Schmudget Blog


I-1366 Lawsuit Headed to Washington State Supreme Court

Posted by Andy Nicholas at Aug 14, 2015 11:20 PM |

Tim Eyman’s I-1366 is an attempt to blackmail Washington state into undercutting democracy. And a King County Superior Court judge has determined that I-1366 likely violates the state constitution, but stopped short of removing it from the November ballot. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against I-1366 seek to block the initiative from the ballot on the grounds that it would deny Washingtonians their right to a deliberative and well-thought-out process for amending the state constitution. They will appeal the decision to the Washington State Supreme Court, and they are confident the measure will ultimately be struck down.

I-1366 is Eyman’s latest attempt to revive a damaging law that gives a small minority of lawmakers veto power over all state revenue decisions. Amending the state constitution cannot be done through the initiative process, yet Eyman’s “2/3-For-Taxes Constitutional Amendment Initiative” seeks to do just that.

King County Superior Justice Dean S. Lum indicated that there's a good chance that I-1366 would eventually be overturned by the State Supreme Court.  His opinion states that “although the ultimate decision is obviously the Supreme Court’s, there is a substantial possibility that I-1366 will be found to be invalid for exceeding the scope of the initiative process, and that voters will be voting on a measure which will never go into effect.”

Simply put, I-1366 would force the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds “supermajority” vote of the Legislature on revenue measures or the state would lose $1.4 billion a year in tax revenues that support schools, public safety, and other investments that help build a strong state economy.

In his argument during the hearing, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney Paul Lawrence explained that I-1366 is a perversion of the constitutional amendment process that would put a $1.4 billion gun to the head of the Legislature. Said Lawrence: “It is simply unconstitutional.”

The I-1366 ruling in King County Superior Court comes one day after the Washington State Supreme Court levied fines against the state for failing to adequately fund schools. I-1366 would make it impossible for lawmakers to produce the billions of dollars in additional school funding that the Court has said in no uncertain terms they must produce. Our kids and their teachers shouldn’t have to pay the price for the anti-democracy whims of Tim Eyman and his wealthy corporate backers.

Economic Justice Advocate Will Direct Washington State Budget & Policy Center

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Aug 13, 2015 08:05 PM |
Contact: Melinda Young-Flynn, communications manager, 206.262.0973, ext. 223, melinday@budgetandpolicy.org
 

August 13, 2015 -- The Washington State Budget & Policy Center will welcome influential policy expert and coalition-builder Misha Werschkul as its executive director, the organization’s board announced today.

Misha Werschkul headshotWerschkul has spent the past 10 years in a range of policy leadership roles promoting economic justice with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, DC, and the Seattle-based Local 775 of SEIU. She most recently served as SEIU 775’s legislative and policy director. Prior to that, she held two research fellowships with the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

Based in Seattle, the Washington State Budget & Policy Center is an independent, nonpartisan organization that works for a just and prosperous state through sound research and analysis.

"Misha has an impressive track record of playing a key role in winning important policy victories in our state," said Tiffany Turner, president of the Budget & Policy Center Board of Directors. "She will be a strong leader of the Center with a great vision for shaping the debate around policies that promote prosperity for all Washingtonians."

Werschkul's background building relationships with legislators, community coalitions, and grassroots organizations makes her especially well-suited to lead the Center. Just this year, she helped lead the coalition for House passage of a statewide minimum wage increase and she advanced legislation to invest in better pay and benefits for low-wage home care workers. She has helped craft positions on workforce development and training, health and long-term care, payday lending, and revenue.

Werschkul has a master's degree in public policy and women's studies from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Macalester College. Her community involvement also includes serving on the boards of Northwest Health Law Advocates and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, among others. She was a founding member of the Younger Women's Task Force of the National Council of Women's Organizations.

"I am honored and thrilled to join the talented team at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center," said Werschkul. "Over the past decade, the Center has established itself as a leader in developing and advancing policies that support economic security for all Washingtonians. I am excited to work with the staff and board to increase our impact, develop deeper public awareness and civic engagement, and continue championing policies that promote a just and prosperous state."

Werschkul will start at the Center full time on September 28. She will take over from David West, who became the Center's interim director after Remy Trupin stepped down. As the founding executive director, Trupin led the organization for 10 years. 

