Bipartisan attack on ST3 funding threatens light-rail extensions

(April 20, 2017) — The Legislature is wrapped up in discussions about how to fund (or not fund) K-12 education. But if you look under the covers, you will see that these very same elected representatives and senators are intent on defunding Sound Transit 3. Instead of simply abiding by the voters’ approval of the tax increases necessary to fund mass transit in the Puget Sound area, they are engaging in a bipartisan attack on the election results.

Last November, we approved Sound Transit 3, with more than 54 percent support for the taxes necessary to build out our light rail system. To finance this, voters ratified Sound Transit’s financing plan, which increases property taxes by $25 per $100,000 in assessed value, hikes sales taxes by one half of one percent, and increases annual car-tab fees by about $80 for a vehicle valued at $10,000.

That money will enable Sound Transit to complete a 108-mile light rail network from Everett to Tacoma. By 2040, Sound Transit and its regional transit partners, including Community Transit, will carry more than 200 million passengers, with seven out of 10 trips made by rail, most of those by light rail. That is the key, because light rail is dependable, doesn’t get stuck in traffic, and takes you to where you want to go, or at least close by!

During the campaign, Sound Transit was completely transparent about the taxes. We all knew that our car tabs would increase a lot in 2017 to help fund Sound Transit. So when the first invoices arrived, the vast majority of people just paid their tabs. But a vocal minority, with big tabs from expensive cars, took their displeasure to Olympia, hoping that the Legislature would listen to their stories and disregard the will of the people.

Now we have a bipartisan attack on Sound Transit, with both Republicans and Democrats offering proposals for defunding.  The Republicans in the Senate are straightforward. One bill, sponsored by Sen. Dino Rossi (R-Sammamish), would allow cities and counties to opt out of all Sound Transit taxes. With this one bill, the Republicans enable any city to pull itself out of Sound Transit, regardless of how its citizens benefit. Free rides for all! This bill also appears to be a moneymaker for Tim Eyman, as it enables local initiatives to void all taxes paying for Sound Transit.

In this context, the Democrats’ proposal in the House of Representatives doesn’t look so bad. But it is not good. It, too, undermines the vote of the people last year and the financing necessary for building out Sound Transit.  Twenty Democrats in the House of Representatives endorsed the Sound Transit 3 ballot initiative. Now they are proposing to lower car tabs for motorists who have bought cars recently, and especially for those who have bought the most expensive cars. This is what is considered “providing fair tax relief for motorists.”

Do Democrats think they can win votes from the complainers who do not want to pay their car tabs for Sound Transit? The Democratic proposal does not roll back car tabs to where they were last year. So if you are going to complain, you will complain about your car tab increase whether it is $100 or $200 or $300.

One owner stated that he was billed three times as much as what he paid last year. His total bill was $406. Under the Democrats’ bill, it will be around $275. He won’t like that either.

But let’s stick with the law as approved by the voters. $406 sounds like a lot. Now consider his vehicle: a 2010 Range Rover, with a sticker price of more than $76,000. If he can afford a car that is valued at twice the total annual earnings of typical workers in our state, then he can afford his car tabs. They cost him $1.11 a day.

Under the Democrats’ bill, if passed, car tabs for this fellow would be 75 cents a day. He would save 36 cents a day and Sound Transit would lose 36 cents a day. That’s not much, but you add together all these reductions, and Sound Transit loses $780 million in car tab fees. This will result in a total loss of $2 billion over 25 years, a loss of 4 percent of the total budget for Sound Transit 3, worth about four miles of light rail track.

Perhaps the light rail to Everett would end at Paine Field. You could take a taxi to downtown!

 

Originally published at The Stand.

Tax breaks for Boeing have helped send jobs out of state

Here’s a headline that should make us happy: “Trump, Battered in Washington, Is Buoyed at Boeing Rally.” That was from the New York Times, last Friday.

But the funny thing is, there was no Boeing rally in our state, where the vast majority of Boeing workers live and work, making the vast majority of Boeing’s airplanes. And it wasn’t “fake news.” Trump just decamped to Charleston, South Carolina, to have a love fest with Boeing management. Those are the same people who funded and masterminded an all-out multi-million-dollar anti-union campaign to blackmail workers in South Carolina not to join the Machinists union.

The backdrop for this love fest between the billionaire and the mere millionaires of Boeing’s management was the latest new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner in production in South Carolina. South Carolina wasn’t even called out in Boeing’s employment statistics in 2012. Now it is touted as the jewel in the crown. Is something wrong with this picture? A lot of things.

