Quickie link: All Income Growth is Going to the Richest 1 Percent of Washingtonians

According to All Income Growth is Going to the Richest 1 Percent of Washingtonians :

It’s time for policymakers in Washington state to take steps to reverse decades of widening economic disparities that threaten broad prosperity, now that it has again been shown that all income growth since 2009 continues to flow to the wealthiest Washingtonians.

An updated report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the richest 1 percent of households – those making over $388,000 a year – captured all of the new income generated in Washington state between 2009 and 2013 (see graph). By contrast, and in a stark reversal from past decades, average incomes among the remaining 99 percent of Washingtonians declined during this period, causing far too many hardworking families to fall even further behind.

All Income Growth is Going to the Richest 1 Percent of Washingtonians

Women versus Men in the 2016 election

The image below (original source unknown) is outrageous and politically incorrect. But it’s also funny and insightful.

Women versus men in support for Hillary or Trump

The gender-divide in the support for Hillary versus Trump is extreme. As of mid-October, Hillary was ahead by 20 points among women, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, while Trump leads among men:

Looking inside the numbers of the two-way horse race, Clinton holds a 20-point lead among female voters (55 percent to 35 percent), while Trump is ahead among men by just three points (48 percent to 45 percent).

Clinton also has the advantage among African Americans (86 percent to 9 percent), non-white voters (76 percent to 16 percent) and those ages 18-34 (54 percent to 36 percent).

Trump, meanwhile, holds the edge among independents (41 percent to 36 percent) and white voters (51 percent to 40 percent). But there is a difference among whites: Those without college degrees prefer Trump by a 56 percent-to-36 percent margin, while those with college degrees break evenly between Trump and Clinton, 45 percent to 45 percent.

Some Trump supporters may think that men who vote for Hillary are being henpecked into voting for her (as the image above suggests).

Just as racial bias partly explains the opposition to President Obama, gender bias no doubt partly explains the opposition to Hillary.

Of course, Trump’s mistreatment of women, and his frequent insulting and degrading comments towards women, offended many people.

The majority of voters are women (at least in Washington State). Let’s hope women save us from Trump and from GOP control of the state senate.  In the 41st LD, both state representatives are women (Clibborn and Senn).  If Lisa Wellman can defeat Steve Litzow, women will make a clean sweep and that may be enough to flip the senate.

Quick Link: Bill Gates backs climate denier Judge David Larson for Washington State Supreme Court position

As reported in Bill Gates backs climate denier Judge David Larson for Washington State Supreme Court position

Gates is so blinded by his desire to have charter schools in our state that he doesn’t seem to be concerned with the qualifications of an individual who will potentially participate in setting policy affecting education in in his home state.

The Washington State Supreme Court made the decision that charter schools are unconstitutional in Washington State but Mr. Gates and others are determined to privatize the state’s public school system by any means.

Supreme Court Judge Charles Wiggins is one of the judges who decided in favor of the plaintiffs who challenged the constitutionality of charter schools in Washington State.

Bill Gates, Paul Allen along with Steve and Connie Ballmer, all major contributors to the charter school campaign, Initiative 1240, have contributed over $500,000 as of last week to the Political Action Committee (PAC) called Citizens for Working Courts Enterprise Washington to defeat Judge Wiggins.

….

Supreme Court Justice Wiggins is being outspent at about 20:1.

But while on the school board in Federal Way, Larson voted to suppress Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth.

Why women — especially older women — rule in Washington State

Out of the 4.6 million registered voters in Washington State, 2.4 million (51.9%) are female.

Out of the 3.4 million active registered voters (meaning they’ve voted since 2012), 2.4 million (52.8%) are female.

Women rule — or at least decide who rules — in Washington State.

Furthermore, older people vote at much higher numbers than younger voters.     The following graph shows the number of registered voters by age of birth.

Voter Registration in Washington State

There are drop-offs for elderly people born before 1950, for the newly eligible people born since 1990, and for the double dip around 1970 — presumably the generation between the baby boomers and their children.  But aside from these drop-offs, the number of registered voters is rather flat.  However, the number of active voters (who have voted since 2012) shows a marked preference for the older voters:

Voter Registration in Washington State, for active voters

Young people need to vote more!

(Note: I gathered these stats from the voter registration database that I downloaded from the Washington State Secretary of State’s office.)

If we consider elderly active voters, the bias towards women is more extreme.  There are 799 thousand active female voters who were born before 1960. There are 703 thousand active male voters born before 1960.   So 53.1% of active elderly voters are female.

Some other interesting stats: King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties have over half the registered voters in Washington State.  Female voters outnumber male voters 711 thousand to 673 thousand in King County.

Here are the numbers of registered voters by county.

+------------+----------+----------------------+
| CountyCode |  # Regs  |     Percent of total |
+------------+----------+----------------------+
| KI         |  1386134 |              29.8783 |
| PI         |   534848 |              11.5287 |
| SN         |   494310 |              10.6549 |
| SP         |   332249 |               7.1617 |
| CR         |   301612 |               6.5013 |
| TH         |   192481 |               4.1490 |
| KP         |   180618 |               3.8932 |
| WM         |   149761 |               3.2281 |
| YA         |   121799 |               2.6254 |
| BE         |   111978 |               2.4137 |
| SK         |    78947 |               1.7017 |
| CZ         |    70074 |               1.5105 |
| IS         |    60167 |               1.2969 |
| CM         |    54836 |               1.1820 |
| LE         |    49506 |               1.0671 |
| GY         |    47050 |               1.0142 |
| CH         |    45999 |               0.9915 |
| GR         |    45724 |               0.9856 |
| MA         |    40770 |               0.8788 |
| FR         |    38318 |               0.8259 |
| WL         |    36834 |               0.7940 |
| ST         |    32640 |               0.7036 |
| KS         |    26991 |               0.5818 |
| JE         |    26713 |               0.5758 |
| WT         |    25873 |               0.5577 |
| OK         |    24325 |               0.5243 |
| DG         |    21702 |               0.4678 |
| AS         |    16504 |               0.3557 |
| KT         |    15786 |               0.3403 |
| PA         |    15230 |               0.3283 |
| SJ         |    13506 |               0.2911 |
| PE         |    10116 |               0.2181 |
| SM         |     8097 |               0.1745 |
| LI         |     7402 |               0.1596 |
| AD         |     7175 |               0.1547 |
| FE         |     5170 |               0.1114 |
| WK         |     3231 |               0.0696 |
| CU         |     3011 |               0.0649 |
| GA         |     1780 |               0.0384 |
+------------+----------+----------------------

Though King County has lots of registrations, its turnout is lower than many other counties. Here’s a table showing turnout by county (again, voters are those who have voted since 2012).

