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Cash for carbon, city councils act, Wall Street’s black hole…

Wednesday, December 17, 2014




carbon-tax► In today’s Seattle Times — Inslee proposes carbon tax to fund transportation — After two years of watching gas-tax increases tank in the Legislature, Gov. Jay Inslee proposed Tuesday to take a new approach: Charge major polluters for the right to emit carbon. Inslee’s plan, featuring a “cap-and-trade” system, would generate $400 million a year, he said, to cover nearly 40 percent of his $12 billion, 12-year transportation improvement plan. The remainder would come from bond debt, existing gas taxes, tolls and an assortment of vehicle fees.

► In today’s Olympian — Polling shows some public support for taxing carbon pollution in Washington — Recent polling for interest groups shows there is some voter support for government actions that reduce carbon-fuel emissions in Washington state in order to combat climate change.

► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Inslee transportation plan ignores Southwest Washington — Gov. Jay Inslee announced a proposed $12 billion transportation package, with about half already set aside for projects the governor deemed as the “most pressing transportation needs.” But those needs apparently don’t include one considered critical to Cowlitz County.

► In today’s Columbian — Education budget gets varied response from local officials — Local officials’ reaction to the governor’s education budget, which was unveiled this week, ranged from praising his proposal as ambitious to slamming it as insufficient.

st-prison-labor► In today’s Seattle Times — Fix the hidden costs behind prison labor (editorial) — Instead of getting a self-sustaining Correctional Industries program, taxpayers have been quietly stuck with a program that has cost them at least $20 million since 2007. The red ink propped up a fish farm that hasn’t produced a meal, and a mattress-recycling operation that put prison managers financially in bed with representatives of the mattress industry and had the state stealing work from a well-meaning private nonprofit. One outcome of the series should be a greater financial transparency. The DOC aspires to have Correctional Industries be self-sufficient. Prove it, or fix practices.




► In today’s News Tribune — Tacoma council advances sick leave proposal — The Tacoma City Council voted 8-0 Tuesday to advance a proposal requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to all workers. The proposal would require businesses located in the city to give workers at least three sick days a year. Employees would bank sick time at the rate of one hour per 40 hours worked. They could begin using the time off once it is earned but not before six months on the job.

spokane-alliance-council-14Dec15► In the (Spokane) Inlander — A marathon city council meeting takes on unskilled labor — Spokane City Council’s last meeting of the year was a marathon session that lasted over four hours and brought out the largest group of people the city’s legislative body had seen all year. An ordinance intended to use the city’s economic clout to boost the number of skilled workers in the area, accompanied by two others meant to steer city procurements and contracts to local businesses, that filled council chambers with people who largely urged its passage.

ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Spokane council OKs Quality Jobs standards

► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Council passes public works project apprentice requirement — Almost 200 people packed the Spokane City Council chambers and Chase Gallery on Monday night for the council’s final meeting of the year. Most of them came to support an ordinance put forth by Council President Ben Stuckart mandating that a certain amount of work on public works construction projects be performed by apprentices. The measure passed in a veto-proof 5-2 vote after hours of testimony. It will “create a more skilled workforce” in Spokane, Stuckart said.

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Snohomish County Council works to avoid ‘nightmare’ of possible shutdown — Snohomish County lawmakers are preparing to mull a series of compromises Wednesday to avoid a crisis. Failing to act could earn the county a dubious distinction as the first in Washington to suffer a government shutdown because elected leaders couldn’t agree on a budget.

► In today’s News Tribune — MultiCare, Franciscan Health propose jointly operated psychiatric hospital in Tacoma — Pierce County’s two biggest health-care providers hope to a build a 120-bed psychiatric hospital for $41 million. Leaders say the facility would address a shortage of local psychiatric beds.

► In today’s Daily News — Longview not immune to national shortage of qualified bus drivers — It’s not Rick Lecker’s job to drive school buses. But the Longview School District transportation director is having to fill in often these days because school bus drivers are becoming harder to find.




