Former Planned Parenthood Northwest political director Dana Laurent has scored a bit of a coup in her race for Washington State Democratic Party chair by winning the endorsement of Joby Shimomura, Governor Jay Inslee's chief of staff. One of Inslee's closest advisors, it is hard to imagine that Shimomura would have publicly endorsed Laurent without first clearing it with the governor. So barring an Inslee endorsement of one of Laurent's opponents, it seems reasonable to interpret Shimomura's endorsement of Laurent as a polite proxy for the governor's.
As of now, the race to replace Dwight Pelz as party chair appears to have two clear frontrunners: Laurent and current party executive director Jaxon Ravens. Ravens, a long time Democratic Party activist who has worked for the state party since 2004, is well respected in the party and would represent a vote for continuity. It'll be interesting to see how this race ultimately plays out.
Last night the 43rd District Democrats elected Brady Walkinshaw, a relatively progressive Cuban American and certified homosexual, to represent the central-Seattle district in the legislature's house starting next month. When I sat down with him a couple weeks ago, Walkinshaw seemed like a nice fellow who wants a modicum of power to make the world a better place. Currently employed by the Gates Foundation and a board member at Intiman, and formerly a labor organizer when he attended Princeton, he had dewey-eyed ambitions of advancing the state DREAM Act, preserving voting rights for people of color in racist Eastern Washington, and repairing our regressive tax scheme in a manner that makes Washington State fair for the working-class while finally giving schools the money they need. Instead, Walkinshaw will be a state legislator. As a lawmaker, Walkinshaw will crawl through the partisan gridlock of Olympia, where virtually nothing of import has happened in years and in which all work in the house is stymied by the GOP-controlled senate, all while continuing the 43 District legacy of choosing young gay politicians who grow up to be old gay politicians.
The King County Council is expected to rubber-stamp his appointment.
Walkinshaw will replace Democratic Representative Jamie Pedersen, renowned as the Dick Clark of gay elves. Pedersen was selected by the district to serve in the Sisyphean death chamber that is our state senate, filling a seat that was formerly occupied by Ed Murray, who created a vacancy after he fled said chamber and was elected mayor. Murray must now work full time with the Seattle City Council.
Condolences to all.
Here's a few words of advice to our state Senate Republican Caucus about the $12.3 billion transportation package they've proposed: If you plan to enact this, you better pass it (and the 11.5 cent per gasoline tax that funds it) directly instead of referring it to voters, and then hope to God somebody doesn't referendum it. Because if it goes to the ballot, it's going down in flames.
As explained recently on Sightline Daily, 73 percent of the proposed spending would go to building new roads. Only 20 percent goes to road maintenance and safety, while a bare 4 percent goes to transit, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements. Only 4 percent! That's not just the opposite of what we want, it's an intentional insult!
"Ha, ha, fuck you Seattle," the Republicans are laughing. "You're so desperate for your Metro-saving MVET that you'll accept anything!"
Except, it's too late for that. Sure, the Republican proposal contains the MVET authority we asked for, but not councilmanic approval. Which means if this gas tax hike has to go to the ballot next November, the soonest we could go to King County voters for approval would be the spring of 2015. Meanwhile, Metro is going to start slashing service by June of 2014.
No, at this point the best choice left to King County is to go to voters in April with what authority it has as a transportation benefit district (car tabs and sales tax), and then tell the legislature to fuck off. There's no way a gas tax passes statewide without passing overwhelmingly in Seattle, and I can promise you that if this package goes to the ballot, my car-hating colleagues at The Stranger will take no prisoners in championing its defeat. The MVET hostage-taking was economic terrorism, and fuck if we're going to reward those tactics with even reluctant support.
Also, some words of advice to the Seattle legislative delegation: If Republicans want to vote en bloc in favor of an 11.5 cent per gallon tax increase, that's up to them. But if you vote for this abomination in its current form, giving it the veneer of bipartisan support (or giving Republicans the opportunity to vote no), prepare to look over your left shoulder and work a little harder for reelection.
While state revenue is looking a little bit better than it did during the bottom of the Great Recession, it could be rising a lot faster. As Schmudget points out:
As Washington state tax revenues continue their slow rebound from the Great Recession, profits from the sale of corporate stocks are breaching all-time highs. But unlike most other states, Washington doesn’t get a share of that windfall, which largely benefits wealthy investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which breached 16,000 for the first time ever earlier this month, has grown 126 percent since February 2009. Washingtonians could benefit greatly from the surging stock market if the state would tax those capital gains, as 42 other states do.
If Washington State placed just a one-percent tax on capital gains from large stock sales, it could bring in $100 million annually, skimming a little bit off the proceeds enjoyed by wealthy investors in this state and redirecting it toward public services.
State Senator Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island) has been elected to lead the Senate Democratic Caucus, and good for her and all, but I really just couldn't give a shit. I know Olympia is allegedly my beat, and I've got nothing against Nelson, but honestly, I have a tough time caring about the legislature in general, let alone the powerless Senate Democratic Caucus.
"I will do everything in my power to reach across the aisle whenever possible," Nelson said in a press release, blah, blah, blah.
As long as the really awful stuff can't get through the Democrat-controlled House, who gives a fuck? Not me!