+------------+---------+------------+-----------------+
| CountyCode | Active  | Registered | Percent turnout |
+------------+---------+------------+-----------------+
| SJ         |   11667 |     13506  |     86.4%       |  San Juan County
| LI         |    6238 |      7402  |     84.3%       |  Lincoln County
| JE         |   22170 |     26713  |     83.0%       |  Jefferson County
| CU         |    2468 |      3011  |     82.0%       |
| GA         |    1445 |      1780  |     81.2%       |
| WK         |    2585 |      3231  |     80.0%       |
| CM         |   43310 |     54836  |     79.0%       |
| ST         |   25683 |     32640  |     78.7%       |
| FE         |    4064 |      5170  |     78.6%       |
| SK         |   61914 |     78947  |     78.4%       |
| IS         |   46750 |     60167  |     77.7%       |
| OK         |   18873 |     24325  |     77.6%       |
| PA         |   11811 |     15230  |     77.6%       |
| WM         |  115759 |    149761  |     77.3%       |
| KS         |   20795 |     26991  |     77.0%       |
| CH         |   35344 |     45999  |     76.8%       |
| MA         |   31242 |     40770  |     76.6%       |
| SM         |    6197 |      8097  |     76.5%       |
| BE         |   85388 |    111978  |     76.3%       |
| WL         |   28073 |     36834  |     76.2%       |
| PE         |    7678 |     10116  |     75.9%       |
| LE         |   37463 |     49506  |     75.7%       |
| KI         | 1046928 |   1386134  |     75.5%       |
| KP         |  136283 |    180618  |     75.5%       |
| KT         |   11876 |     15786  |     75.2%       |   King County
| SN         |  370888 |    494310  |     75.0%       |   Snohohomish County
| WT         |   19396 |     25873  |     75.0%       |
| SP         |  248881 |    332249  |     74.9%       |
| DG         |   16072 |     21702  |     74.6%       |
| AD         |    5229 |      7175  |     72.9%       |
| TH         |  140214 |    192481  |     72.8%       |
| PI         |  388218 |    534848  |     72.6%       |   Pierce County
| CR         |  216499 |    301612  |     71.8%       |
| CZ         |   49609 |     70074  |     70.8%       |
| GY         |   33155 |     47050  |     70.5%       |
| YA         |   85157 |    121799  |     69.9%       |
| GR         |   31583 |     45724  |     69.1%       |
| AS         |   11031 |     16504  |     66.8%       |
| FR         |   25400 |     38318  |     66.3%       |
+------------+---------+------------+-----------------+

The following image shows turnout by zipcode in Washington State.
Turnout by Zipcode in Washington State

Earlier this year, in How does voter turnout vary with income?, I showed the degree to which wealthy people vote more  than poorer people.  I reproduce the relevant graph below. (Click on it for a larger version.)

Voter turnout by median income

There is a trend in the graph: the richer zipcodes (on the right) tend to have higher turn out (towards the top). That’s why the graph tends towards the upper right. There are exceptions — zipcodes with lower income and higher turnouts.

You can also see to which voters tend to be older and female from the following chart from the Secretary of State’s office, showing voter turnout in the 2014 election:

Age     Gender  Number of Voters
18 - 24 years   Female  174801
18 - 24 years   Male    167837
18 - 24 years   UnKnown 376
18 - 24 years   Total   343014
25 - 34 years   Female  331861
25 - 34 years   Male    304675
25 - 34 years   UnKnown 410
25 - 34 years   Total   636946
35 - 44 years   Female  322444
35 - 44 years   Male    300368
35 - 44 years   UnKnown 369
35 - 44 years   Total   623181
45 - 54 years   Female  365392
45 - 54 years   Male    343584
45 - 54 years   UnKnown 345
45 - 54 years   Total   709321
55 - 64 years   Female  392350
55 - 64 years   Male    359749
55 - 64 years   UnKnown 372
55 - 64 years   Total   752471
65 and over     Female  461011
65 and over     Male    396921
65 and over     UnKnown 414
65 and over     Total   858346
Grand   Total   3923279

In short, older people, rich people, and females tend to be the people who vote most.

According to the Secretary of State’s Voting Participation Statistics, in the 2012 elections, 60.8% of the voting age population voted. In the midterm elections of 2014 only 39.5% of eligible people voted.

Defeat Trump but recognize the problems with Tim Kaine

First, it needs to be said that we cannot let Trump win.

That being said, as an elected PLEO Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, I owe a report back to the people even as I continue to process the events of the past couple weeks, so I’m offering this partial post-DNC analysis/reflection/report back as I’m still processing the events I was privileged to witness. We need to go in with our eyes wide open as to what we’re being asked to support and work for in this election cycle. The following is a tidbit of a longer message regarding Sec’y Clinton’s VP pick Sen. Tim Kaine that was sent by the Bernie Campaign to his Democratic National Convention Delegates last week.

Known as a “centrist” governor of Virginia, Kaine supported restrictions on abortion and angered environmentalists by fighting for a controversial coal-fired power plant in Wise County. He declared “I strongly support” Virginia’s anti-union “right-to-work” law and denigrated critics of corporate-friendly trade deals as having a “loser’s mentality.” He criticized Democrats in 2011 for seeking a higher tax rate on millionaires. In the U.S. Senate since 2013, he has consistently ranked as one of the least progressive Democrats and was one of only a dozen Democrats who supported Trans-Pacific Partnership Fast Track last year.

Instead of solidifying the power built by the people’s movement to support Bernie Sanders into a unified Democratic base by choosing a progressive running partner, Clinton has chosen to throw the people’s movement under the bus in favor of the possible chance of gaining some votes from disenchanted Republicans. I’m having trouble seeing the loyalty to our party’s platform by courting those who are opposed to it, and am afraid that she’s disrespected the movement and lost for the Democrats much more than we stand to gain.

So, Clinton and the DNCC are forcing us to support a Right-to-Work, anti-choice, anti-environmental, anti-tax on millionaires, pro-TPP Vice Presidential candidate and work for our own demise? Where’s the respect for working families, women, future generations, and the growing movement to fight for their issues? Asking workers to support a Right-to Work (actually it’s Right-to-Work-for-Less) candidate is like asking displaced workers to train their outsourced replacements who will do their jobs for less pay.