► In today’s P.S. Business Journal — Aerospace companies suck up space, drive construction boom near Everett — Boeing’s plans to build the 777X jetliner in Everett are having a huge impact on the surrounding area. Aerospace suppliers are soaking up available space around Boeing’s facilities there, and developers are building almost as fast as they can.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Boeing 737 factory to move to clean energy — Boeing said Tuesday that it plans to buy renewable energy credits to replace fossil-fuel power at its Renton plant.




WA_healthplanfinder► In today’s Seattle Times — State insurance exchange working well for Medicaid — Washington’s exchange website, which has struggled with glitches in its sales of insurance plans, is smoothly managing its Medicaid accounts. Since October, the exchange has been automatically renewing Medicaid enrollees with no significant problems. In December alone, some 150,000 Medicaid participants automatically re-enrolled in the program.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Maybe if the Exchange offered a public option to consumers, as opposed to just listing private insurance plans, things would run smoother. Just an idea.

► In today’s NY Times — Federal health exchange sees enrollment flurry — The Obama administration said Tuesday that nearly 2.5 million people had selected health insurance plans through the federal marketplace in the first four weeks of open enrollment this fall. More than one million of those selections came in just one week, from Dec. 6 through last Friday.

► In The Hill — ACA fines loom for the uninsured — People without insurance are running out of time to avoid the hefty penalties that the IRS will be handing down in 2016. Consumers face a Feb. 15, 2015, deadline to buy insurance, after which those without coverage could be hit with fines of $325 per adult or 2% of family income, whichever is higher.




rich-get-richer► In today’s NY Times — U.S. wealth gap is widest in 30 years, study finds — A report released on Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that the wealth gap between the country’s top earners and the rest of America had stretched to its widest point in at least three decades. Last year, the median net worth of upper-income families reached $639,400, nearly seven times as much of those in the middle, and nearly 70 times the level of those at the bottom of the income ladder.

► From AP — Southwest bag workers picketing over flight delays — Saying Southwest Airlines is neglecting workers and its customers, baggage handlers are bringing attention to the company’s slide in on-time performance as they seek a new contract. Workers (TWU Local 555) picketed and handed out leaflets to passengers at Denver and 15 other airports across the country Tuesday (including Sea-Tac).

► At Salon — Andrew Cuomo seeks to kick public employees out of union — An estimated 1,000 New York state government employees received notices Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration aims to reclassify their jobs as non-union, a move that could weaken a federation that has previously butted heads with the “centrist” Democratic governor. (Quotes added.)

Piggy Bank With An Hour Glass► In Time Magazine — Why workers undervalue traditional pension plans — Despite many drawbacks, the 401(k) plan is our most prized employee benefit other than health care, new research shows. More than half of workers value this savings plan even above a traditional pension that guarantees income for life. These findings come as new flaws in our 401(k)-based retirement system surface on a regular basis… The biggest flaw of all may be that most 401(k) plans do not provide a guaranteed lifetime income stream. This may be because guaranteed income doesn’t seem so important while you are still at work or, as has lately been the case, the stock market is rising at a rapid pace… With growing acknowledgement that lifetime income is critical, and largely missing from most workers’ plans, it seems odd that so many workers would value a 401(k) over a traditional pension. It may also be that the 401(k) is the only savings plan many young workers have ever known, and they value having control over their assets.




cash-black-hole► In today’s Washington Post — A black hole for our best and brightest — There’s a prominent theory among some economists and policymakers that says the big problem with the American economy is that a lot of Americans don’t have the talent to compete in today’s global marketplace. While it’s true that the country would be better off if more workers had more training — particularly low-skilled, low-income workers — that theory misses a crucial, damaging development of the past several decades. It misses how much the economy has suffered at the hands of some of its most skilled, most talented workers, who followed escalating pay onto Wall Street — and away from more economically and socially valuable uses of their talents. The financial industry has doubled in size as a share of the economy in the past 50 years, but it hasn’t gotten any better at its core job: getting money from investors who have it to companies that will use it to generate growth, profit and jobs.


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