Over at my old blog, HA, Carl has a surprisingly appealing idea: The 43rd Legislative District Democrats should select a Republican to fill mayor-elect Ed Murray's vacated state senate seat!
First, and most importantly, it would give the GOP a clear majority in the Senate. Now, I know that as a lefty blogger, that’s the sort of thing I’m generally opposed to, but the GOP are going to control the state Senate anyway, and this way they would probably not give the Majority Leader post to Rodney Tom. I mean, why would they elevate this whiny asshole who has already betrayed them once if they didn’t have to?
With Republican Jan Angel's win in the special election to replace Congressman Derek Kilmer in his old state senate seat, Republicans are now one seat away from controlling the state senate outright. So let's give it to them, and with it, the power to tell Rodney Tom to go fuck himself. It's not like the senate would be any worse than it already is, and at least this way Republicans would lose the ability to hide behind that "bipartisan caucus" bullshit.
Of course the seat would revert back to Democratic control after the next election—even better, to a Democrat with the electoral muscle to win the seat at the polls without the crutch of appointed incumbency. So no long-term harm would be done. But in the meanwhile, fuck Rodney Tom and his self-serving seizure of the Majority Leader office.
Besides, now that Seattle has succeeded in electing a Socialist, it is time to rise to the challenge of elevating a true fringe candidate to office: A Republican!
We were fucked. Totally fucked.
Throughout the shitshow that was our last legislative session, constituents here in King County had only one small request: the authority to tax ourselves to stave off a projected 17 percent cut in Metro bus service. Starved of sales tax revenue (thanks, Great Recession!), King County executive Dow Constantine and the mayors of every city in the county—Democrats and Republicans alike—joined forces to plead for a 1.5 percent motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) local option, an annual tax on the value of your car. The proceeds would be split 60/40 between Metro and local road maintenance.
The request easily passed the Democrat-controlled house. But thanks to the treachery of Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-self-serving-asshole Rodney Tom and his Republican-dominated so-called "Bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus," our local MVET option was held hostage to a doomed highway-funding bill: "Once the transit crowd gets what they consider they want," Tom cynically told the Seattle Times back in July, "the road package gets torpedoed." Unable to secure enough Republican votes to pass a proposed 10.5-cent-per-gallon hike in the state gas tax, the transportation funding package died, and with it, so did the MVET to save bus service.
But as satisfying as it may be to blame this debacle on the dysfunction of Olympia, voter outrage would be more effectively focused closer to home. First, there is Senator Tom, who represents parts of Medina, Bellevue, and Kirkland. But the Republican majority that blocked the MVET includes three other state senators whose King County constituents would be adversely affected by the MVET option's failure: Senators Andy Hill (R-Redmond), Joe Fain (R-Auburn), and Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island).
Senators Tom, Hill, Fain, and Litzow: the Four Horsemen of Buspocalypse.
Following the close of today's "Give Billions to Boeing Special Session," freshman state Senator Nick Harper (D-Everett) issued a statement announcing his resignation:
“My three years as Senator are an experience I will never forget. Unfortunately my work in Olympia takes me away from my family far too much. They deserve a full-time husband and father just as the people of the 38th deserve a full-time Senator. I feel that I cannot be both at this time."
It's a shame, because Olympia really needs more legislators with both the raw intelligence and common sense to quit that fucking hell hole. I mean honestly—Governor Inslee calls a special session to give Boeing billions of dollars in tax breaks and pass a transportation funding package that would provide King County the local taxing authority it needs to stave off a 17 percent cut in Metro bus service, and they pass the Boeing tax breaks but once again gavel to a close without addressing the needs of Seattle area commuters!
As I explained in this week's edition of The Stranger, that means King County is going to have to fall back upon a regressive and less stable tax source to save Metro. And once we do, we can tell that shit show in Olympia to go shove the roads-heavy transportation package up its collective ass.
As part of a deal announced today to keep Boeing 777X production in the region, Governor Jay Inslee has called a special legislative session to begin November 7 to pass all sorts of Boeing-demanded goodies, including:
- Extension of all commercial airplane tax incentives until 2040 and expansion of the current sales and use tax exemption on construction of buildings to manufacture “superefficient airplanes” to include all commercial airplanes and suppliers of wings and fuselages.
- Education and workforce development investments to boost enrollments in aerospace fields at community and technical colleges, train workers for manufacturing of composite wings and complete the Central Sound Aerospace Training Facility in Renton.
- Streamlined permitting actions that will speed up development and expansion of facilities at large manufacturing sites around the state.
- Developing balanced, practical solutions that achieve water quality goals (also referred to as fish consumption).
Because Boeing isn't profitable enough.
Also part of the deal, the Machinists Union has agreed to ask its members to approve big cuts in future health care and pension benefits. Again, Because Boeing isn't profitable enough.
On the bright side, Inslee will also use the special session to ask legislators to approve a new transportation funding package that presumably would include the local taxing authority necessary for King County Metro to stave off 645,000 hours of service cuts. More on Metro's woes and the potential funding obstacles in tomorrow's edition of The Stranger.
I like to make a game of predicting Seattle Times editorial board endorsements. I'm almost never wrong. Because they are so fucking predictable. But every once in a while they surprise me:
Nathan Schlicher, a Democrat from Gig Harbor, is the better choice for the 26th Legislative District Senate race to replace Derek Kilmer, who was elected to Congress.