In Werschkul, the Washington State Budget & Policy Center gains a well-respected policy director, community-builder, and social justice advocate. 

 

Deadline Approaching for Best Chance to Feed Hungry Kids in Our State

Posted by Elena Hernandez at Aug 12, 2015 07:10 PM |
Filed under: Poverty, Economic Security
By Elena Hernandez, Policy Analyst, and Linda Stone, Food Policy Director with Children's Alliance
 

For school districts in high-poverty neighborhoods across Washington, there is a promising solution to address hunger and help reduce the opportunity gap in education: sign up for the “community eligibility” program. This program allows districts to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students, paid for by the federal government. School districts have until August 31st to enroll in the program.

The program reduces childhood hunger, better prepares students to learn in the classroom, eases stress for parents by helping their tight food budget go further, and reduces bureaucratic paperwork so that schools can focus on educating kids. Now in its second year, community eligibility is available to schools around the country where a large portion of students come from families that are struggling to make ends meet. It offers breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost (see Box 1 for more explanation). The program is offered through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.

CEP_box_2

Nationwide, community eligibility served 6.6 million children in over 14,000 schools last year. But only about half of the schools that are eligible to take advantage of this powerful tool to feed children participated. So many more hungry students could benefit. Some school districts in Washington state have already taken advantage of this provision, recognizing the role community eligibility can play in creating a better life for kids, both in school and at home. School districts in our state that have enrolled in our state with the largest student populations affected include:

  • The entire Yakima School District, where more than 15,000 students can now receive free breakfast and lunch at school
  • All schools in the Sunnyside School District, impacting over 6,000 students
  • Eleven schools in the Franklin Pierce School District, improving access to nutritious meals for just over 5,000 students
  • All schools in the Toppenish School District, helping to ensure more than 3,800 students don’t go to school hungry

But we can do better; only 122 schools have adopted community eligibility – just 31% of those that are eligible to participate. The interactive map below shows how Washington state stacks up to the rest of the country.

 

We know that one in five kids in Washington live in households that struggle to put food on the table. We also know that the legacy of racist public policies in our country means that kids of color are at an even higher risk of hunger. Not knowing where their next meal will come from negatively impacts all aspects of a child’s life, particularly in school. Kids that go to school hungry can’t perform as well academically, limiting their opportunity to reach their full potential. By ensuring that kids whose families are struggling financially can receive two free meals a day in school, community eligibility helps reduce the gap between students with low incomes and their peers by giving them a better chance to come to class ready to learn. In fact, schools that have taken steps to increase the number of students with low incomes who receive free breakfast report that discipline and behavior problems went down and student attentiveness and attendance went up.

That is why it is so important that local school officials throughout Washington state opt in to community eligibility by Monday, August 31st. By doing so, they can support education and reduce hunger for Washington’s children.

For more information about how community eligibility works and for a full list of eligible schools, click here. For more information about Community Eligibility in Washington, contact Linda Stone, Food Policy Director with the Children’s Alliance.

The Budget and Policy Center staff would like to thank Linda Stone, Food Policy Director from the Children's Alliance, Adam Hyla E. Holdorf, Communications Directory from the Children's Alliance, and Rebecca Segal, Child Nutrition Associate with the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP), for their contributions to this post.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Medicaid

Posted by Kim Justice at Jul 30, 2015 07:05 PM |
Filed under: Health Care

Since 1965, Medicaid has played an essential role in the health and well-being of families and individuals with low incomes, including children, parents, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. 

The impact of this popular public insurance program was amplified under a key provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 to allow states to expand coverage by raising the income level for eligibility. The ACA also allowed coverage for adults with low incomes who don't have dependent children. Washington state lawmakers approved the expansion of Medicaid in 2013, making us one of 28 states to do so. The result? Over half a million additional Washingtonians have now obtained health coverage.

Wa.medicaid.image

Read more about Medicaid’s effectiveness in Washington state from our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

And take a look at our recent analysis of the well-being of kids in Washington state, and in particular how Medicaid programs are making our kids healthier (per the KIDS COUNT 2015 Data Book).

Here's to 50 successful years of Medicaid making people healthier!

 

Efforts Underway to Block Eyman Blackmail Initiative

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Jul 30, 2015 01:25 PM |
Read the press release about the I-1366 lawsuit. 
 

