Tuesday, December 1, 2015
► In today’s Tri-City Herald — February death of Mabton dairy worker could have lasting impact on industry — Randy Vasquez died in one of the most gruesome ways imaginable, drowning in a pit of cow manure. His death not only robbed a large family of a father and breadwinner but raises questions about drug use by farm workers and possibly will lead to new regulations on the state’s dairy industry, centered in the Yakima Valley.
EDITOR’S NOTE — As this article points out, state law does not require disclosure of the victim’s toxicology results to the public. So the Washington Farm Bureau and Riverview Ranch Dairy have taken it upon themselves to publicize that Vasquez had a stimulant in his system when he worked the graveyard shift that night. They are suggesting that drug impairment is why his loader overturned into an unfenced manure lagoon with no guardrails where he was trapped, drowned, and not even discovered until several hours later. Stay classy, dairy industry lobbyists!
► From KUOW — Can Seattle’s port problems really be solved with a ‘simple fix’? — The port slowdown may have ended last year, but it has raised the question: How can we prevent this from happening again? The answer, say national retailers, is to negotiate the port workers’ contracts sooner.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — ‘Opening the books’ on Boeing tax breaks: Millions last year — The Boeing Co. saved $20 million on its state tax bill last year for starting construction on new buildings for its 777X jetliner in Everett. That money is just a small slice of the overall savings Boeing had in 2014 due to state aerospace tax incentives.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Provide details on tax breaks (editorial) — So why aren’t we seeing more [details about the cost of the Boeing tax breaks]? Because the state Department of Revenue is choosing to interpret the tax transparency provision very literally… The Seattle Times is appealing the state agency’s interpretation. We hope other newspapers and open government advocates join in the request. There’s a place for tax incentives, especially when used to win agreements that keep and develop jobs in our communities. But the public needs to see the numbers — and not just rough estimates — on what we’re spending on tax cuts and what we’re getting in return.
EDITOR’S NOTE — So what about it, Washington Coalition for Open Government? Are you going to start advocating for “sunshine” and public disclosure on corporate tax breaks with the same vigor with which you pursue government officials’ voice mails and access to state collective bargaining negotiations?
► In today’s Seattle Times — Conservative podcast pulled after host, legislator laugh at Democrat’s Middle Eastern name — The Freedom Foundation podcast host said he was not mocking the “possibly even Muslim” surname of a Washington state Democratic Party spokesman.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Fun fact: The Freedom Foundation’s jocular podcast host described in this story serves on the board of the above-mentioned Washington Coalition of Open Government.
► From BNA — DOL slates July release of final overtime rule — The DOL is now targeting a July 2016 release of the final rule to raise the overtime pay exemption threshold, while a rule on federal contractors’ employment law violations was originally absent from next year’s plans but is now slated for April. The proposed overtime rule would more than double the minimum salary for the overtime exemption to $50,440 per year from $23,660.
► From Politico — Congress actually set to pass bills — lots of them — The next 18 days will be filled with action on issues from education to transportation, from taxes to refugees… A massive, several hundred-billion-dollar package of business-targeted tax breaks known as “extenders” is also working its way through the back rooms of Capitol Hill, and could come up before Dec. 11, several aides said Monday.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Fiscal conservatives love to decry high taxes and “tax-and-spend” liberals. Ramming through hundreds of billions of dollars in mostly corporate special-interest tax breaks costs the government just as much as spending that amount. The difference in this case is that the “tax burden” is shifted from the big corporations with well-connected lobbyists to the rest of us — people and businesses — that don’t get tax breaks. So if you think your taxes are too high, or that our highways and bridges are crumbling, or that veterans’ care is deficient, or the environmental cleanup at Hanford is too slow, and you don’t get mad about this, you need an attention extender.
To be sure, there are elements of this package that will benefit Washington citizens, like the extension of the sales tax deduction in states like Washington with no state income tax. But that should be permanent anyway. By forcing its reauthorization every year, the effect is that our state’s members of Congress will vote “yes,” pointing to that and a handful of other elements that benefit Washington state. But as this AP story points out:
Among the biggest breaks for businesses are a tax credit for research and development and an exemption that allows financial companies such as banks and investment firms to shield foreign profits from being taxed by the U.S.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Seattle’s Santa gets kicked to the curb in corporate takeover (by Danny Westneat) — For 73 years, Santa has been a fixture in downtown Seattle, in large part because of one tiny Ballard company you’ve probably never heard of. But Santa just got outsourced. What happened is basically another version of an old tale: Homegrown family business gets swamped by national chains… “Naturally bearded Santas” have been replaced by newer, cheaper ones with fake, costume beards who work for companies in Orlando, Fla., New Jersey and the suburbs of Houston.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.