Right-to-Work is all about breaking working people’s power. What is our future if our power is taken from us? With the advent of union busting, the proliferation of Right-to-Work to 25 states now, and the diminishment of union density and working families’ power to fight for our fair share of the wealth we create, income disparity has reached modern historical highs not seen since the 1920’s, when industrial unions started building real worker power and created the middle class.

There are similar analogies for women, environmentalists, tax fairness and fair trade proponents, i.e. asking women to support someone who wants to restrict choice, or environmentalists to support someone who wants to expand use of fossil fuels. It appears the policies that Kaine supports are all about advancing a corporate agenda. And, I’m reminded that Clinton’s chief advisor (Bill) is also from a Right-to-Work state and started this whole free-trade fiasco that has cost so many American jobs, was a founder and leader of the conservative DLC, implemented so-called welfare reform that has crippled the most vulnerable families, and instituted conservative criminal justice reform that locked up so many disadvantaged and people of color into the prison-industrial complex and militarized our police forces.

Certainly, the platform contains some very good policy objectives that we all instinctively know need to be in it, but with no way to enforce the platform on electeds it’s just a lot of good words. It all boils down to trust in Hillary. But, as a member of the Walmart Board of Directors, what did she do to support their low-wage workers? What effect will the millions of dollars she received from the many closed door speeches she gave to the Wall Street elite (at $300,000+ per speech) have on reforming our financial system with more than token efforts? Is the Debbie Wasserman Schultz fiasco indicative that Clinton uses political favors to repay political abuses, gain political power, and squelch the people’s voice? Despite the good words in the platform, policy follows power and in this case, I fear it will follow the money and the conservatives she, Bill, the DNCC, and the DLC are catering to and dragging the Democratic party toward.

Wouldn’t it have been better political strategy to embrace the people’s movement rather than to power through an agenda that moves us to the right?

Many Trump followers are frustrated with the insecurity that the ongoing assault by corporations and power elite have imposed on their families, so they’ve gravitated to a demagogue who is saying what they want to hear regarding change, but is actually an embedded part of the problem.

The media will spin all this to make it easier for us to rationalize, but we’ll still know the truth. So, Clinton vs. Trump? I’m still processing, and healing from the top-down reaming at the DNC (Bernie Delegates were abused all week at the Convention, some physically), but I know I’ll make the best decision in the end that my conscience will allow.

Now, I have to re-read the first sentence of this article above. What a dilemma.

Every Job a Path to Opportunity

Washington state has gained jobs at a faster rate than most other states since the Great Recession, but the majority of working families are not benefitting from the economic boom. While high tech companies are attracting thousands of newcomers with promises of high compensation, pay for the typical worker is not keeping up with rising costs. Many of the job openings across the state over the next five years will be in occupations that now pay less than $14.00 an hour – too little for even a single adult working full time to cover the basics in much of the state. Meanwhile, costs for childcare, college tuition, healthcare, and housing continue to escalate.

Growing economic inequality compounds racial and gender inequities, constricts pathways of opportunity, and deepens divisions in our society and democracy. We all lose, with less innovation, economic vibrancy, and cultural richness because so many are denied the chance to reach their full potential and pursue their dreams.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Our elected leaders make the rules for our economy. At the state level, we can also change laws directly through initiatives. That means our votes – for President, Congress, Governor, state Legislature, and on initiatives – ultimately decide who wins and who loses economically. Together, we can change economic policies so that every job provides a pathway to opportunity and supports a thriving economy.

Growing Inequality and the Squeeze on Working Families

From the 1930s until 1980, income inequality shrank in the United States, thanks to the New Deal and later policies that instituted a minimum wage, supported labor unions, reduced many forms of overt discrimination, opened college access, invested in infrastructure and scientific research, and created programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Through this period, standards of living and access to opportunity improved for nearly everyone up and down the economic ladder. Shifts in policy since the 1980s, in contrast, have allowed the rich to grow fabulously wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

These trends have played out in Washington state, too. Since 1981, the bottom 90% have lost a significant share of income, while the top 1% have more than doubled their share and the rest of the top 10% has gained a little. Since the official recovery from the Great Recession began in 2009, average incomes of the top 1% in Washington have increased by 21.6%, but average incomes for everyone else continued to fall through 2011 and remain a little below the 2009 level.[i]

every-job-a-path-graphic-01

Click to enlarge

Prior to 1973, wages for the typical U.S. worker increased at the same pace as gains in productivity. Between 1973 and 2014, in contrast, wages rose only 9% despite a 72% increase in worker productivity.[ii] CEOs and other top executives took the lion’s share of that increase. By 2015, CEOs at S&P 500 companies were paid 335 times more than the typical production or nonsupervisory employee. That ratio was just 34 to 1 in 1980.[iii] CEOs of public companies in the Northwest enjoyed a 34% pay boost in 2015 alone, to a median annual compensation of $2.1 million.[iv]

Wealth – that is assets such as home equity, other property, and savings, minus debts – is even more highly skewed than annual income. The top 10% of households own three quarters of all wealth in the U.S., while the bottom half own just 1%.[v] White households have far more wealth than households of color.[vi]

every-job-a-path-graphic-02

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Click to enlarge

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Between 2010 and 2014, median income for Washington households rose only about $1,000, from $60,306 to $61,366, once adjusted for inflation. During that same period, real earnings for the typical worker actually declined, by $1,700 annually for men working full-time and more than $1,200 for women.[vii]

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Click to enlarge

The gender and racial gap in earnings also remains large, undermining family economic security and community prosperity.[viii] While many factors are involved in these wage gaps, multiple studies have documented persistent biases among managers that result in women of all races and men of color being less likely to be hired or promoted, and offered lower starting wages when they do get a job than their white male counterparts.[ix]

every-job-a-path-graphic-05

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Along with cash salary and wages, workplace benefits make a big difference in financial security and the ability of working people to keep themselves healthy and care for their families. For the most part, access to benefits, including retirement plans, high quality health insurance, and paid leave, remains highly correlated with wages. In the U.S., the highest paid workers usually also get both paid sick leave and vacation, while only 22% of the lowest paid workers are provided paid sick leave by employers.[x] That means the workers who can least afford time off without pay are forced to choose between loosing income needed to cover the basics or going to work when they are sick or have an ill child.

