This Week In Review – Saturday, 4/1/2017
Happy April Fool’s Day! We promise that there aren’t any tricks or fooling in our Week In Review email – just the news you need about what’s going on in politics this week.
This week’s breaking news – Senator Maria Cantwell has announced her opposition to Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch!
Gorsuch is an extreme conservative who has consistently ruled against workers in favor of corporations and the rich and powerful. He wouldn’t be an independent check on Trump’s brazenly illegal activities, and we’re proud that both Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray will be opposing his nomination.
A Tale Of Two Budgets
The Democratic House and the Republican Senate in the state legislature have each passed their budget proposals, setting the stage the negotiations towards a final budget and a solution to our education funding crisis. We wanted you to have all the information you need on the key issues so you can compare and contrast how each party approaches the budget:
We know that education and fully funding our schools is our state’s paramount duty. The House Democratic budget proposal makes huge investments in K-12 education – $7.1 billion, targeted into programs that we know help students succeed. They fund the Learning Assistance Program, which provides extra help to struggling students to close the opportunity gap. They increase the number of parent involvement coordinators and guidance counselors, who provide important help to students and their families. And they address the teacher shortage crisis with higher salaries (especially for beginning teachers who are paid the least), more training and professional development, and ensuring that the voter-approved cost-of-living raises are a part of basic education.
The Republican plan fails to fully fund education – while Democrats propose $1.9 billion in funding for the next two years, the Republican plan would have just a meager $871 million – not even half as much as the Democrats propose for schools. That’s contrary to public statements made by Republicans up until now – they’ve been lying about the education plan for weeks until they were caught by reporters.
The difference between the two parties’ budgets is stark when it comes to higher education. Republicans propose raising tuition at our state colleges and universities while at the same time suspending financial aid programs that help students afford college. This would raise the cost for students and families while cutting off assistance to help make higher education affordable. By contrast, the Democrats freeze college tuition and hold it steady, so that families planning for college have predictability when saving and more students can afford to get a degree. And the Democrats expand financial aid and the State Need Grant while they’re at it, providing even more help for those students who hope to afford college.
Republicans said they needed to raise tuition in their budget because they couldn’t afford not to – but they could afford to open new tax breaks for corporations. Shouldn’t college affordability be more important than a tax break?
We know that early learning is critical for getting children off to a good start in school and life. The Republican budget would completely end preschool for low-income 3 year olds, and would cut the proven Working Connections Child Care program that helps families get child care so the kids get the attention they need and parents can get to work. By contrast, the Democrats propose to increase funding for these programs, knowing that help for our youngest learners pays off down the road when more kids come to school ready to learn.
It’s clear that the Democratic budget is better for students and their families. It makes the investments in our education, from early learning through K-12 to higher education, that we know children need to succeed.
Taxes and Revenue
Both the Republicans and Democrats have recognized that new revenue will be necessary to fund their budgets, but the taxes that they raise are very different in their impact on Washington families and businesses.
Republicans have proposed a $5.5 billion increase in state property taxes – the largest property tax increase in state history. This tax increase would largely be paid by working families and the middle class – people renting or owning their homes. The tax hike would disproportionately impact seniors, whose homes have often increased greatly in value since they were purchased, but who may be living on a fixed income since retirement. But despite the huge tax increase on ordinary families, the Republicans would also give tax breaks to some of the largest corporations in Washington, including Boeing, Walmart, and Comcast. How’s that for fair?
By contrast, the Democrats are looking at opportunities to make our tax system – the least fair of any state in the country – a little more balanced, so that the rich pay their fair share and the tax burden can be lower on those who have trouble making ends meet.
That means reforming the state’s Business & Occupation tax so that 72% of businesses in Washington state, particularly the smallest businesses, are exempted entirely from the B&O tax (saving money and a huge amount of paperwork) and another 8% of small businesses see a tax cut, while rates go up for the larger businesses who make far more money. Small businesses would benefit and big corporations start paying their fair share.
Democrats would similarly reform the real estate excise tax, to lower taxes on the sale of a home worth less than $250,000 (about 2/3rds of all WA homes, most of them in rural areas) while raising taxes on selling a home worth more than $1 million. This will help people afford homes, especially in rural areas or places with lower property values, while raising more money for schools from those who can afford it.
And, Democrats would create a capital gains tax on the sale of stocks, bonds, and investments, so that the richest 1.5% of Washingtonians would pay a little bit more in taxes to help fund education. Retirement accounts, farms, and single-family homes would be exempted – this would just target the very richest few who make their money off of investments and are currently paying some of the lowest taxes of any state in the nation.
The contrast between the two parties is simple – the Republicans have an approach that raises taxes on working families and the middle class, while Democrats have reform proposals that will raise revenue for schools by asking the rich to pay their fair share and lowering the tax burden on the majority of Washington families and small businesses.
We’re focusing on two key issues here – mental health care and the social safety net.
