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This is no way to govern

With state shutdown looming, budget deal reached in triple OT


The following story appears in the Washington State Labor Council’s 2017 Legislative Report published in August.


For the past five years the Washington State Legislature has been locked in an ugly and unproductive game of brinkmanship that has cost our state in lost jobs, wages, health outcomes, affordable housing, fair elections, needed social services, and civility.

In 2013, when Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, betrayed those who had voted for them as Democrats by jumping ship to the Republican caucus, partisan extremism has more often than not defined the Republican-controlled Senate.

At the time, Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) lauded this defection by saying, “This is the sort of cooperation people are hungry for.”

The Senate Majority Leader has proven over and over again these past five years that he has little idea what cooperation means and even less of an idea about what people are hungry for.

The majority of Washingtonians don’t want to see workers’ freedom to negotiate a fair return for their work taken away from them. Nor do they want to see minimum wages or prevailing wages lowered. They don’t believe that unemployed people should be forced to do community service, and they don’t believe that local governments should be prevented from setting workplace standards above the state level.

Yet for the past five years, the Republican Senate has introduced legislation that would limit collective bargaining rights, lower wages, and preempt cities from setting benefit standards above state minimums. They have also opposed the Washington Voting Rights Act, significant reform to Legal Financial Obligations and Second Chance Legislation, all of which would have provided voice and rights to individuals of color.

Twice in three years, the Senate Republicans have taken us to within hours of shutting down government to avoid agreeing to any significant progressive revenue reform and in an attempt to extract unpopular partisan policy changes written by ALEC and funded by the Koch brothers.

This has got to stop.

Over the coming weeks and months we will be able to analyze more closely what actually lies in the operating budget and the impact that the property tax hike will have on low and moderate income families living in wealthier areas of the state. Having little to no time to actually read, think about and debate budgets and tax bills is no way to do business. It simply adds to the general cynicism the public has about politics.

I want to thank Governor Jay Inslee and House and Senate Democrats for putting forth a set of progressive tax reforms, e.g, capital gains and reforming the B&O tax. But once again, the Republicans have refused to deal with our upside down tax system and instead rely on fund transfers, drawing down the rainy day fund, and a property tax hike and shift that needs more analysis.

The problem with brinkmanship politics is that you are forced to sacrifice long-term investments for crisis spending. Had we passed progressive revenue reform in 2013, our state could have made the long-term investments in higher education, mental health, infrastructure, climate adaptation, and long-term care that our residents really need. Instead, those decisions are left for another day.

I am glad that the operating budget funds the state employee contracts bargained and ratified last fall. These workers have been asked to do so much with so little, it is high time that we began recognizing their value.

I also want to recognize and say thank you to the legislators and community and business negotiators on the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act. This is a significant piece of social insurance legislation, a truly portable benefit for workers and their families. It is almost 30 years since we passed the Sick Child Act prime sponsored by Rep. Sally Walker, and a decade since Sen. Karen Keiser primed and passed the first Family Leave Insurance Act. Finally, we have a program that will strengthen workers, families, businesses and communities.

15-Jeff-JohnsonJeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 600 local unions and approximately 450,000 rank-and-file union members.


Click here to see more reports from the Washington State Labor Council’s 2017 Legislative Report. Or download the entire 8-page PDF.

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