A group of Washington state residents are suing to block Tim Eyman’s unconstitutional Initiative 1366 from the November ballot. I-1366 is Eyman’s attempt to undercut democracy and blackmail the people’s representatives into writing his disastrous “supermajority” law into the state constitution. The plaintiffs in the King County lawsuit include an elections official, a county auditor, lawmakers, and advocates for education and social services.

Amending the state constitution cannot be done through the initiative process, yet Eyman’s “2/3-For-Taxes Constitutional Amendment Initiative” seeks to do just that. That makes Eyman’s initiative illegal.

Simply put, Initiative 1366 would make one of two things happen. Either the Legislature would have to undercut democracy by passing a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature on revenue measures – instead of the simple majority required for almost all other legislative actions today – or the state would lose $1.4 billion a year in tax revenues that support schools, public health services, public safety, and other investments that help build a strong state economy.

Neither move is in the best interest of Washington’s future. A supermajority requirement on revenues would make it nearly impossible to eliminate wasteful corporate tax breaks, raise the resources needed to respond to emergencies, or invest in other building blocks of broad prosperity. The loss of $1.4 billion a year – through an automatic sales tax rate reduction that would be triggered under the initiative if the Legislature didn’t bow to Eyman’s supermajority demand – would severely hamper the state’s ability to meet the school-funding requirements of the McCleary ruling or invest in important building blocks of economic growth.

I-1366 would jeopardize Washington’s future in several ways:

  • It would blackmail the people’s representatives into doing what Eyman wants under threat of losing billions of dollars crucial to building a strong economy and prosperous state.
  •  It would tie the hands of legislators and make it very difficult to respond to crises – like wildfires and floods – as well as to make the investments necessary to create jobs and strengthen our communities. 
  •  It would allow a small handful of politicians to block every attempt at closing wasteful corporate tax breaks or increasing investments in public schools and other vital services that strengthen communities. This law would increase partisan gridlock and impede reasonable compromise.
  • It would lock in place wasteful tax breaks, putting our state at risk of making cuts to important investments like financial aid for college students and services for seniors. 
  • It would make it impossible to create a more equitable tax system where everyone, including the rich, plays by the same rules.
  • It would undercut democracy by saying the simple majority now required for most other legislative votes shouldn’t to apply to anything Eyman and his backers don’t want it to apply to. 

Represented by the same law firm that successfully overturned Eyman’s previous supermajority initiatives, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are: King County Elections director Sherril Huff; Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall; State Representative Reuven Carlyle, D-36th Legislative District; State Senator David Frockt, D-46th Legislative District; Eden Mack, mother of public school children; Paul Bell, local college student; Tony Lee, anti-poverty advocate; Gerald Reilly, ElderCare Alliance chair. 

NEW REPORT: Too Many Kids Are Being Left Behind in Economic Recovery

Because of stagnating wages, underemployment, and high costs for basic needs like housing and child care, many of Washington state’s kids and families will continue to have a hard time making ends meet, according to the 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today. 

The report, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and KIDS COUNT in Washington, found that too many children and families are still not feeling the effects of the economic recovery and are facing issues like poverty, hunger, and homelessness. Washington ranks 19th overall among the 50 states in four areas of child well-being: education, health, family and community, and economic well-being. Policymakers need to make significant investments in our children if we are to make progress toward improving outcomes for our kids.

(Click on the image below to view the entire table)

2015_NKC_WA_rank_summary

KIDS COUNT in Washington found that our  state fares especially poorly in economic security. A lack of quality employment for parents, combined with high cost-of-living, is a significant challenge for Washington state. What’s more, our national legacy of structural racism means that an increasing share of Washington state’s children are born and raised on an unequal and unstable footing. For example (click on above graphic for data summary):

  • An additional 78,000 children are living in poverty since 2008. One in three Black (34 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (32 percent) and Latino kids (32 percent), and one in four (25 percent) Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian kids, live below the poverty line -- that's compared to the state average of 19 percent.
  • Approximately one in three (31 percent) children have parents that lack secure employment. 
  • Approximately one in three (36 percent) of children live in households with a high housing-cost burden. Housing and child care are the two biggest expenses families with young children face, taking up between one-third to half of median monthly income depending a family's racial and ethnic background (see chart).  

(Click on the image below to view the entire table)

2015_

What Would It Take to Be the No. 1 State for Kids?