Mental health care is a critical issue for the state, and improving care (particularly at Western State Hospital) is something both parties have talked about. But it’s the Democrats who propose to make the significant investments in mental health care that will really make a difference, with $350 million to better integrate mental health care throughout the state, make sure people get the help they need in times of crisis, and ensure that we provide safe, effective care in our hospitals. The Republicans do increase mental health funding in their budget, but by a relatively paltry $95 million, and they reject the state employee contracts that are necessary for us to hire and retain the nurses we need at our state hospitals to provide safe and effective care.
The story on the safety net is worse – Republicans would cut the Housing & Essential Needs program, which helps prevent homelessness, and they’d reduce Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Aging/Blind/Disabled programs, which provide important support for families in need and the disabled so they can afford housing, food, and other basic costs. Meanwhile Democrats propose to make new investments to fight heroin addiction and the opioid crisis and to make public health investments – while protecting the social safety net that vulnerable Washingtonians count on to survive.
It’s clear what the difference between the parties is – the Republicans are committed to a budget that raises taxes on the middle class, hurts students and the families, and heartlessly slashes support for the vulnerable. The Democrats are willing to do smart reforms to our tax system that will make our system fairer, lower the tax burden on most, while making the investments we know we need to finally fully fund education.
The Democratic budget represents Washington values, and we should commend our legislators for fighting for a fair and compassionate budget that helps all of our Washington families and communities succeed.
Other News This Week
With or without former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan in place, Washington State still is likely to meet the target for reducing power-plant carbon emissions set by the landmark federal rule that his successor now seeks to undo.
Via ads on social media and YouTube, a leading Democratic election committee is attacking Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, for his defense earlier this month of House Republicans’ failed health-care overhaul.
The ads against Reichert are part of a broad effort targeting more than a dozen GOP House members who at one point supported the GOP plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
A bill that would have made workers’ compensation claims more likely to be approved for ill Hanford workers failed to move out of a Senate committee by a Wednesday deadline.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a $2 million lawsuit Friday against Tim Eyman that accuses the tax activist of personally enriching himself with money collected around the time of the 2012 election.
The deeper significance of these figures is their context. At the same time that Franklin Pierce improved its graduation rates, poverty in the district spiked. Ten years ago, about half of all kids there qualified for a free or reduced-price school lunch. Today it’s about 75 percent.
But nearly 84 percent of low-income students are walking away with diplomas, which is 15 percentage points higher than the state average for poor kids.
Moving the needle required no special magic, Hewins said, just dogged attention to a series of red-flag indicators that will be familiar to readers of Education Lab: close attention to low attendance, high suspension rates and lagging grades. An emphasis on building relationships between adults and students, and bolstered investments in quality preschool also helped.
“There isn’t some whiz-bang program or person that’s going to change things overnight. It doesn’t happen that way,” Hewins said. “Schools are about working with people, human beings that are forming, and it takes time.”
Seattle is suing President Donald Trump over his executive order cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities” for how they handle people living in the United States illegally.
The city is doing nothing wrong by limiting its own involvement in immigration enforcement, while Trump is overreaching by trying to make cities do the work of the federal government, Mayor Ed Murray and City Attorney Pete Holmes said Wednesday.
The goal of the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, is to have the executive order declared unconstitutional, Murray said at a news conference, accusing the Trump administration of waging “a war on cities.”
“Our lawsuit is staying true to our values,” the mayor said. “We value civil rights, we value the courts and we value the Constitution.”
We here at the Washington State Democratic Party wish Secretary Wyman the best and we hope for a swift and easy treatment and recovery!
What you can do
1. Contact Your Legislator
As legislators get to work negotiating the final budget and McCleary funding plan, we need them to know that the public supports the Democratic approach – an approach that fully funds schools, protects the social safety net, and makes our tax system fairer rather than increasing the burden on working families.
You can reach your legislator through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000
Let them know that the Democratic proposal is the right path forward and that we will be holding the legislature accountable to make real progress on the issues we care about.
2. Get Involved With Campaigns
Ultimately, we’re going to have to stop the Republicans by retaking our state Senate, but there’s good news. With three Republican-held seats up for election this year, we have to win just one to retake the state Senate with a Democratic majority! We’re contesting every seat – the 45th, 31st, and 7th legislative districts – and we’re going to fight hard to win these.
But we’ll need your help. We’re assembling a list of volunteers we can call on for help in these races – will you sign up to help?
If you provide us with your contact information here, we can help you get involved in retaking the state Senate so we can deliver a Democratic majority that will be able to advance progressive legislation rather than just having to fight back against the Republicans.
With your help, we can do this. Join us!
3. Help Fund Our Grassroots Organizing – Join The Resistance!
We’ve rolled out our new program to fund grassroots field organizing across the state – The Resistance! We’ve heard from the activists of the party that field organizing working with local party organizations is the most effective thing we can do to help, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. This is an exciting new program that will help us build the progressive movement, win elections, and retake our state and our country!
Click here to find out more and help fund our grassroots efforts at $3, $7 or $14 dollars a month – even $27 – makes a huge difference! Thanks for considering and again, here is the link.
Thank you for your support!