[...] His opponent, Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, has a solid résumé as a businesswoman, former Kitsap County commissioner and state representative. But she lacks Schlicher’s moderate instincts. If elected, Angel’s conservative ideology might empower the unhelpful, far-right fringe of the Senate Republican caucus.
It is hard to overstate the importance of this special election. An Angel win in November would not only help cement the Republicans' obstructionist control of the state senate, it would also make it all the more difficult for Democrats to win back control in 2014. Under normal circumstances an Angel endorsement would have been a no-brainer for a Republican-leaning ed board that has consistently railed against the dangers of unchallenged Democratic hegemony in Olympia. But these aren't normal circumstances.
The Republican Party has become so pathologically dysfunctional that it's even beginning to lose the Seattle Times.
Maybe you've read about the recent study that shows Washington State having the most regressive tax structure in the nation.
What's double depressing about this is that the exact same thing was true back in 2010, when voters had an opportunity to change things in this state by approving Initiative 1098. The measure would have raised $2 billion annually by taxing only individual incomes over $200,000 a year.
It went down hard, 64 to 36, and our social services continued to shrink, and our education system continued to be underfunded. But hey, at least we got a handy poster out of the whole thing! Pretty much everything on there is still relevant today.
On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Paul Lawrence, the attorney representing the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee (SDCC), revealed that former SDCC executive director Michael King faces a 22 to 29 month prison sentence on eight counts of theft related to his alleged embezzlement of campaign funds.
"There is a plea agreement with Mr. King," Lawrence told reports. Prosecutors, he said, would recommend to the court a 24-month term and $250,000 in restitution. An arraignment is scheduled for October 7.
Lawrence, along with SDCC co-chairs Senators Ed Murray, David Frockt, and Sharon Nelson, took questions from reporters, their answers largely corroborating and expanding on the narrative reported in this week's edition of The Stranger. Frockt confirmed the allegation that King fabricated polling data to cover his tracks: "It's clear that some of those polls did not take place," acknowledged Frockt, but "it's hard for us to know which ones were legit and which were not." And when asked if King's alleged embezzlement might have cost Democrats control of the state senate, Nelson wouldn't disagree: "From what I understand… if we had those funds, we could have potentially been on TV and done a better job for Probst," Nelson told reporters. Former state Representative Tim Probst lost his 17th district senate race against Republican Don Benton by only 74 votes, leaving Democrats one loyal member short of a majority. "But," Nelson sighed, "that's hindsight."
As I posted earlier, the only known factual discrepancy in my original article concerns the issue of check signing authority. I had originally reported that "King had the authority to write checks without a cosigner, just like his predecessor," implying that King had had this authority since being hired in March 2011. The charging documents say King wasn't given this authority until March, 2012, and his predecessor, former SDCC executive director Chris Gregorich, confirms via email that he never had check signing authority during his own tenure. The question of whether such authority is commonplace, is still an issue of contention.
The senators insist that new controls are in place to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
UPDATE: I feel the need to take a moment to elaborate more on the whole check signing authority thing, since it appears to be raised in an effort to deflect blame from the SDCC co-chairs and onto SDCC treasurer Jason Bennett.
During the conference call, Murray made a point of emphasizing that "check writing authority had been given by the treasurer." Well, of course it had. As treasurer, Bennett controlled the bank accounts, so technically, he'd have to be the one to give check writing authority. That's a given. The question is whether there was anything inappropriate about Bennett's actions?
To this end, Murray's campaign consultant, Christian Sinderman, chimed in to clarify that King's predecessor did not have check signing authority—Gregorich confirmed this via email—the implication being that it is not normal for executive directors to have this authority. But in fact it is common for candidates, campaign managers, and executive directors to have check signing authority, and sources insist that previous SDCC executive directors had this authority as well. Murray himself described the SDCC as following a "strong executive director model." So why should we be surprised that Bennett gave King check signing authority when this strong executive director asked for it?
Of course, King shouldn't have had check signing authority. Because he is an alcoholic and a pathological gambler. But not because it's not something that strong executive directors don't normally have.
In the new issue of the The Stranger that just hit the streets this morning, I detail the alleged embezzlement of state senate Democratic campaign funds, and how it might have cost Dems control of the Senate and some key pieces of legislation. Because it concerned an ongoing criminal investigation, I didn't have access to the charging documents, and was forced to piece the story together citing unnamed sources.
Well, as it turns out, following months of investigation, charges were filed in King County Superior Court yesterday afternoon (pdf), just after we had gone to press. (Such are the joys of working for a weekly!) The charging documents find "probable cause to believe that Michael King embezzled funds from the now defunct Senate Democratic Campaign Committee for which he was the Executive Director, by submitting false requests for reimbursement for work or other expenditures not conducted ... and spending that money for personal use." King is charged with four counts of theft in the first degree, and four counts of theft in second degree.
Reading through the charging documents it looks like I may have gotten one factual assertion wrong. I had implied that King had the authority to write checks from the moment he was hired in March, 2011, but the charging documents state that King didn't receive check signing authority until early 2012. Whether or not that discrepancy is significant is debatable, but either way, mea culpa.