every-job-a-path-graphic-06

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A separate family leave benefit is rare – except for the most privileged workers – outside of the four states with statewide disability and family leave insurance programs.[xi] While about half of first-time mothers who work during pregnancy get some paid leave, most are forced to cobble together too-short maternity leaves from saved up sick leave and vacation and as much unpaid time off as the family can afford.[xii] A recent study found that one in four U.S. women go back to work within two weeks of childbirth.[xiii]

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The combination of women’s lower pay and lack of paid leave seriously undermines family economic security. Women who have had a baby in the past twelve months are considerably more likely to be poor or low income than those who have not had a baby. In Washington, more than one in three married women and two-thirds of unmarried women who gave birth in the past year have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. Altogether 19.3% of Washington children under the age of 5 live in poverty, with profound lasting negative effects on young children’s social, emotional, and physical health, including interfering with brain growth and development.[xiv]

every-job-a-path-graphic-08

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While wages for most workers stagnate, basic family costs continue to rise. The cost of purchasing a home has increased faster in Washington in the past year than in any other state.[xv] Rents are also rising – the average listing price for a two bedroom apartment in June 2016 was $1,574 in Washington and $2,442 in Seattle.[xvi] Washington now ranks 6th in the nation for least-affordable infant care costs.[xvii] Average cost for infant care in Washington consumed 29% to 38% of median state earnings in 2014. In King County, with both higher median earnings and higher costs, the percentages are similar.[xviii] Center-based infant care in Washington now costs more than annual tuition and fees at the University of Washington, despite that fact that childcare teachers are paid extremely low wages.[xix]

every-job-a-path-graphic-09

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Washington’s current minimum wage of $9.47 is not enough for a single adult working full-time to meet basic expenses of housing, food, transportation, health care, and other necessities in any part of the state. Median earnings for women who work full-time year-round in the state are not enough for a single mother to support one child – and 21% of Washington children live with a single mother.[xx]

every-job-a-path-graphic-10

Click to enlarge

Making Every Job a Pathway to Opportunity

Our modern economy is enormously complex and requires the skills and contributions of millions of people to function. The occupations projected to have the most job openings in Washington over the next five years include computer-related and business jobs that usually come with high pay and full benefit packages, and family-wage jobs in construction and healthcare. However, the top 25 list also includes tens of thousands of positions in fast food, restaurants, retail sales, personal care, and office administration, where current wages are barely enough to support a single person, let alone a family.[xxi]

Public policy choices over the past four decades have allowed a wealthy few to acquire most of the fruits of economic growth. We can change policy choices to ensure that every job provides a living wage and every worker receives a fair share of the wealth they help create. Fortunately, we have proven models that we know succeed not only in boosting wages and family economic security, but also in diminishing the gender and racial inequities that now constrain opportunity.

1. Raise the floor with a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave as a basic workplace standard.

In 1998, Washington voters approved an initiative making Washington the first state to institute an automatic cost of living increase on the minimum wage. Sixteen other states have followed suit. Currently 30 states have minimum wages above the federal level and seven have a minimum wage higher than Washington’s. Seattle, Tacoma, and Sea-Tac are among the 25 local jurisdiction across the country that have higher minimum wages than their states.[xxii]

More recently, close to 30 cities (including Seattle, Tacoma, Sea-Tac, and Spokane) and 5 states (California, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont) have enacted paid sick leave standards, ensuring workers have the opportunity to earn paid leave so they can stay home when sick, rather than spread their germs, deal with the health needs of their families, or seek safety from domestic violence or sexual assault.[xxiii]

Because so many states and localities have raised their minimum wages at different times, we have a significant body of data on the impacts. The bulk of research shows that raising the minimum wage increases income for low wage workers – who are disproportionately women and people of color of all ages – and their families. It also reduces turnover, which increases productivity and reduces costs for employers, a significant factor in explaining how employers are able to pay higher wages with no discernible change in employment numbers and minimal impact on prices and profits.[xxiv] The results from enacting paid sick leave laws have been similar.[xxv]

Initiate 1433, if approved by voters in November 2016, will  ensure that all workers everywhere in the state are able to earn at least one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 40 hours they work and raise Washington’s minimum wage in four steps to $13.50 in 2020.[xxvi]

2. Establish a statewide paid family and medical leave program.

A few times in their careers, people need to take longer leaves from work – when they have a new child, are diagnosed with cancer, or a parent has a stroke. Five U.S. states (California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Hawaii) have long-established temporary disability insurance systems that provide all workers with wage replacement when illness, injury, or recent childbirth prevent them from working. All but Hawaii have added a family leave component that allows all new parents time to bond with a new child and workers to care for critically ill family members. The programs are funded through payroll contributions from employees and employers, varying by state.

Public health researchers have concluded that establishing paid parental leave for all new parents is key to reducing infant mortality – currently higher in the U.S. than in any other economically developed country – and to overcoming health disparities by income and race in the U.S. A significant portion of the determinants of a child’s lifelong health is established by the age of two.[xxvii]

In the states that have paid family and disability leave programs for all workers, new mothers and babies are healthier, women are more likely to be back at work and making higher pay a year following childbirth, and new parents are less likely to go onto public assistance than in the states without programs. Fathers also take longer leaves, which boosts both the child’s long term social and intellectual development and the mother’s long-term earning potential.[xxviii] With both the workforce and general population aging, providing temporary disability leave and leave for family care is also vital to maintain the health and improve the quality of life for older adults.

Washington’s came close to establishing a paid family and medical leave program in 2007, but the legislature balked at approving a payroll premium, and the Great Recession and attendant state budget crisis diverted attention. In 2015, Washington was one of several states to win a research grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, which includes a public opinion poll, cost modeling of policy options, and analysis of the likely impact of a Washington paid family leave program on public assistance usage by new parents. The Work and Family Coalition and policy makers are using the results to develop a new proposal for a state family and medical leave insurance program. Passage should be a top legislative priority in 2017.

3. Update tools for achieving equal pay and job opportunities

Discrimination in pay and employment on the basis of gender or race has been illegal for decades, yet the gender and racial wage gaps are shrinking only slowly. Workers must now prove that their employer intended to discriminate, and wage secrecy practices that prevail in the private sector prevent people from knowing what others doing similar work are paid.

