces the number of educational opportunities available to Washington State residents at a time when more people are looking to return to school to obtain advanced degrees.
Critics have dubbed the bill, which was proposed by a former Microsoft executive (State Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina)), the “Microsoft subsidy bill,” because the Seattle-based software company will garner the bulk of the benefit from the new law. Recognizing that this law is nothing more than a corporate welfare bill at the expense of state residents, State Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle) said: “We only allow X amount of [admission] slots for resident tuition rates and we are displacing those residents with H-1B visa holders, their families and dependents. Microsoft can well afford out-of-state tuition for its people.” (Id.).
At the same time, the new law discriminates against American citizens because it does not extend in-state tuition benefits to U.S. citizens living outside of Washington State. Accordingly, under the bill, an H-1B visa holder could send a family member to a state university for a total annual cost of $7,677 during the next academic year, compared to the annual out-of-state tuition cost of $24,352 that an out-of-state American citizen would be forced to pay.
Washington State’s move to reduce college costs for foreign born students comes on the heels of a recent New York Times article which concluded that American college students will have a harder time paying for college this coming school year. According to The Times, “Students looking for college scholarships are going to have a harder time this year as providers, hammered by falling investment returns and declining philanthropic support.” (New York Times, June 26, 2009). The current economic climate has “led foundations, corporations, state governments and colleges themselves to reduce their support of providers of scholarships, and in recent months programs have been reduced or canceled outright. The cuts come as economic conditions make it harder for families to pay for college and as more unemployed people look for financing for retraining.” (Id.).
- Microsoft Admits Keeping $92 Billion Offshore to Avoid Paying $29 Billion in US Taxes
- Microsoft could find payoff, take high road by paying up taxes
- Microsoft doesn’t need our tax break
- Microsoft’s Staggering Tax Dodge Alone Would Fund the Entire State of Washington for Two Years
- Microsoft’s tax avoidance schemes: national and in Washington State
The just-concluded elections helped to resolve nothing in our state.
We will have a small Republican majority in the state Senate and a small Democratic majority in the state House. They won’t agree on much of anything.
Perhaps the Legislature can take a few hints from other states and cities around the country. In Arkansas, the Republicans enjoyed a clean sweep of all statewide offices, all Congressional seats and increased their majorities in the State Senate and the State House. At the same time, the people voted by a 2-to-1 majority to increase the minimum wage in their state by $2.25. In South Dakota, the Republicans swept all offices, and the people voted to increase the minimum wage by $1.25, effective on January 1, and, taking a tip from our state, made sure that the minimum wage keeps up with inflation after that. In Nebraska, GOP victories for U.S. Senate, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, lieutenant governor, auditor, and other offices were accompanied by a strong victory for raising the minimum wage by $1.75 to $9 by 2016.
Alaska voters elected Republicans as U.S. senator and Congressperson, an independent former Republican as governor, and kept Republican majorities in their state Senate and state House. And Alaskans also voted more than 2-to-1 to increase the minimum wage to $9.75 as of January 2016, which will be higher than our current minimum wage in Washington state. On the East Coast, Massachusetts voters elected a Republican governor and put into law a statewide paid sick days law modeled on Seattle’s ordinance. And ping-ponging back to our coast, Oakland, California, passed an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $12.25 and requiring businesses to provide five paid sick days a year.
Something is happening here, and it is pretty clear what it is. When voters are faced with a clear-cut decision on actual policy, they vote for their own economic security and that of their neighbors and friends. When they are faced with candidates who promise everything (and often deliver nothing, or even the opposite of what they promise), they swing back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. Candidates of both parties hype themselves to the voters, with rhetoric and platitudes. And once they are in office, they often stand down from their own promises.
In Washington, our elected public servants in the state House and state Senate have a chance now to turn campaign slogans into actual policy. If the voters in both conservative Republican-controlled states and Democratic-controlled states have endorsed new policy for increasing the minimum wage and for making paid sick days a labor standard, our political leaders should be able to do the same thing here. These issues have support across party lines. It should be simple. In fact, legislation for paid sick days was introduced in the House last year, sponsored by state Reps. Mike Sells, D-Everett; Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish; Luis Moscoso, D-Bothell; and Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline. The Democratic-controlled House passed this bill to the Senate, and the Republican leadership of the Senate let it die.
So, in considering the votes across the country for paid sick days, why don’t we just consider that inaction a Mulligan, and take a do-over this year. The Democratic House can pass it over to the Senate, and this time, the Senate could actually consider this bill and take an up-or-down vote on it. That would be refreshing.
While they are at it, the Legislature might want to consider increasing the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour over a three-year period. This was introduced by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle. It made it through one committee and stopped there. Some members of the House thought that they had done enough for workers by passing the paid sick days bill. Increasing the minimum wage was just too heavy a lift for them. But our minimum wage is still less than what it was, adjusted for inflation, in 1972. Raising the minimum wage is good for workers. It also adds a bit of equilibrium to the growth in productivity, ensuring that is not just hogged by the top echelon of executives. The people know this, and so they support it. But will our Legislators do the right thing?
Originally published at the Everett Herald