And speaking of mea culpa's, in response to the charging documents, the SDCC's co-chairs—Senators Ed Murray, David Frockt, and Sharon Nelson—issued a joint statement in which they finally acknowledge a little responsibility for the lax financial oversight on their watch:
Though the campaign committee had operated without incident, in substantially the same form, for nearly a decade before Mr. King came on board, the financial management system failed. The responsibility for stealing lies with Mr. King who had been a highly regarded Democratic Party consultant. The Senators who moved in and out of the campaign committee historically focused on raising funds, mentoring candidates and being the political face of the campaign, while the Executive Director and Treasurer were responsible for finances and reporting. This is an explanation for what happened and how it happened and the context. However, we acknowledge responsibility for a system of controls that were not sufficient when there was a trusted employee determined to exploit any gaps that, in hindsight, existed.
There. Was that so hard? (Murray had previously denied all responsibility for the scandal.) Frockt, Nelson, and Murray will be holding a conference call with media later this afternoon. In the meanwhile, the full text of their statement is available after the jump.
Let's be totally honest... we fucking suck:
The state that easily handed President Obama a victory last November while passing voter-approved referendums legalizing same-sex marriage and marijuana consumption also happens to have the nation’s highest tax burden on the poor.
Poor families in Washington state pay 16.9 percent of their total income in state and local taxes, more than any other state in the nation, according to a new report from the nonprofit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which advocates for progressive tax policies.
Washington takes the top spot by a sizable lead. For the poor in Illinois, 13.8 percent of their income goes to paying state and local taxes. In Florida, those taxes eat up 13.3 percent of the income of the poor. The share in Hawaii is 13 percent, followed by Arizona at 12.9 percent.
And the truly shameful thing is, this isn't news. Washington has long had the most regressive tax structure in the nation—while our poorest households pay 16.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, our wealthiest households only pay 2.8 percent. Meanwhile, neighboring Oregon has one of the least regressive tax structures in the nation, thanks to its "high reliance on income taxes and very low use of consumption taxes," according to the report, as well as a 6 percent Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
To our credit, Washington has a state EITC too. Yay for us! Unfortunately, our legislators have never actually funded it, so it is not available to our working poor. Again, we totally suck.
So for all those people who roll their eyes at Kshama Sawant every time she campaigns on implementing a millionaire's tax in Seattle, enjoy you totally fucking shameful tax system.
The latest quarterly state revenue forecast released yesterday continues a recent trend of slightly more positive projections. Revenue collections for the recently started 2013-2015 biennial budget are now projected to come in $345 million higher than the June forecast, an increase equivalent to about one percent of the total state budget.
For years, heading into the Great Recession and out through the anemic recovery, we'd seen a string of quarterly revenue forecasts each revised lower than the last. That resulted not only in bitter biennial budget writing sessions, but also in contentious supplemental budget battles during the intervening sessions, as lawmakers scraped to trim mid-budget spending in the face of lower than expected revenue. But barring some sort of congressional-induced economic collapse, the 2014 legislative session should break that pattern. The only budget debate this coming session will likely be over how to spend the extra money, and dollars to donuts the bulk of that new revenue will go toward court-mandated K-12 spending and padding our dangerously thin budget reserves. So don't expect budgetary fireworks this coming session.
Not that there should be any. For despite this vaguely positive revenue forecast, tax collections continue to come in far below the level necessary to maintain current services at constant levels, let alone spend the billions a year more on K-12 education that the Supreme Court's McCleary decision has demanded. Yes, state revenues are projected to come in at a record high, but not when you adjust for inflation. Indeed, according to an analysis from the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, inflation-adjusted state revenue isn't projected to surpass the 2008 peak until 2017:
Nearly a decade after the economic collapse, inflation-adjusted state revenue will have barely crept up above pre-recession levels—and that's after nearly a decade of population and economic growth. That's unsustainable. And there's no projected jump in revenue after that. Without tax structure reform—finding the will and the way to tax income and extend the sales tax to growing segments of our service economy—state revenue simply cannot keep up with growth in demand for state services.
Or to put the crisis in more immediate terms, without new taxes, the legislature simply cannot meet the court-ordered K-12 funding requirements demanded under McCleary. To be clear, Washington State is facing a constitutional crisis. The court has ordered billions of dollars a year more for public education, an order with which the legislature will not comply. Yet the court lacks the authority to levy taxes. So how does the court enforce its will?
That's the crisis legislators better get a head start on this session. Without a supplemental budget battle to take up their time, they need to start laying the political groundwork for the substantial tax increases that will be necessary to both avoid a default on McCleary, and to sustain the public services and investments necessary to assure Washington's future economic growth.
At a joint press conference this morning with King County Executive Dow Constantine, Governor Jay Inslee announced plans to call a special legislative session in November to pass a transportation funding package... "if we can see the votes." That is, if a handful of Senate Republicans can muster the balls to stand up and take a vote on revenue, and if the votes are there to pass a package, then Inslee will call a special session to get this done in what remains of this non-election year.