Many states have already passed laws that protect workers’ rights to discuss compensation with their coworkers and changing the burden of proof to require employers to show legitimate job-related reasons for differentials in pay.  Massachusetts’ new equal pay law also prohibits the practice of employers asking for previous salary history.[xxix] Washington can adopt similar laws and go farther to protect all workers by requiring that employers justify access to more highly paid job categories and promotions, along with differences in pay, with job-related reasons.

Providing for strong enforcement of existing anti-discrimination and wage theft laws, removing barriers to employment following incarceration, fair scheduling, and adopting immigration reform that regularizes the status of undocumented workers would also reduce the wage gap and help raise wages for all workers.[xxx]

Conclusion

Growing income inequality is not natural or inevitable. It is the result of past public policy choices. The voters in Washington state have the ability to begin reshaping the rules of our economy so that every job provides a pathway to opportunity and helps build prosperous and thriving communities for us all.

Notes

[i]     Estelle SommeillerMark Price, and Ellis Wazeter, “Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county,” Economic Policy Institute, June 16, 2016, http://www.epi.org/publication/income-inequality-in-the-us/.

[ii]     Economic Policy Institute, The Productivity-Pay Gap, Sept 2015, http://www.epi.org/productivity-pay-gap/.

[iii]    AFL-CIO, Executive paywatch, viewed Jun 20, 2016, http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2016.

[iv]    Seattle Times, “NW CEOs enjoyed hefty increase in 2015 pay, outpacing national peers,” updated June 20, 2016, http://www.seattletimes.com/business/nw-ceos-enjoyed-hefty-increase-in-2015-pay-outpacing-national-peers/.

[v]     Linda Levine, “An Analysis of the Distribution of Wealth Across Households, 1989-2010”, 2012, Congressional Research Service, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33433.pdf.

[vi]    U.S. Census Bureau, Detailed tables on wealth and asset ownership, 2011.

[vii]   U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2014, Comparative Economic Characteristics.

[viii]   For discussion of the gender wage gap, see Marilyn Watkins and Sam Hatzenbeler, “Equal Pay and Opportunity: A step toward fair wages for women and better workplaces for all,” Economic Opportunity Institute, April 2016, http://www.eoionline.org/state-economy/women-in-the-workforce/equal-pay-and-opportunity/.

[ix]    S. Correll, S. Benard, I. Paik, “Getting a Job: Is there a Motherhood Penalty?” American Journal of Sociology, 2007, 112(5):1297–339, http://gender.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/motherhoodpenalty.pdf; Hoobler, et al, “Bosses’ Perceptions of Family-Work Conflict and Women’s Promotability: Glass Ceiling Effects,” The Academy of Management Journal, vol. 52, no. 5, October 2009, cited in Strategy-Business, “Gender Inequality: How False Perceptions Affect Promotions,” http://www.strategy-business.com/article/re00069?gko=b8a0d; Pager, D. and Western, B. (2012), Identifying Discrimination at Work: The Use of Field Experiments. Journal of Social Issues, 68: 221–237, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2012.01746.x/abstract.

[x]     U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Benefits Survey 2015, Table 32, http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2015/ownership/private/table32a.pdf.

[xi]    See Watkins, “Paid Family and Medical Leave: A Cornerstone of Equity and Opportunity for Workers and Families,” May 2016, Economic Opportunity Institute, http://www.eoionline.org/work-family/paid-family-and-medical-leave/.

[xii]   U.S. Census Bureau, “Detailed Leave Arrangements Used by Women Who Worked During Pregnancy Preceding First Birth: 2006–2008,” 2011, https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p70-128.pdf.

[xiii]   In These Times, “The Real War on Families, Aug 18, 2015, http://inthesetimes.com/article/18151/the-real-war-on-families.

[xiv]   EOI analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey data, 2014; Elizabeth Sowell, et al, “Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents,” Nature Neuroscience 18, 773–778 (2015) published online Mrch 30, 2015, http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v18/n5/full/nn.3983.html.

[xv]   Seattle Times, “Home prices rising faster in Washington than in any other state,” June 22, 2016, http://www.seattletimes.com/business/home-prices-rising-faster-in-washington-than-in-any-other-state/.

[xvi]   Myapartmentmap.com, website viewed Jun 20, 2016, http://www.myapartmentmap.com/apartments/wa/#data.

[xvii] Child Care Aware of Washington, “WASHINGTON’S CHILD CARE COSTS ARE AMONG THE HIGHEST IN THE NATION, ACCORDING TO CHILD CARE AWARE OF AMERICA’S ANNUAL HIGH COST OF CHILD CARE REPORT,” press release December 2015, http://wa.childcareaware.org/news/2015-high-cost-of-child-care-press-release.

[xviii] Economic Opportunity Institute analysis of Child Care Aware of Washington and U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2014 data.

[xix]   University of Washington, Total Cost of Attendance, webpage visited June 20, 2016, https://admit.washington.edu/Paying/Cost#freshmen-transfer.

[xx]   Basic expenses from Economic Policy Institute, Family Budget Calculator 2015; median earnings and percentage of children living with single mother from U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 2014.

[xxi]   Washington Employment Security Department, Employment Projections, https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/reports-publications/industry-reports/employment-projections; and “Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,” https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/reports-publications/occupational-reports/occupational-employment-and-wage-estimates.

[xxii] Economic Policy Institute, Minimum Wage Tracker, viewed Jun 20, 2016, http://www.epi.org/minimum-wage-tracker/#/min_wage/.

[xxiii] Family Values @ Work, Timeline of Wins, http://familyvaluesatwork.org/media-center/paid-sick-days-wins.

[xxiv] Michael Reich, Ken Jacobs, and Annette Bernhardt, “Local Minimum Wage Laws: Impacts on Workers, Families and Businesses,” Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, March 2014, http://irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/104-14.pdfMichael Reich, Sylvia A. Allegretto, Ken Jacobs and Claire Montialoux, “The Effects of a $15 Minimum Wage in New York State,” March 10, 2016, Center for Labor Research and Education, University of California, Berkeley, http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/the-effects-of-a-15-minimum-wage-in-new-york-state/; John Schmitt, “Why does the minimum wage have no discernible effect on employment?” Feb 2013, Center for Economic and Policy Research, http://cepr.net/documents/publications/min-wage-2013-02.pdf.

[xxv] Marilyn Watkins, “Local Results of Paid Sick Days Laws,” Jan. 2016, Economic Opportunity Institute, http://www.eoionline.org/work-family/paid-sick-days/local-results-of-paid-sick-days-laws/.

