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Budget proposals | Brown boosted | Wage theft rampant

Tuesday, February 20, 2018




► From AP — Senate Democrats: Fund teacher salaries, institute property tax cut — Senate Democrats unveiled a plan Monday that would use a projected increase in state revenues to expedite the timeline on fully funding teacher salaries and include a one-time property tax cut for homeowners… House Democrats are set to unveil their supplemental budget proposal Tuesday, and both plans will receive public hearings in their respective committees the same day. The current 60-day legislative session is scheduled to end March 8.

► In today’s Olympian — Tax windfalls create rare chance to fix tax code (editorial) — Our Legislature should use this rare chance to rethink the state’s messed-up tax code. A cut in property taxes could easily be part of the mix. But lawmakers should also impose a new capital gains tax or a carbon tax on fossil fuels, buy down a portion of public-pension debts, and invest another $1 billion to answer court-mandated investments in K-12 public schools.

► In the (Everett) Herald — Sound Transit funding splits lawmakers trying to cut car tab fees — Lawmakers agree they must provide some financial relief for those paying high car tab fees, but are divided on whether they also must help Sound Transit absorb the resulting blow of losing $780 million in future collections, money counted on to finance expansion plans approved by voters in 2016.

► In the Columbian — Inslee’s early support of Kalama methanol plant has him in pickle — On a sunny day in August 2015, Gov. Jay Inslee stood in a grassy park next to the Port of Kalama and extolled a plan to build one of the world’s largest natural gas-to-methanol plants on the banks of the Columbia River. But now, environmental groups say the plant would create more emissions than originally estimated and the Kalama plant is inconsistent with a truly low-carbon future.

► In the Columbian — State reinsurance program gets reboot — Proposed legislation that state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says will stabilize the health insurance market is back on track. Plans with third-party plan administrators — including large corporations such as Microsoft and Boeing and labor unions with trusts — pushed back against the assessment. The criticism was strong enough to send Kreidler’s office back to the drawing board and the latest proposal now excludes third-party administrators.

► In the (Everett) Herald — Democrats seek automatic and day-of voter registration — Democratic lawmakers are making a big push this session to get more people signed up as voters. They are moving bills to expand the number of state agencies where one will be automatically registered to vote and to let 16- and 17-year-olds pre-register to ensure they get a ballot when they are legally eligible to cast it.




► In the Skagit Valley Herald — Skagit Regional Health reduces size of staff — So far, 94 employees have been laid off or had a reduction in hours. President and CEO Brian Ivie said he hopes to get the restructuring done as quickly as possible while still abiding by union contracts. Skagit Regional Health — comprised of Skagit Valley Hospital, Skagit Regional Clinics and Cascade Valley Hospital — had 2,032 full-time equivalents prior to the layoffs. The company blames financial losses on government cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

► In today’s Peninsula Daily News — McKinley Paper puts retooling plans on hold at Port Angeles mill — McKinley has put on hold plans to retool the Nippon Paper Industries USA paper plant it purchased almost a year ago for manufacturing cardboard linerboard. A company official said they still hope the plant can begin production in 2019 but could not be more definitive.




► In today’s Seattle Times — National Democrats boost Spokane’s Lisa Brown in bid to unseat Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has named Brown to its so-called “Red to Blue” program of top-tier challengers as the party seeks to topple GOP incumbents and flip open seats to take a House majority in the 2018 midterm election. Brown is one of 24 Democratic House candidates to receive the designation, which will grant her campaign additional organizational and fundraising support, and signal her viability to national donors.




► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Washington lawmakers pledge to solve immigration issue — With the failed Senate votes behind them, Washington’s lawmakers pledged to keep working toward legislation protecting those young immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission from being deported. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said she will not stop fighting until suitable legislation is passed.

► From TPM — The Senate failed to save DACA. What happens now? — With nearly 700,000 young immigrants at risk of losing their work permits and legal protections after March 5, many senators on both sides of the aisle say Congress should and must keep trying to find a solution for the DACA program President Trump terminated last year… Looming over the legislative scramble are federal courts, which could decide at any moment the fate of President Trump’s attempt to end the DACA program, and President Trump himself, who may for a second time torpedo Congress’ hopes of passing a bill by threatening a veto.

► In today’s LA Times — U.S. is separating immigrant families to discourage others, activists say — The case of a Brazilian woman and her son illustrates what migrant advocates call a harsher approach to immigration enforcement. She’s being held in Texas, while her son was taken to a shelter in Illinois.




► From HuffPost — This Supreme Court case is the biggest threat to organized labor in years — Mark Janus doesn’t want to pay fees to the labor union that represents him. If the Supreme Court gives him the chance to opt out, the Illinois state employee will gladly take the justices up on their offer. So, too, could millions of other public sector workers across the country.

ALSO at The Stand — The Janus case: What it is, who’s behind it

► From CNN — Trump administration recommends steep tariffs on steel and aluminum — The Commerce Department is recommending steep tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. The suggested tariffs are the latest indication that President Trump’s trade talk is turning from bark to bite. They also raise the risk of a trade war with China and other nations.

► From The Hill — Lawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves — NAFTA, which has long come under fire from both parties, is getting a rousing defense amid a push from the Trump administration to either renegotiate or scrap the deal altogether.

► In the NY Times — 1.5 million retirees await congressional fix for a pension time bomb — The spending deal reached this month quietly included a step toward defusing what could be a financial time bomb for 1.5 million retirees and hundreds of companies in the industrial Midwest and the South. The deal creates a select congressional committee to craft what could effectively be a federal rescue of as many as 200 so-called “multiemployer” pension plans — in which employers and labor unions band together to provide retirement benefits to employees.

► In the Seattle Times — Trump’s infrastructure scheme: Tearing down 150 years of federal support (by Jon Talton) — For more than 150 years, federal infrastructure has underpinned the U.S. economy, helped build a future of continuous advancement. The future envisioned by Trump and some Republicans is a destructive leap backward.




► In today’s NY Times — School shootings put teachers in new role as human shields — Across the country, teachers are grappling with how their roles have expanded, from educator and counselor to bodyguard and protector. They wonder if their classrooms are properly equipped, if they would recognize the signs of a dangerous student, and most of all, if they are prepared to jump in front of a bullet.

► From AP — Grocery retailer Albertsons to buy drugstore chain Rite Aid — The privately held owner of Safeway, Vons and other grocery brands is plunging deeper into the pharmacy business with a deal to buy Rite Aid, the nation’s third-largest drugstore chain. Albertsons said it will continue to run Rite Aid stand-alone stores, and most of the grocery operator’s pharmacies will be rebranded as Rite Aid.




► From Politico — Behind the minimum wage fight, a sweeping failure to enforce the law — As Democrats make raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, and Republicans call for states to handle the issue, both are missing an important problem: Wage laws are poorly enforced, with workers often unable to recover back pay even after the government rules in their favor. That’s the conclusion of a nine-month investigation by POLITICO, which found that workers are so lightly protected that six states have no investigators to handle minimum-wage violations, while 26 additional states have fewer than 10 investigators. Given the widespread nature of wage theft and the dearth of resources to combat it, most cases go unreported. Thus, an estimated $15 billion in desperately needed income for workers with lowest wages goes instead into the pockets of shady bosses.


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