Asked what's changed since the last time the Senate refused to vote on a transportation package, Inslee suggested that Republicans have heard back from their core constituency: "They've caught both barrels from business community, asking 'why haven't you acted?'" Inslee emphasized the tremendous business opportunities Washington state has to grow its trade with Asia. "But if you can't get your truck across Lake Washington, you can't do business."
Both Inslee and Constantine spoke about the importance of including additional tax authority for King County in the package to stave off a projected 17 percent cut in Metro bus service. But it's not clear that even a November special session can come soon enough to prevent some cutbacks. The transportation package that passed the House—the one Inslee said he was ready to press the "go" button on if the Senate passed it—would give King County the authority to raise up to a 1.5 percent Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET), but only on approval of voters. A special election would take months to mount, and implementation would take months more. But Metro will run through its reservers by the end of June, 2014.
According to King County transportation policy advisor Chris Arkills, Metro will start a public process this fall on how to cut about 600,000 hours a year of bus service. The current assumption is that these cuts will begin to be phased—about 150,000 hours worth initially—in the June, 2014, service change, with additional cuts of similar magnitude implemented over the subsequent three service changes. Metro changes service three times a year, in June, October, and February.
"If we know that we have a clear path to the ballot, we could possibly forestall the first round of those cuts for a short time," says Arkills, "but would have to make bigger cuts in the future to reach the needed cuts to get to 600,000 hours," should that fail. For Arkills, the imminence of these cuts reinforces the need for a special session. "Waiting until the end of the regular session is highly problematic," warns Arkills, "especially if they fail to act again."
Or as no-revenue-for-any-reason Republicans might put it, especially if the succeed in not acting again.
Congratulations to newly elected Washington State Republican Party chair Susan Hutchison for finally coming out of the closet and openly embracing her partisanship. But whether she can embrace partisanship as bluntly as her Democratic counterpart, Dwight Pelz, I sincerely doubt.
In an email thread making its way through Democratic Party circles, Pelz responds to an email about the Freedom Foundation's anti-union activities, by replying that "Brian Sontagg works for this union busting outfit." Which is true. Sonntag, the former "Democratic" State Auditor, recently took a position as the right-wing Freedom Foundation's "senior fellow for government accountability."
But Sonntag took umbrage at Pelz for questioning his Democratic/labor credentials, defensively responding to the long list of party and union stalwarts:
For 40 years in public service, the last 20 as Washington State Auditor, I've always advocated for open, accountable, and transparent government. That is what I'm continuing to do by working with citizens as well as local elected officials. Making sure government officials are exercising good stewardship over the public's money is essential for government to be able to provide needed services
No one can legitimately question my support of organized labor in this state. To do so is just plain wrong.
Even though I am no longer in public office, I will always be a strong advocate for prevailing wage laws, working men and women and responsible, open government.
A claim that of course opened the door to Pelz's very blunt reply:
I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but honestly, fuck Rodney Tom:
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom thinks he knows a way to prevent lawmakers from pushing the state to the brink of a government shutdown in the future: Fine them if they take too long to pass a budget.
Tom created a buzz after broaching the idea of a $250-a-day fine for each day lawmakers go past the time allotted in the regular session.
“We need a forcing mechanism, and right now, there really is not one,” Tom said Tuesday. “I think it’s crazy that it comes down to notices to state workers that we’re going to shut down state government as the only forcing mechanism that gets us out of town.”
Um, first of all, it was Tom who was largely responsible for the legislature's failure to get out of Olympia on time, so fuck him for pretending otherwise. And while we're at it, fuck the Seattle Times for not calling Tom on this utterly ridiculous pretension that he and the rest of the Senate leadership weren't the primary cause of our near government shutdown.
But mostly, could Tom find a better way to put the reins of government more in the hands of the very wealthy?
For wealthy lawmakers like Senator Rodney Tom (R-Medina), $250 isn't all that much money. Hell, that's less than Tom spends a day just murdering kittens. (Actual Rodney Tom 2012 campaign slogan: "Because Those Kittens Aren't Going to Murder Themselves.") But for legislators who mostly rely on their $42,000 a year salary, the $15,000 in fines they would have accumulated this year could've been the difference between keeping and losing their homes. The end result would be those lawmakers who can't afford to pay the fine caving to lawmakers who can.
Either Tom doesn't understand this, which makes him a totally out-of-touch elitist fuck, or he does understand this, which just makes him a fucking elitist.
State Representative Marcie Maxwell (D-Renton) has announced that she is resigning her seat to join Governor Jay Inslee's Legislative Affairs and Policy Office as his Senior Education Policy Advisor.
"I've been honored to serve the people of the 41st District in South and East King County, and believe that my new position in the Governor's office will continue my work on their priorities for our state," Maxwell said in a prepared statement.
I like Maxwell, who has been a strong advocate for education while remaining outside the influence of the corporate reformers.
What this means for the legislature, well, the 41st is a swing district that leans Democratic, but is certainly up for grabs. So I'm guessing that House Speaker Frank Chopp would have preferred not to fight that battle.
As for who might be appointed to replace Maxwell, I've got absolutely no inside information, but I'd have to assume that my ex-wife, Maureen Judge, would be on the short list should she want the job. Maureen challenged incumbent Republican Steve Litzow for the 41st LD senate seat last year, so she has name ID in the district, and is well liked by Democratic Party regulars.