How did Boeing get all the billions of dollars to invest in South Carolina? Well, it could be seen as a direct transfer of tax money from our state, to Boeing, to South Carolina. Just in 2014 and 2015, Boeing got more than $521 million in tax breaks from the state of Washington. Did that go to ramping up Boeing employment in our state? No, employment has actually fallen, from 87,000 in October 2012 to 71,000 now. That is a loss of 16,000 jobs, or almost 1 out of 5 jobs disappeared.

Adding up the tax exemptions that Boeing rammed through the Legislature in 2003 ($3.2 billion) and 2013 ($8.7 billion) and even a top executive can figure out that’s how to invest in South Carolina. Which Boeing has done, to the tune of at least $2 billion, so far. These tax breaks have also enabled Boeing to pay over $41 million in fines in 2014 and 2015 for falsifying claims for the maintenance of military aircraft. No skin off Boeing’s profits!

Why is Boeing so anxious to rob the state of Washington and starve education funding, with these tax breaks? Is it because the workers in Washington, organized together in the Machinists Union and SPEEA, saved Boeing from its disastrous outsourcing of initial production of the 787 to other state, countries and companies? Is it because the 737 plant is going full-tilt as Boeing’s cash cow in Renton? Is it because we have the biggest concentration of aerospace-related production, manufacturing, and brain power in the world right here. Is it because the state of Washington has invested in community college workforce training and degrees tailored specifically to “supply” skilled workers for Boeing?

OK, so none of these reasons makes sense. How about this one: Washington workers are organized into unions at Boeing. Because of this, they don’t have to forfeit their constitutional rights when they walk into the plant. They get some respect from the company. They have some power to negotiate with the company to determine their wages and benefits. They cannot be fired at the arbitrary whim of a supervisor. They cannot be fired by Donald Trump, like he loved to do on “The Apprentice.”

Are there ways to stop the hemorrhaging of Boeing jobs from our state? Last year, state Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, proposed a simple equation: Boeing, if you want your tax break, you keep jobs in Washington; if you reduce employment by 5,000 jobs or more, you lose your tax break and that money goes into education funding.

Really, what do we have to lose? Our state is just getting played by Boeing. We give Boeing tax breaks, they invest in other states and countries. We don’t, and Boeing invests in other states and countries, but they will have less money to do so. And of course, whenever these Boeing off-sites like the joint Boeing-Russian operation for titanium machining in the Ural Mountains of Russia, or the Charleston, South Carolina, site for the 787-E or the Boeing technology center in Moscow, whenever any one of them fail the exact quality assurance we all need for aircraft, Boeing will always fall back on the workers, the machinists, the engineers and the aerospace infrastructure of Washington state. So rather than encouraging Boeing to go, let’s just tell them they should stay!

Originally published at HeraldNet.com

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

Voting, taxes and what it means to be an American

vote

Image: Gazettes.com

When your ballot arrives later this week, take a pause and before you vote, consider, what does it mean to be an American? As Americans, we are all in this election together. We are in this country, this economy, this culture, and this government together.

What is government? It is the comprehensive delivery of services upon which we all depend, including emergency responders to the wind storms last week, schools for our kids, health care for retired people and low-income citizens, protection from violence and terrorism, road maintenance, public utilities, food safety, the court system to protect private property and enforce contracts, and the regulation of the financial underpinnings of our economy. Literally every part of our daily lives, and of the private capitalist economy, is dependent on government services.

We don’t get these services for nothing. We pay for them, with our taxes. So let’s talk about taxes. According to the New York Times, pollsters have been asking Americans whether “it is every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes.” Every year, about nine in 10 Americans agree they should.

It is not just people’s opinions. It is their actions. Paying federal income taxes is done through a system of voluntary compliance. Sure, you might be caught by the IRS if you don’t submit your 1040. But the actual likelihood of this is so slim that some economists, weighing costs and benefits, claim that it makes sense for a “rational” person to evade taxes altogether. But we are rational people and 140 million of American households, that is, us, file our federal income taxes every year. Over four-fifths of total tax liabilities are paid on time. We do this because we all understand, intuitively, that if we want public services, we have to pay for them.

What people don’t like is tax avoidance. You pay no federal taxes, and you reap all the benefits of living in America. That’s what appears to be Donald Trump’s situation, which he terms as “smart” and we all know is just selfish.