The Data Book also contains good news. Washington state ranks among the top 10 best states for child health – a testament to the investments our state has made in the Washington Apple Health program, which has a goal to provide health insurance to all kids. There has also been a sizable decline in child death rates and the share of teens who are abusing drugs or alcohol, both of which can be attributed to the rise in public health campaigns and child-focused public policies. 

The message from these successes is clear – when Washington state invests in kids, it makes a difference. In addition, there are several steps that policymakers, community leaders, and child advocates can take to make Washington the best state in the country for kids to live:

  • Lead with equity. We cannot make progress as a state if we don’t achieve racial and socioeconomic equity. Investments to advance well-being for all children must start with the kids who need investing in the most. 
  • Investigate the story behind the data. Data, on its own, tells a limited story about the people it represents. Lawmakers should work with the people that the data represents to understand their stories, and develop community-informed policies that have a higher likelihood of success. 
  • Increase investment in policies that simultaneously support both parents and children. The Casey Foundation recommends policies that result in higher pay, paid sick leave, flexible scheduling, and expanded unemployment benefits that will result in higher family income, reduced parental stress, and an increased capacity for parents to invest in their kids. Detailed recommendations can be found in the 2014 report, Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach.

Read the KIDS COUNT in Washington press release about the 2015 Data Book. 

The 2015 Data Book is available at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state, and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps, and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices. 

KIDS COUNT in Washington is a joint effort of the Children's Alliance and the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, which are working together to pursue measurable improvements in kids’ lives in Washington state.

 

Progress in Focus: Declining Economic Security Is a Big Threat for Washingtonians

With too many hardworking people struggling to get by, state lawmakers must do more to support the investments needed for Washingtonians’ long-term economic security than they did in the recent state budget.

For an eye-opening look at the challenges our state faces, see the "Progress at a Glance" table below and, for more details, check out our full Progress Index .

(Click on the image below to view the entire table)

 PI_econ_aag

Ultimately, state budget writers this year missed significant opportunities to help build an economy where prosperity is widely shared. Their budget did not do enough to rectify the fact that today’s economy is providing gains to a relative handful of Washingtonians, as these statistics dramatically show:

  • Nearly one quarter of all income in Washington state goes to the richest 1 percent – those with average annual incomes of $1.3 million. For perspective, the richest 1 percent held no more than 11 percent of all income during the height of middle-class prosperity from 1947 to 1979. 
  • Between 2009 and 2012, during the recovery from the Great Recession, all income gains went to the richest Washingtonians. The remaining 99 percent saw their income decline.
  • Median household income declined by $4,000 between 2008 and 2013, to $58,405 a year from $62,486. 
  • The share of Washingtonians who make too little to meet basic needs is rising, now encompassing nearly one-third of the population.  

In addition to all this, Washington continues to have the nation’s most upside-down state tax system: as a percentage of what they make in a year, the lowest-paid Washingtonians pay up to seven times more in state and local taxes than the wealthiest 1 percent. 

The disturbing situation these statistics describe should serve as a clarion call to lawmakers that investments need to be made to create affordable housing, connect workers to job training, keep children from going hungry, and in other ways promote opportunity and prosperity for all. Yet Washington state invests just 3 percent of its total operating revenue on ways to help Washingtonians maintain economic stability during an economic downturn or personal crisis.

Further, inadequate state support over the past five years has weakened the forms of assistance many Washingtonians need most. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Working Connections Child Care – critical tools to help families find or keep a job – serve significantly fewer children today than in 2008.

The recently adopted state budget did increase support in some key areas, like expanding early learning opportunities for all kids and providing a small increase in cash assistance to families struggling to get by. But those gains are severely threatened by the failure to enact enough new, sustainable revenue sources to protect long-term investments and economic security in the years to come. The adoption of a capital gains tax on the wealthiest Washingtonians in particular would have provided several million dollars a year to meet important needs and take a step toward making taxes more equitable.

This is Part 6 in our "Progress in Focus" series of blog posts highlighting the individual sections of the Progress Index. To read our additional recommendations for how to support a thriving Washington economy, visit the Economic Security section of our Progress Index. See our previous posts: 

Part 5: Healthy People

Part 4: Healthy Environment

Part 3: Good Jobs

Part 2: Education

Part 1: Revenue

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