Via email, state Senator David Frockt (D-Seattle) responds to my foul-mouthed rant on the senate Majority Coalition Caucus's refusal to vote on a local option MVET for King County Metro (a post that King County executive Dow Constantine recommended on Facebook with the endorsement "David Goldstein swears it like it is..."):
Saw your article on the transportation vote. In addition to the overall transportation package which we had been negotiating to no avail for months, we tried in that procedural motion to bring up a separate bill which had a local transit funding option for Community transit up north and to which we were going to append the King County local option or perhaps an extension of the existing Congestion relief charge. This is a bad situation for transit and is patently unacceptable for these guys to simply blather on about local control and then hypocritically vote to block simply an option for our people to vote on how we want to fund transit service. I think King County voters can figure it out.
Very disappointing but I give the MCC credit for one thing: they have been very successful at getting their members not to break procedurally on things like the RPA, Dream Act and now this. The reality is very simple. In the state senate if you control 25 votes, you control the agenda in the rules committee and on the floor. Bipartisanship on the non-controversial things is fine, but it's all about power and control on the big stuff. And if you have 25, you can block anything even in the face of falling down bridges.
In the end, we got an operating budget that is not markedly different than the one we would have gotten had Tom left the senate in control of the majority Democrats, but crossed over to the Republicans on budget votes, like conservative Dems did during last year's supplemental budget battle. Yet in exchange for the privilege of calling himself Majority Leader, Tom enabled the Republican minority to block votes on a number of major non-budget-related bills, many of which he claims to support.
This budget is yet another status quo budget. Tom's true legacy is the immigrant children who will be denied a college education, the women who will be denied protection from health care discrimination, the minority communities who will be denied access to equal representation in their local governments, the thousands of constructions workers who will be denied jobs on desperately needed transportation projects, and the many King County Metro bus riders who will no longer be able to get to school or to work in the wake of a projected 17 percent cut in service.
None of these bills had a significant (if any) impact on the state budget. Yet refusing to even let them come up for a vote will have a negative impact on the quality of life of millions of Washingtonians.
That is the victory that Tom disciplined his caucus in pursuit of. And that is the victory that he won.
Well, the legislature finally passed a budget, averting a government shutdown, but the Rodney Tom led senate Majority Coalition Caucus has refused to allow a transportation funding package to come to the floor for a vote before the current special session is gaveled to a close tonight. And that means no local MVET option for King County Metro.
Senate Majority "Leader" Rodney Tom (R-Medina) says they'll work on a compromise package in the interim, with the intent of putting it to voters in November, 2014. Meanwhile Metro will begin to implement a 17 percent cut in bus service early next year.
This is, frankly, totally fucking outrageous. King County did everything the state asked us to do. We found savings, we streamlined service, we negotiated concessions with unions, and we raised fares four years straight. When the state imposed an insulting two-thirds supermajority requirement for passing a two-year car tab in order to get us through until a permanent funding solution could be found, we even managed the bipartisan support to do that. Then King County executive Dow Constantine got together with the mayors of the cities, and together developed a funding solution that would work for everyone. We didn't ask for money. No, together, the cities and the county went to Olympia with a simple request: Allow us to levy a 1.5 percent local MVET in order to fund bus service and road maintenance.
And the state senate just told us to fuck off.
I suppose the idea is that if they keep us hungry for the MVET, we'll vote in droves for whatever they eventually put on the ballot. The fact that thousands of King County residents will no longer be able to get to work or school in the interim, well, that's no concern of the Republican-controlled senate, apparently. Because fuck us.
Well fuck them back. My proposal is that we use what local taxing authority we have to save Metro and pay for road maintenance—a property tax levy—and then we vote down whatever package the legislature ultimately sends to ballot. If Republican legislators want roads in their home districts, let them cast the votes directly, instead of relying on tax-and-spend King County voters to do the dirty work of raising the gas tax.
King County is the most transit reliant region in the state by far, and refusing to allow us to tax ourselves to adequately fund our own bus service is nothing short of economic warfare. Diplomacy has failed. It's time to fight back.
UPDATE: The legislature has adjourned. Senators Tom, Fain, Litzow, and Roach—all representing King County districts—voted with colleagues in blocking last minute effort to move MVET bill. Thanks to them, their constituents will now enjoy a 17 percent cut in Metro bus service. Assholes.
The Washington State senate just passed a two-year budget that includes an additional billion dollars for K-12 schools! Yay! Except it's not really a billion dollars. The expenditure changes above the 2013-2015 maintenance level budget (the amount of money needed to maintain 2011-2013 services at constant levels) is actually $944 million, which under no math I'm familiar with is routinely rounded up to $1 billion.
But even that's deceptive. For the budget also lists another $295 million in policy compensation changes—mostly the money saved by once again suspending cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for teachers. The actual "Total Policy Changes" as listed on the legislature's own budget document (pdf) is $648,594,000. That's how much more money we're really putting into our K-12 schools: $648.6 million. (Unless, of course, you don't consider teacher pay to be a legitimate cost of operating public schools.) A legislative committee had determined that at least $1.5 billion in additional spending was needed to satisfy a court ordered downpayment on the McCleary decision.
FYI, teachers will now go six years without a COLA raise, leaving them 16 percent behind inflation. Because education reform!
