Monday, March 3, 2014
► In the News Tribune — Deadline looms on state budget plan for schools — Washington lawmakers say they are still working on a school funding plan they can give to the state Supreme Court by April 30. With just over 10 days left in their regular session, the state House and Senate are far from agreement on whether to pass formal legislation that outlines exactly how the state can invest up to $5 billion more into public schools by 2017-18, or whether just to send a letter to the court before its deadline.
► In the (Everett) Herald — Ramping up for McCleary (editorial) — Big challenges spur creative solutions. One that merits serious consideration is a bipartisan school construction plan shepherded by House Capital Budget Committee Chairman Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) and Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Union). The premise is undeniable: More services, more mandated capacity, equals more classrooms. Says Dunshee: “This calls the question on those who say they want to reduce class size sometime in the future. We logically need classrooms in place first.”
► In the Olympian — Transportation tax bill emerges; sides stuck over counting votes — A package of legislation that will be introduced Monday in the state Senate finally puts a transportation tax plan in bill form. But with just 11 days left in state lawmakers’ 60-day session, negotiations appear to still be stuck. Democrats appeared no warmer to this Republican proposal than the last one.
► From KPLU — Speaker Chopp: Minimum wage increase wasn’t ready for a vote — Washington Speaker of the House Frank Chopp supports a minimum wage hike. But he says the issue wasn’t ready for a vote on the House floor this year.
► In today’s Seattle Times — 15,000 applicants ‘stuck’ in state’s insurance exchange — The launch of Washington’s online insurance exchange came with more than a few problems. Since then, the exchange website’s performance has improved and stabilized, but issues remain.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Premera Blue Cross’ lobbying leads to dropped health database requirement — Lobbying behind closed doors, Washington’s largest health insurance company persuaded Republicans in the state Senate to gut a widely supported bill that aimed to reveal health care price and quality information to consumers. Committee Chairwoman Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) stripped the bill’s most controversial section… without explanation. A lobbyist for Premera stepped to the microphone and thanked her, but said little about the reasons for his gratitude.
► At PubliCola — Boeing gets another $200,000 from state taxpayers — After getting $8.9 billion in tax breaks to keep keep its 777X work in Washington state, Boeing’s de facto lobbying shop, the nonprofit Aerospace Futures Alliance, got its own earmark in this year’s supplemental budget approved by the State Senate.
► In the Seattle Times — Boeing has big tax refund coming from Uncle Sam — again — Although the aerospace and defense giant booked a profit of $5.9 billion last year, the U.S. government winds up owing the company $199 million. Boeing’s federal tax rate works out to negative 3.3 percent. “Every citizen of the state of Washington can proudly say that they pay more taxes than Boeing,” said Bob McIntyre, director of the tax-policy-research group Citizens for Tax Justice.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — Boeing 777X decision re-energizes Renton aerospace training project — The facility, which so far has received $12 million from the Legislature, is to be built on the west side of Renton Airport. Ground hasn’t been broken yet, and the possibility that Boeing would build the 777X in another state had slowed momentum.
► In today’s Bellingham Herald — Millions in tax dollars at stake as Whatcom oil refineries dispute property taxes — Millions of dollars in local tax revenue are at stake as Whatcom County’s two oil refineries challenge their property tax assessments through a lengthy state appeals process. By far the biggest potential impact is from BP Cherry Point. The giant oil company contends that the most recent property tax assessment of its local refinery — about $975 million — is at least $275 million too high.
► In the Seattle Times — George T. Starkovich, 1922-2014 (obituary) — When George began working at the UW in 1965, he immediately became active in his local union (AFSCME Local 1488). He served as president and vice-president for many years and helped union membership grow from a couple hundred workers to more than a thousand. George worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions for the UW’s lowest-paid employees.
► In today’s NY Times — A disaster brings awareness but little action on infrastructure — Like the weather, the need to repair America’s troubled bridges is something that everyone talks about, without doing a thing about it. Or at least they do not do nearly enough. President Obama is trying to change that equation. He has called for closing loophole in corporate and business tax codes to free up $302 billion that would be spent over four years to fix or replace aging bridges, roads, tunnels and rails — an infrastructure that he has described quite reasonably, if inelegantly, as “raggedy.”
► In today’s Washington Post — House GOP budget will focus on reforming welfare, overhauling social programs — As a direct counter to President Obama’s recent emphasis on the gap between rich and poor, the upcoming House Republican budget will focus on welfare reform and recommend a sweeping overhaul of social programs, including Head Start and Medicaid.
► From AP — Wage fight propels worker from KFC to Colbert to White House — Naquasia LeGrand was frying chicken, sweeping floors and serving customers for $7.25 an hour when she was recruited by union organizers to join a campaign for higher pay. In the 15 months since, the 22-year-old KFC employee from Brooklyn has become one of the most visible faces of a movement that has staged strikes across the country demanding a $15-an-hour wage and union representation for fast-food workers.
EDITOR’S NOTE — At 4:00, Colbert asks her why she needs to organize a union and LeGrand hits it out of the park with her answer: “You know why? Because me, just being one voice, can’t go to my manager and be like, ‘Listen, I need these set dates and this is how much money I want.’ No. I have to come with a team. I have to come with my co-workers and other workers around the country and let them know it’s not just me that’s going through this, it’s all of us going through this. And that’s what makes a union. Americans coming together to make a difference.”
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.