It is also the habit of some of Washington’s largest companies. Microsoft has stashed away $124 billion in Ireland, Luxembourg, and Singapore. This maneuver enables Microsoft to avoid $39 billion in what the corporation should have contributed in federal taxes. Microsoft is joined by Pfizer, GE, and Apple as those corporations that have hidden over $100 billion each in tax havens, avoiding taxes in our country.

Compare that legal maneuvering to avoid taxes to the voting habits of Americans. Even in the face of the anti-tax rhetoric which politicians like to preach, Americans have increasingly supported taxation for government services. Thirty-five years ago, only about one in five state ballot measures to raise taxes passed. In the past decade, voters have approved half of tax-increasing measures on state ballots.

This public support for taxation increases at the local level. Last April, voters in the Everett School District approved both a levy and a bond for capital projects and technology. Last February, voters in Arlington, Edmonds, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Mukilteo and Stanwood all approved school levies. Less than a year ago, voters in Gold Bar, Stanwood, Arlington and Warm Beach voted for property taxes to finance fire and police services, renovate fire stations, purchase equipment and fund EMS. Across the county, voters approved an increase in the sales tax to enhance Community Transit services.

These are our neighbors, our families and ourselves voting to tax ourselves so that our local governments, school districts, and fire districts can provide the fundamental services needed as foundations for our quality of life. We as citizens make the immediate connections to our shared local well-being – hence, we support schools, EMS, and fire protection.

We make the same connection with the federal government. We understand that taxes provide safety, security, education financing, regulation of food and drugs, environmental protection, disaster relief, national parks, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, occupational safety, negotiations with other countries, and the list goes on and on.

We get that. We as taxpayers pay for that. We are the patriotic ones. Not so for the people who avoid their taxes, or who applaud those who avoid their taxes, or the corporations which hide their money in tax-free havens in other countries. They are not patriotic. They are free riders.

Originallly published: a the Everett Herald

Lawmaker Accountability, please!

Is it unconstitutional or even criminal when our elected leaders give more of our tax money to the rich and corporations than they do in serving and protecting the health and welfare of the American people? Corporate tax breaks are already twice as much than Medicare and Social Security combined, and corporate tax breaks are ten times as much as our three main programs needy families depend upon. Whether or not we elect Clinton or Trump, the multinational corporations have bought both sides to give them more of our tax dollar.
Washington State Supreme Court is on the verge of ruling tax expenditures unconstitutional to make the legislators accountable to the people.

President Obama legacy will show that by bailing out the banks and not closing the six corporate tax loopholes resulted in the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, increasing the number of children living in poverty from 18% to 22%. THIS MUST BE STOPPED.

FACT: Whether Democrat Clinton or Republican Trump, Multinationals Set to Win the Election

FACT: 2015 Corporate Tax Breaks- Expenditures $1.22 Trillion more than the US Budget – Discretionary Spending $1.11 Trillion Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go

FACT: CORPORATE 2013 TAX BREAKS $3 Trillion dollars a year, twice as much as Social Security and Medicare. Tax Avoidance On the Rise: It’s Twice the Amount of Social Security and Medicare

FACT: The President could close Six Egregious Corporate Tax Loopholes Sanders Asks Obama to Close Six Egregious Corporate Tax Loopholes

FACT: 10 Taxpayer Handouts to the Super Rich That Will Make Your Blood Boil

FACT: Global Elite Hiding Up to $32 Trillion in Offshore Accounts

FACT: PRIVATE FOUNDATIONS ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION. The Philanthropy Hustle

TRUTH BOMB – A fact spoken in clear, easy to understand terms and without bias. https://www.facebook.com/groups/TruthBomb/

How do Finns prosper more — with so much less, ostensibly, than we have?

Imagine living in a relatively small nation, where per capita income is $11,000 less than in Washington state, and the only natural resources are timber, water and ice. People pay a 31 percent tax on personal income in excess of $82,000, a value-added tax of 14 percent on food and restaurants, and 24 percent on most other goods. How could anyone possibly do well there, much less run a business and prosper?

And yet, looking at living conditions — such as education, health care, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment — this nation actually does much better than we’re doing in the U.S. Fewer people are poor, and more people there live longer, are more productive, and are … well, happier.

This place isn’t Arendelle of the movie “Frozen.” It’s Finland. Finland has a highly industrialized, largely free-market economy. The conservative Heritage Foundation rates Finland and the U.S. 74th and 76th, respectively, in terms of “economic freedom.”