I rarely succumb to the temptation of answering the conservative propaganda that lands in my inbox every day. But I can't help sighing over this morning's email from the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party with the subject line "fix it, then fund it."
Fix what? Then fund what? Why, our transportation system that the state's conservatives have been such fine stewards of. From the email:
The Washington State Department of Transportation is broken. We’ve spent $100 million on cracked pontoons that leak, our ferry system is riddled with controversy after controversy, and our highways are crumbling. Despite all this, Democrats in the state House passed a 10.5 cent gas tax increase without a single reform to the system!
That was either written by a cretin or a liar. Given the source, it's a tossup.
I know you already know this, but... our transportation system is sub-optimal largely because of conservative pushes to systematically defund it. You can't starve a dog, then blame it for being skinny, then declare you won't feed it unless it fattens up first. I mean, you could—but you'd be insane.
Let's take the ferry system as one example mentioned above, a casualty of Tim Eyman's 1999
swindle initiative, and a significant point of interest in state Republicans' highway to transportation hell.
Let's take a quick cruise through local news stories of the past 14 years. KOMO in 1999:
State transportation officials on Wednesday proposed slashing highway funding to keep Washington's ferry and rail services on life-support following voter approval of a massive tax cut.
The Department of Transportation lost $1.1 billion of its $3.3 billion, two-year budget on Nov. 2 after voters approved Initiative 695, which eliminates the state's value-based tax on car tabs and replaces it with a flat $30 per vehicle annually.
Transportation Secretary Sid Morrison said highway and other programs must sacrifice funding to help keep the ferry system and passenger-rail programs barely alive for a few years while the DOT and lawmakers search for longterm solutions...
"We're trying to avoid a death spiral from which we couldn't recover," Morrison said in an interview.
The Kitsap Sun, studying the local effects of transportation de-funding, in 2009:
The initiative cost Washington State Ferries 22 percent of its operating money and all of its capital funds. It responded by raising ticket prices over several years by about 80 percent and cutting service, including plans for a passenger-only ferry program.
WSF’s drive-on customers are clearly worse off for I-695. Frequent-user books for drivers jumped from $104 to $189.60 for 10 round trips. That equates to a $2,225.60 increase for this year alone. It’s not so clear cut for walk-on passengers, who watched their monthly passes spike from $54.60 to $88.35, an extra $405 this year.
Kitsap County voters opted to raise their sales tax in 2001 to help Kitsap Transit recover from the loss of car-tab funds.
Kitsap Transit lost 43.5 percent of its revenues as a result of I-695, and initially responded by doubling fares and cutting service. But when voters in 2001 passed a three-tenths of 1 percent (3 cents on $10) local sales tax increase, bus fares returned to 1999 levels and some service was restored.
Governor Jay Inslee and leaders of the Washington State House and Senate announced a budget deal this morning, just days before a looming government shutdown.
“I am happy and I know we are all relieved to report to you that lawmakers have reached agreement on an operating budget for the next biennium," Inslee said via a prepared statement. “Government operations will not be interrupted ... Washington will be at work Monday.”
You know, except state legislators, who will finally go the fuck home.
Few details of the budget agreement have been released. In fact, according to the Twitter (and the Twitter is never wrong), House members won't even be briefed on the deal until later this afternoon, and according to the Seattle Times, appropriations chair Ross Hunter calls it "'a very delicate agreement' that could still fall apart." So one might reasonably question the definition of the word "deal." (Also, the definition of the word "imminent," which based on Inslee's Monday announcement, now apparently means "three or four days.")
Anyway, the expectation is that a budget could be passed and signed by 5 p.m. tomorrow.
So on the up side, no government shutdown. On the down side, this will surely be a sucky, sucky budget, because compromise!
Yesterday the state House failed to pass a transportation funding package after a handful of Democrats defected in response to Republican backed concessions—concessions that only secured a single Republican vote. Some Republican members have rolled their eyes at the notion of casting a vote in favor of a gas tax increase when they don't expect the same out of the Senate. The buzz out of Senate Republicans is that if they approve a transportation funding measure at all, it will only be to approve referring it to the November ballot.
But that would come too late for King County to stave off substantial cuts to Metro bus service.
The county and the cities had lobbied Olympia for the authority to levy a 1.5 percent Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET), to be split 60/40 between Metro and roads, with the roads money distributed to the cities and unincorporated county proportionate to population. The county wanted councilmanic authority to impose an MVET, but that clearly won't happen. All drafts of the transportation funding package that have included this authority have required that it be put to the county's voters.
If the legislature approves the package directly, the county would rush to put the MVET on the ballot this November. With a hotly contested mayor's race in tax-friendly Seattle, and little going on throughout the rest of the county, the MVET would stand a good chance of passing. And that would give Metro time to start collecting its share before a temporary car tab expires and its reserve funds run dry next summer.
But if the overriding transportation package has to first go to state voters this November, we're fucked. First of all, it's just plain offensive to have to ask Seattle-hating voters throughout the rest of the state for the right to ask our voters to tax ourselves to pay for the bus service we need. Second, even if the referendum is approved by state voters, it wouldn't give the county enough time to put the MVET on the local ballot before Metro starts to run out of money. The MVET would take a little time to implement, so even a special election (made riskier by the low turnout) would come too late to prevent some bus service cuts.
