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Breakthroughs, illegal subsidies, class warfare…



►  At — Few details, but House leaders predict breakthroughs are coming — Gov. Chris Gregoire has put forward a new, “really interesting” idea on workers’ compensation that House members are seriously considering, House Democratic Floor Leader Tami Green said today. It’s not a lump-sum settlement, she said — more of a “hybrid” between settlements and pensions.

►  At — Workers’ comp continues as holdup — The vote count inside House Democrats’ private caucus room is what counts. Rep. Tami Green (D-Lakewood) said a majority of House Democrats — 45 of the caucus’s 56 members — oppose the lump-sum settlement bill. It won’t go to the floor with that kind of opposition, Green said: “It will blow up our caucus if that happens.” Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) said a smaller majority of the caucus is so dead set against it, they were set to attend the news conference denouncing it on Tuesday, before it was postponed at the request of legislative leaders. She said she thinks there would have been about 31 House Democrats in attendance, with a few senators joining them.

►  From AP — Lawmakers struggle for workers’ comp deal — Negotiators emerged from a 45-minute, closed-door meeting Wednesday with little progress to report. It was the first gathering for a small group of key players tasked with finding common ground. The meeting comes just a week before Washington’s 30-day special session is set to end. Sen. Janea Holmquist-Newbry (R-Moses Lake) says she hopes there will be a compromise, but warns that supporters could push through a plan for lump-sum settlements even without an agreement.

►  At — Liquor privatization bill passes Senate panel — The Ways and Means Committee passed Senate Bill 5942, which directs the state to seek private sector proposals for operating the liquor distribution system. The Liquor Control Board would then decide whether to accept such a deal. The full Senate will now consider the idea.




►  At — Herrera Beutler finds crowd friendlier to her Medicare vote — Unlike a recent Vancouver town hall meeting where she was subjected to heckling and booing for her unpopular vote to phase out Medicare, at a Tumwater Rotary meeting Wednesday, she caught no flack, despite reaffirming her support for the Medicare vote that many other Republicans are now backing away from. Retired insurance salesman Dave Estergard, who attended the meeting, called the Republican “the best member of Congress in the United States.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: It just doesn’t get any better than that quote, and who delivered it.

►  In today’s Yakima H-R — Group to rally in Yakima against Big Oil — Upset with ever increasing gas prices despite billions in subsidies to big oil companies, community organizers will turn out in downtown Yakima on Friday to call on U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) to vote to cut off taxpayer aid to the industry.

►  In today’s Yakima H-R — State fines hop firm $5,200 for injury explosion — A Yakima hops company has been fined $5,200 for an industrial blast that injured several workers.

►  At — Poll: Inslee-McKenna race would start as a toss-up — Public Policy Polling finds Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna with 40% support, compared with 38% for U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1st).  But, the pollsters note, 23% of Democrats said they are undecided, compared with 13% of Republicans, so Inslee “would likely make up that deficit pretty fast” once the statewide race begins.




►  In today’s Seattle Times — WTO panel softens ruling against Airbus subsidies — The panel said that loans for the Airbus A380 superjumbo jet, while illegal, were less egregious than initially found. Nevertheless, the appeals panel confirmed that upfront “launch aid” loans to every Airbus jet program, totaling some $15 billion, were illegal and that the European Union must “take appropriate steps to remove the adverse effects.” (Also see coverage in today’s NY Times, (Everett) Herald and from the AP.)

►  From Bloomberg — Boeing case may prompt change — Companies may have to give unions more information about their relocation plans under a proposal being considered by the NLRB, which is under fire for a case against Boeing  over its South Carolina factory site. The board may propose asking employers to provide unions with information if labor costs play any role in a relocation decision, rather than being the main cause.

►  At AFL-CIO Now — Republican NLRB threats part of bigger war against workers — Even before the latest Republican threats related to the Boeing case, 176 House Republicans (including Washington Reps. Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers) voted to ELIMINATE ALL FUNDING for the NLRB. While that failed to pass, a continuing resolution previously passed by the House included a $50 million reduction in the NLRB’s budget and would have forced NLRB staff members to be furloughed for 55 days, causing a backlog of cases to pile up.




►  At MSN Money — CEOs got a big raise, how about you? — CEOs got a whopping 24% pay hike last year as corporate profits soared with the recession’s end, more than making up for two years of declining pay. The average worker? Not so much. Those lucky enough to still have jobs saw their pay inch up a meager 3.3%, which might have been enough to cover the rising prices of gas and food. That difference in raises for CEOs and working stiffs is the latest turn in a trend that’s been nagging CEO pay critics for years. That’s the ever-widening gap between those at the top and their underlings, which is creating a superelite in the U.S. — and not helping investors or the economy.

►  In today’s (Everett) Herald — The rich are doing just fine with high gas prices, thank you — High gas prices are driving a wider wedge between the wealthy and everybody else. The rich are back to pre-recession-style splurging: Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom customers are treating themselves to luxury items like $5,000 Hermes handbags and $700 Jimmy Choo shoes, and they’re paying full price. At Target and Walmart, shoppers are concentrating on groceries and skipping even little luxuries.




►  At The Hill — Unions to lawmakers: Take away corporate tax expenditures to pay down deficit — Scores of groups — including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and Citizens for Tax Justice — are pushing Congress to eliminate corporate tax breaks and use the extra revenue to pay down the deficit, saying it would be wrong for policymakers to move to bring down rates for companies that are making money while discussing cutting public services.

►  In today’s NY Times — Private prisons found to offer little in public savings — The conviction that private prisons save money helped drive more than 30 states to turn to them for housing inmates. But Arizona shows that popular wisdom might be wrong: Data there suggest that privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons — even though they often steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates.

►  In today’s LA Times — Southern California grocery talks hit latest snag: health care –UFCW officials say the grocer’s proposal shifts as much as 80% of the medical costs to the workers. “Management has refused to compromise on providing health benefits, instead creating a plan that mirrors that of corporate healthcare villain Wal-Mart: expensive and ineffective enough that no employee participates,” said a spokesman for UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles.


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