[xxvi] Raise Up Washington, http://www.raiseupwa.com/.

[xxvii]           Adam Burle and Stephen Bezruchka, “Population Health and Paid Parental Leave: What the United States Can Learn from Two Decades of Research,” Healthcare 2016, 4(2), http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/4/2/30.

[xxviii]          Linda Houser and Thomas P. Vartanian, “Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public,” Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 2012, http://cww.rutgers.edu/sites/cww.rutgers.edu/files/documents/working_families/CWW_Paid_Leave_Brief_Jan_2012_0.pdf.; Maya Rossin-Slater, Christopher J. Ruhm, Jane Waldfogel, “The Effects of California’s Paid Family Leave Program on Mothers’ Leave-Taking and Subsequent Labor Market Outcomes,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 17715, December 2011, http://www.nber.org/papers/w17715.

[xxix]    The Atlantic, “A Step Toward Equal Pay for Men and Women,” August 2, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/gender-wage-gap-massachusetts/494045/.

[xxx] Lawrence Mishel, “Raise America’s Pay,” testimony before the Democratic National Convention Platform Drafting Hearing on June 9, 2016, http://www.epi.org/publication/testimony-raise-americas-pay/.
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Originally published at EOI Online

Answers to the Supreme Court McCleary Questions

On July 14, 2016, the Washington Supreme Court ordered the State to appear before it on September 7 2016 to provide specific answers to 8 questions the Supreme Court raised in their Order regarding how and when the legislature will comply with our State Constitution Paramount Duty to fully fund our schools. In this article, I provide my answers to these 8 questions. As the voters have a right to know where each candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction stands on these important issues, I encourage the other candidates for State Superintendent to do the same. If you are concerned about school funding, I hope you will share this article with other parents and teachers – and be sure to mail in your ballot by Tuesday, August 2nd.

Here is a link to the Supreme Court 2016 McCleary Order. It is only a couple of pages long. http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20News/OrderMcClearyv.StateofWashington071416.pdf

Here are a couple of slightly edited quotes from the Order: “Before making a decision on whether the State is in compliance, we will hear from the parties on precisely what the legislature has accomplished, what remains to be accomplished…The 2017 legislative session presents the last opportunity for complying with the State’s paramount duty by 2018. At this juncture, seven years since enactment of ESHB 2261 and six years since enactment of SHB 2776, the State can certainly set out for the court and the people of Washington the detailed steps it must take to accomplish its goals by the end of the next legislative session. Therefore, by unanimous vote, the court directs the parties to appear before the court on September 7, 2016, for oral argument… where the State will be expected to provide specific and detailed answers to the following eight questions:

(a) whether the State views the 2018 deadline as referring to the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, to the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, to the end of 2018, or to some other date;

(b) whether E2SSB 6195, when read together with ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776, satisfies this court’s January 9, 2014, order for a plan and, if not, what opportunities, if any, remain for the legislature to provide the plan required by that January 9, 2014, order;

(c) the estimated current cost of full state funding of the program of basic education… including, but not limited to, the costs of materials, supplies, and operating costs; transportation; and reduced class sizes for kindergarten through third grade and all-day kindergarten, with the costs of reduced class sizes and all-day kindergarten to include the estimated capital costs;

(d) the estimated cost of full state funding of competitive education staff salaries, including the costs of recruiting and retaining competent staff;

(e) the components of basic education, if any, the State has fully funded in light of the costs specified above;

(f) the components of basic education, including basic education staff salaries, the State has not yet fully funded in light of the costs specified above, the cost of achieving full state funding and how the State intends to meet its constitutional obligation to implement its plan of basic education through dependable and regular revenue sources by that deadline;

(g) whether this court should dismiss the contempt order or continue sanctions; and

(h) any additional information that will demonstrate to the court how the State will fully comply with article IX, section 1 by 2018.”

Here are my answers to the eight questions raised by our State Supreme Court:

#1 What is the exact 2018 Deadline?
(a) whether the State views the 2018 deadline as referring to the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, to the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, to the end of 2018, or to some other date;

There has been a lot of debate about what the deadline is for the State legislature to honor our State Constitution. The plaintiffs have claimed that it is the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. Some in the legislature have claimed that they do not need to fully fund the schools even by the 2018- 2019 school year. My view is that even a one day violation of a student’s right to an education is a severe violation of our state constitution. Imagine a reckless driver going 75 MPH in a 25 MPH school zone – endangering the lives of students. The reckless driver then goes before the court and tells the judge they will start obeying the speeding laws 6 or 7 years from now. The court should not accept any delay in obeying the law. Justice delayed is justice denied. Students are harmed much more by being forced to attend the most over-crowded and under-funded schools in the nation than they are by a reckless driver. Our kids have only one chance at a quality education. For the legislature to claim they can delay funding schools past September 2017 is reckless, irresponsible, immoral and against the clear language of the Washington State Constitution.

02

As a practical matter, the legislature must plan and provide for state funding months and years before it is actually needed. For example, the 2017 legislative session, also called the long session, is supposed to create a fiscal plan for the two year period that begins on July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2019. This includes both the September 2017 to June 2018 school year and the September 2018 to June 2019 school year. However, this fiscal spending plan is based on a revenue plan that must precede spending. Any tax changes from the 2017 legislative session, whether they are property tax changes or other tax changes, would not go into effect until January 2018 – to late to provide funds for the September 2017 school year. Schools would need to be built prior to September 2017. Since it takes at least one year to build a new school, the construction would need to have been started in the summer of 2016 and teachers would need to be hire by July 2017. Therefore it is already too late for the State to comply with the McCleary Order by September 2017 regardless of what the 2017 legislature does!

#2 Is the Plan to Create a Plan (aka Senate Bill 6195) is a real plan?
(b) whether E2SSB 6195, when read together with ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776, satisfies this court’s January 9, 2014, order for a plan and, if not, what opportunities, if any, remain for the legislature to provide the plan required by that January 9, 2014, order;

03

I testified against Senate Bill 6095, the plan to create a plan, because it is a worthless fake “kick the can down the road” exercise that pretends that the legislature does not know what it costs to fund schools – even though the legislature has had more than six previous planning committees answer the exact same questions that the new committee is asking.