That our MVET authority has been tied to controversial issues like a gas tax increase and the Columbia River Crossing is incredibly frustrating. We're not asking anything from the rest of the state but permission to tax ourselves to help pay for the bus service we need for our local economy to function. And Olympia can't even give us that.
UPDATE: From the News Tribune:
But it would have tough sledding ahead in the Senate, where Majority Leader Rodney Tom said: “I can’t imagine the citizens of Washington state want us to spend $81/2 billion on a night’s sleep when we haven’t slept in five days.”
Then do the right thing, Rodney, and offer a bill that authorizes the MVET separately! You live in King County! I know somebody who swears he's seen you riding a bus! Your constituents are more diverse than your Medina neighbors, so do the right thing and give us our MVET!
At a Capitol press conference this afternoon, Governor Jay Inslee's staff first denied reports that a budget deal has been struck, and then outlined a series of devastating benefit and service cuts that will impact millions of Washingtonians on July 1 should lawmakers fail to pass a budget.
"There is not a budget agreement," Inslee spokesman David Postman reiterated just minutes after Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom had announced a framework was in place. "We are surprised that we have gotten to this point," added Inslee chief of staff Mary Alice Heuschel.
If no budget deal is reached today, the state Health Care Authority will mail out notices to 26,000 mostly limited English speaking recipients that their health care services may be suspended July 1. Between now and Friday, DSHS will notify 11,000 rehabilitation clients that their services may be suspended, as well as "tens of thousands vulnerable adults, children and elderly," says Heuschel.
Hundreds of electrical contractors will be notified that electrical inspections will no longer take place, halting work at construction projects throughout the state, and some 7,000 Washingtonians who have reservations at state parks in the coming weeks—including several long planned weddings—will receive notice that the parks may be closed. And the Department of Enterprise Services will notify 14,000 contractors by certified mail (at $3.10 a pop) that their contracts will be suspend.
And that, says Heuschel, is far from a complete list. Postman emphasized that ultimately "millions" of Washingtonians would feel the impact of a government shutdown. I suppose, all of us, if only indirectly.
Heuschel insists that this isn't a scare tactic intended to put pressure on lawmakers. We will be in "a state of emergency," Heuschel emphasized, should the government be shut down. "Every kind of option has been explored," says Heuschel, who described today's announcements as "a responsible approach to contingency planning."
“There has been very substantial progress on budget negotiations," Governor Jay Inslee said via Twitter just minutes after delivering similar news at a Capitol press conference. Inslee gave no details about the terms, but predicts a deal could be struck within hours, although it would take a few days to get a bill to his desk. He also expressed confidence that lawmakers could reach agreement on a transportation funding package too.
If lawmakers don't pass a budget by July 1, about 25,000 state workers will be laid off as the state government is forced into a partial shutdown. If lawmakers don't approve a transportation package that includes granting King County additional taxing authority, Metro will start implementing a 17 percent cut in bus service beginning next year.
Whether or not state lawmakers ultimately strike a budget deal before the state government shuts down July 1, layoff notices are being mailed out today to about two-thirds of all state workers. Yet another deadline the state legislature has missed because fuck 'em, who needs state government?
Which raises a legitimate question: Who really needs state government?
So as a thought experiment, imagine for a moment if we were to do away entirely with state government—no legislature, no courts, no state agencies, no nothing—leaving Washington as a loose confederation of autonomous counties and municipalities, free to write their own laws, levy their own taxes, and spend their own money as they deem fit. What would happen?
Well, first of all, we here in Seattle and King County would have a helluva lot more money to spend on the infrastructure and services we want and need than we do now. King County has long been a net exporter of tax dollars to Olympia. For example, in 2008, with roughly 29 percent of the state population, King County produced 42 percent of state tax revenues, yet it received back less than 26 percent of state benefits. That's a return of only 62 cents on the dollar.
So without the burden of shouldering the rest of the state we could easily afford to educate our children, build out our mass transit, and invest in other human and physical infrastructure as we deem necessary. Furthermore, without the constraints imposed on us by the tax averse majority throughout the rest of the state, we would be free both to tax ourselves at higher levels, and in a much more equitable and progressive manner.
Gone would be the over-reliance on a regressive sales tax and antiquated B&O tax, as income and intangible wealth became open to taxation. The most efficient tax structure? Likely a modern Value Added Tax (VAT) with a progressive wage component, combined with modest capital gains and corporate income tax rates. Our property tax rates could also be slashed, although extended from real estate to include financial and other intangible assets as well.
Flush with this efficient new local tax system and the ability to keep the revenue for our own needs, Seattle/King County could sustain a quality of life that would make us the envy of the nation: a world class transportation system, universal high quality preschool, free college tuition to all qualified students, and a public health system that focused on preventative care, thus dramatically reducing overall costs in the long run. Businesses would relocate here in order to attract our healthy and well educated workforce, and families would move here from all over the world in order to share in our enlightened prosperity. Property values would rise, but so too would wages. And given the geographic constraints of our polity, we would by necessity accommodate this population growth by building up, not out, creating a denser, more walkable, more energy efficient, and more vibrant Seattle.