In Washington state, our per capita income is close to $50,000 per resident. By that measure, we’re a rich state. But we’re underfunding our schools from pre-K through higher education; too many people are homeless, while many more face stagnating incomes and diminishing public services; and we’re all facing more uncertain economic futures.

So how do the Finnish people prosper with so much less, ostensibly, than we have? The answer is, they make shared investments to build their kids, families and communities.

Look at the economy in terms of peoples’ lives: When a baby is born in Finland, the family gets a baby box with clothes, diapers, bedding, towels, a picture book, a teething toy and other items. Paid family leave kicks in for at least a year, at 80 percent compensation with a guarantee you can return to your job. When mom or dad decides to go back to work, the cost of day care is subsidized so the maximum monthly payment is $322.

As kids grow up, their parents can devote real time to them. Every worker gets five weeks vacation, and the family budget is enhanced with a monthly stipend of $110 for the first child. The stipend increases with each child, so the stipend for the fifth child is almost $200. Pre-kindergarten is universal and free for all children. Schools provide meals for all children. In school, children are immersed in a system focused on creativity, teacher and student autonomy, foreign languages, math and music. No surprise: 15-year-old Finns are the top in the world in education. And when a student goes to technical college or the university, there is no tuition. Instead, the student gets a living allowance!

The Finnish health care system covers everyone. A friend of mine recently had surgery which required two nights in the hospital. His total bill: $103.74, inclusive of surgery, hospitalization, care and medicines!

In retirement, people receive about 55 percent of their average earnings along with a $560 monthly housing allowance. The average pension, including the housing allowance, comes to about $29,000 a year. Full pensions start at age 63. It’s guaranteed, like our Social Security, so the Finns don’t have to worry and hope that their 401(k) performs well. They don’t need 401(k)s! How is this financed? The Finns pay 5.7 percent of their wages into the pension system, and 7.2 percent after age 53. Compare that to our 6.2 percent tax for our Social Security. Employers pay more: 23 percent.

So sure, taxes are higher in Finland. But it’s a shared investment the Finns use to build their economy. The Finns have figured out that once you provide a universal platform of educational opportunity and health and social security, then businesses can just focus on doing business, being innovative, creating new products and systems.

That is what the Finns do. It has a dynamic private sector, ranked third in the world by Grant Thornton accounting (the U.S. is ranked 12th). There are double the number of small and medium enterprises per 1,000 people in Finland compared to the U.S.

And the Finnish people don’t have to scrimp to pay $1,500 a month for child care, worry about how to take time off from work when they have a child, wonder how to pay $12,000 yearly tuition for a public university tuition, or risk bankruptcy in a medical emergency, or wonder about having enough to eat when they retire.

That means that they can grasp their future with hope. Can we?

Originally published at the Everett Herald

How conservatives promote prostitution of young women

As reported in Students seeking sugar daddies for tuition, rent, many college students turn to prostitution to pay their education debts.

Conservative opposition to taxation causes young women to turn to prostitution to pay for their education.  Why can’t American join the rest of the industrialized world and subsidize education and health care for everyone so that people don’t have to sell their bodies to survive?

A friend, Chris Tombrello, told me:

I did some consulting at the Jr. High school level in Yokohama– this was 20 years ago, some of the 9th grade girls would show off their cell phone collections– one girl had four of them, all different colors. Each phone was provided by a sugar daddy, men at least the age of their fathers. The only difference here is that the women are mostly of legal age, but really is it a good idea for 18 year olds to be selling themselves to predators? And really: what are the odds the FBI is investigating the phenomena? 100%?

Gov. Brownback is trying to turn Kansas into Washington State

From Tax cuts for the rich made Kansas broke — so now Republicans move to raise taxes on the poor:

Let’s say you’re the Governor of Kansas. The tax cuts for the rich you pushed through a couple years ago mean you’re in a world of budgetary hurt, and you’re not sure how you’re going to pay for basic expenses like roads and schools this year. What do you do? Repeal tax cuts? Absolutely not. You’re Sam Brownback. You balance your books on the backs of the poor, and cite fiscal prudence as a moral justification.

The Washington Post reports that Republican officials in Kansas are pursuing increases in sales and excise taxes – which have the ultimate effect of making it more expensive to be poor. People who have less money can’t afford to invest money like rich people; poor people have to spend their paychecks just to make it through the week. Consequently, sales taxes – as a matter of policy – proportionally punish people at the lower end of income spectrum.