The previous plan completed in 2012 did a detailed analysis of the cost to pay for House Bill 2261 and Senate Bill 2776 and concluded that it would cost about $6 billion in operating costs per year. This included one billion to restore teacher pay and one billion to replace illegal local levies. But it did not include the cost of school construction. Since our state has a $30 billion school construction backlog with half of our schools not meeting either the health code or earthquake standards, providing every student with a safe and healthy school would cost an additional $3 billion per year for the next 10 years. This brings the total known cost up to more than $9 billion per year – essentially doubling school funding – which is exactly what I have proposed doing throughout my campaign. This would also address the Class Size Initiative which is also part of state law and basic education. See page 49 of the following report. http://www.k12.wa.us/Compensation/CompTechWorkGroupReport/CompTechWorkGroup.pdf

My proposal is to ask the Supreme Court to repeal all 700 illegal tax breaks to wealthy corporations (which are contrary to several sections of our state constitution).

04

This would provide not only provide an additional $9 billion annually to to fully fund our schools but also provide every student in our state with a free college education and/or vocational training AND also end child homelessness.

Sadly, no other candidates for Superintendent have any plan to provide the $9 billion annually to fully fund our schools. In fact, no one in the legislature has any plan to provide more than a small fraction of the $9 billion in additional revenue needed to fund school operation and construction. So the answer to whether Senate Bill 6095 would meet the McCleary obligation is No.

05

The State will claim that the legislature will find a way to fund our schools in the 2017 session. But the fact is that Olympia is completely owned by wealthy corporations so there is no chance that they will repeal the billions in tax breaks for wealthy corporations. Instead, they will likely be completely gridlocked, fake their way through several “do-nothing” special sessions and then present yet another fake plan to the Supreme Court. And our kids will be forced to deal with yet another year of the lowest funded most over-crowded schools in the nation.

06

#3 What is the cost of full state funding for public schools?

(c) the estimated cost of full state funding of basic education… including, but not limited to, the costs of materials, supplies, and operating costs; transportation; and reduced class sizes for kindergarten through third grade and all-day kindergarten, with the costs of reduced class sizes and all-day kindergarten to include the capital costs;

As noted above, a 2012 highly detailed study estimated that the cost was an additional $6 billion in operating costs. The study did not include capital school construction costs. Adding $3 billion per year for the next 10 years, the total additional revenue needed is more than $9 billion per year.

#4 What is the additional cost needed to end the teacher shortage?

(d) the estimated cost of full state funding of competitive education staff salaries, including the costs of recruiting and retaining competent staff;

Washington state has the 4th lowest paid and most overworked teachers in the nation. The 2012 study estimated that it would cost at least one billion additional dollars just to restore teacher pay to what it was in the 1990s. Hiring additional teachers and staff to lower class sizes as required by the Class Size Initiative would require several more billion dollars.

07

#5 What has the legislature done since the January 2012 McCleary Order?

(e) the components of basic education, if any, the State has fully funded in light of the costs specified above;

Many in the legislature claim that the legislature has put billions of additional dollars into funding our schools in the past four years. But all the legislature really did was move money around from one account to another. The fact is that since the January 2012 Supreme Court order the number of students in our schools has increased by more than 32,000 students while the number of teachers declined by more than 1,000 teachers!

08

Every year, our school funding crisis has gotten worse and worse and class sizes have gotten higher and higher. So the honest answer to the Supreme Court’s question is that the legislature has not done anything at all to improve school funding in Washington state.

#6 How the legislature will come up with the additional $9 billion from dependable revenue sources? (f) the components of basic education, including staff salaries, the State has not yet fully funded in light of the costs specified above, the cost of achieving full state funding and how the State intends to meet its constitutional obligation to implement its plan of basic education through dependable and regular revenue sources;

Currently, the legislature is under-funding our schools by at least $9 billion per year. This includes one to two billion dollars in illegal, unfair and unconstitutional local levy funds – which have creates a system of rich school districts that can pass school levies and poor school districts that cannot pass school levies. The $9 billion dollar question is how the legislature will suddenly come up with the needed $9 billion in 2017 when they have done next to nothing during the past four years.

The only solution to this crisis is to understand where the robbery went in the first place. Since 1996 (the last time school funding in Washington state was above the national average), the legislature has passed an additional 300 tax breaks costing our schools $16 billion per year in lost revenue. It is only by repealing these illegal tax breaks to wealthy corporations that we have any hope at all of restoring school funding. But the problem is that the legislature is owned by these very wealthy corporations. So there will be no reductions in corporate tax breaks.

So it will be up to the Superintendent of Public Instruction to use Article 3, Section 22 of the State Constitution to go around the legislature and directly to the Supreme Court asking them to declare these tax breaks to be unconstitutional. If I am elected, I will do this during my first week in office.

09

Sadly, none of the other candidates are willing to take on the corporate welfare that is preventing us from fully funding our schools. So if I am not elected, our kids will be forced to endure yet another 4 years of the lowest funded most over-crowded schools in the nation.

#7 Should the Supreme Court continue sanctions?
(g) whether this court should dismiss the contempt order or continue sanctions;

The Supreme Court should not only continue the sanctions, they should state that if the legislature does not fully fund our schools by July 1, 2017, that the Court will declare all 700 corporate tax breaks to be null and void.

10

#8 Additional Evidence that the legislature will NOT comply with their Paramount Duty to fully fund or schools? (h) any additional information that will demonstrate to the court how the State will fully comply with article IX, section 1 by 2018.

There are a whole host of reasons to conclude that the legislature will NEVER comply with their Paramount Duty to fully fund our schools. First, despite a direct order to pay a fine of $100,000 per day deposited into a fund dedicated for education, the legislature refused to pay the fine. Second, the legislature responded to the Class Size Initiative by delaying it for several years. Third, even after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the legislature failed to comply with their Paramount Duty to fund our schools, the legislature passed the second Boeing Tax Break – the largest tax break in the history of the planet. Fourth, since 2012, the legislature has continued to pass many tax breaks while no one in the legislature even submitted a single bill to fully fund our public schools. Fifth, the legislature has failed to fully fund our schools for more than 20 years – 1996 being the last time school funding in Washington state was above the national average.

But perhaps the strongest evidence that our current legislature has no intention of ever funding our schools is a line buried on about Page 200 of every annual appropriations bill passed since 2012 – prohibiting the State Health Department from even testing whether schools are meeting health and safety standards. The leaders of the legislature know that half of our schools are more than 50 years old and do not meet health code standards. Half of our schools do not meet earthquake code standards. Given that we have more than 2000 schools, this means that more than 1000 schools in Washington state are not a safe, healthy place for our kids. At an average replacement cost of $30 million per school, it would take more than $30 billion to rebuild these 1,0000 dangerous schools.

