As the final votes are counted from the midterm elections, there will no doubt be plenty of analysis about what the outcomes mean, who’s up and who’s down, and what it all means. But let’s not forget what’s at stake as new lawmakers turn from campaigning to governing: We must create a state in which everyone has the opportunity to not just make ends meet, but to thrive. Now is the time to stay involved to ensure that new and returning lawmakers follow through on enacting policies that build a stronger state where opportunity truly reaches everyone.
It is clear Washingtonians want a people-centered policy agenda that funds good schools, affordable health care, and critical supports for people who are struggling to make ends meet. Legislative candidates like Kitsap County’s Emily Randall, who championed commonsense policies like closing the tax break on capital gains and ensuring that every Washingtonian has quality, affordable health care, are leading or are in close races all across Washington state. When the legislature convenes in January, there will be more legislators in both the House and Senate who campaigned on these kinds of bold ideas for a better Washington – and who are ready to enact a state budget that reflects Washingtonians’ vision for progress.
Similarly across the country, Americans are voting for candidates and policies that will strengthen the health of communities and state economies. For example, early results show voters in Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska expanding Medicaid health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of people in their states. And voters in states like Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin elected new governors who championed shared prosperity over failed tax cuts and attacks on organized labor.
There are disappointments, too. The impact of tens of millions of dollars in spending by big oil and soda companies in our state on initiatives 1631 – which would’ve rightly enacted an equitable policy to clean Washington’s air and water – and 1634 – a deceptive measure that aims to protect the soda industry – cannot be understated. The outcomes on these initiatives reinforce that Washingtonians all need to stay engaged in the upcoming legislative session to ensure our state legislators take action on the policies that set our state up for a bright and healthy future and put people above corporate profits. When they get to Olympia, elected officials need to hear from us to make sure they act on our behalf, not the behalf of corporate lobbyists and other special interests.
We know we can move our state forward with sound policy and strategic investments that build strong communities. Lawmakers can start by eliminating wasteful tax breaks that mostly benefit the very wealthiest households, like the one on capital gains. And by enacting and funding a modernized Working Families Tax Rebate to put more money in the pockets of hardworking but low-paid Washingtonians. Legislators can’t do this on their own. They need our advocacy to make bold policies that improve the lives of all Washingtonians, clean up our tax code, and confront the real threats of the climate crisis. Our stories and voices matter now more than ever.
For more analysis about the impact of the midterm elections, sign up for our Budget Matters 2018 Policy Conference on November 13. Gov. Jay Inslee is one of the keynote speakers. And the lunchtime plenary will focus on the midterms and feature Misha Werschkul as well as Jessyn Farrell from Civic Ventures, Aiko Schaefer from Front and Centered, and Erica Williams from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.