So what is the legislature’s response to this crisis? Every year for the past four years, they have included a line in the annual Appropriations bill prohibiting the State Department of Health from documenting the health and safety problems of our schools. Even worse, our current State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, is also aware of this Code of Silence and has actively helped to keep parents in the dark about the dangerous state of our public schools.

11

What will happen when the legislature fails to fully fund our schools in 2017?
The current Superintendent has submitted two briefs to the Court. The first one asked the Court to shut down our public schools being July 1, 2017. The second asked the Court to declare one billion dollars in local levies to be unconstitutional – thus depriving local school districts of one billion dollars at a time when they are already grossly underfunded. If the Court takes either of these actions, it will severely harm our students when the real culprits are the State legislature and the wealthy corporations who use illegal tax breaks to rob our schools of billions of dollars.

More important, closing schools or depriving them of funds is not likely to solve the school funding crisis. The only action that will solve the school funding crisis is for the Court to declare billions in tax breaks for wealthy corporations to be unconstitutional.

Sadly, parents in Washington state seem to be asleep on the importance of this election for State Superintendent and the role they could play in restoring full funding for our schools. With only three days left for parents to mail in their ballots, only 15% of ballots have been received. At this rate, it is possible that only one in four of Washington’s four million registered voters will turn in their ballots. I therefore urge you to email every parent and teacher you know and encourage them to mail in their ballot by Tuesday August 2nd.

Letter to the editor in Bellevue Reporter, on attack ads and Litzow

On the day the primary election ballots arrived in my mailbox, I also received an attack ad, from a group opposed to 41st LD state Senate candidate Lisa Wellman. Wow, they’re starting early this year! In 2010 her opponent, Steve Litzow, won by about 200 votes because of last-minute attack ads sent out by an organization funded by the Koch Brothers; at least they waited til right before the general election. Unfortunately, attack ads tend to work, regardless of the accuracy of their content.

Here’s hoping that Washington State voters wise up and realize that the Republican policies serve the few, by burdening us with regressive taxes. For example, did you know that Republicans actually raised your taxes? The regressive gas tax just went up a nickel and will rise again next year [Oops. I got that wrong. It rose last year. My apologies.] Republicans are OK with regressive taxes, such as the gas tax and the sales tax. But they vehemently oppose closing tax loopholes that favor the rich, and they oppose taxing capital gains.

I-1464 would put campaign cash in voters’ hands

State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner, made it into the political news recently. The FBI has been looking into her campaign fundraising.

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Image courtesy of Integrity Washington

What is strange is that Sen. Roach has said out loud what everyone walking the halls of the state Capitol knows: There is an intimate connection between campaign contributions, lobbying and legislators’ decisions on bills to support and to oppose. But our elected legislators are not supposed to publicly acknowledge these connections.

In 2014, Sen. Roach was campaigning for re-election. She was opposed by a fellow Republican, then-state Rep. Cathy Dahlquist of Enumclaw. Roach was trying to raise money for her campaign. By email, she reminded the Spokane private utility company, Avista, that she’d just been appointed to a legislative energy-policy advisory committee. Sleazy? Absolutely! Stupid? Yes. But, when these sentiments remain unspoken, absolutely commonplace.

What are we to expect when campaigns cost more than $200,000? If candidates don’t succeed raising money, they aren’t considered legitimate. So they spend a lot of time on the phone, organizing fundraisers, meeting lobbyists and the heads of political action committees, all in pursuit of campaign dollars. Who wouldn’t be surprised by legislative votes; just follow the money.

In the 44th District there is a real race between John Lovick, Democrat, who is the former Snohomish County executive and Janice Huxford, a Republican from Lake Stevens. Lovick has raised $47,000 and Huxford has raised $57,000. Whose on Huxford’s side? Premera, Regence, Ace Hardware, the Washington Food Industry Association, and the Trucking Action Committee. How about Lovick? The grocery store workers union, the Snohomish FireFighters, the teachers’ union, the state troopers and service employees. Who as a legislator will consider the public good?

How about unopposed candidates? Take for example Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe. He doesn’t have an opponent. Why would he need any campaign funds? But they have piled in, with Altria (Phillip Morris tobacco), 7-Eleven, Anhaueser-Busch, Chevron, the American Chemistry Council, PHRMA, Boeing, and Washington Banking PAC all contributing at least $900. Will Senator Pearson consider the public good of, for example, reining in drug prices, or will he be careful not to disturb the current status quo of the drug corporations and their high prices and profits?

Sen. Roach has merely pulled back the curtain on candidate-campaign contributors-legislative interactions. We don’t like what we see, but it happens all the time.

Is there a solution to this not-so-subtle corruption of public decision making? Yes! An unusual gathering of citizens, including tea party leaders, the League of Women Voters, and Connie Balmer,wife of ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer, are supporting Initiative 1464, the Washington Government Accountability Act.

This initiative will limit donations from lobbyists to candidates to $100. I-1464 also sets up a voucher system, sending three $50 vouchers, called Democracy Credit contributions, to every voter in the state of Washington. As a voter, you decide if you want to contribute these vouchers to a legislative candidate. So instead of begging for $1,000 contributions from affluent residents, candidates would be motivated to request $50, $100 or $150 contributions from regular citizens, and actually give them a reason to make these donations. To be a qualified candidate to receive democracy vouchers, the candidate must receive at least 75 cash contributions of between $10 and $50. If they choose to participate, they cannot accept other contributions to their campaigns, be those from Boeing or Comcast or Jeff Bezos. They cannot contribute more than $5,000 of their own money for their campaigns. Their campaigns are limited to $150,000 to raise and spend. So they can’t buy their elections, and neither can the corporations and their lobbyists in Olympia.

Where does the money come from for Democracy vouchers? Right now, if you don’t live in Washington but you buy things in Washington, you don’t have to pay our sales tax. When my sister-in-law from Oregon comes up for Thanksgiving, or all those cruise boat passengers spend time in Seattle, they buy stuff and it’s all exempt from the sales tax. We pay it. They don’t.

Closing this sales tax loophole will provide the financing for Democracy vouchers. That would put an end to voiced and unvoiced quid pro quo between lobbyists, candidates, elected legislators, and corporations in the halls of Olympia.

Our democracy would actually reflect the will of the people!

Originally published in the Everett Herald »