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Dear Friends & Neighbors

The 2018 Legislative Session was one of the most productive our state has had in years. It was a short session that accomplished several goals of our Putting People First Agenda and we got out on time!

We are delivering real results to the people of our state as we put people first, combining effective leadership with the courage to stand up and fight for working families.

As the new Democratic Chair of the Economic Development and International Trade Committee. I’m dedicated to helping lead our state in developing a growth strategy that meets the challenges to business and labor of globalization and automation, a strategy based on evidence and facts. We welcome scientists and their contributions to our public square.

In this time of devastating natural disasters caused by climate change, increasing inequality of income and wealth, economic stagnation, and housing unaffordability, we need our best minds working with us. Our communities are challenged with preserving our homes, our green environment including our precious tree canopies, and our way of life, in the face of tax credit venture capitalists coming into our communities as “developers”. We see little regard for the residents as the developers claim “the greater good.” Whether it is development at Point Wells or around Sound Transit 3, similar challenges confront our state in every community.

I encourage full participation as we struggle together – in our democratic tradition – to find solutions. Remember, if you are not at the table you are probably on the menu.

Best to you and yours,

asd

THE FUTURE OF WORK

Automation will bring big shifts to the world of work, as Artificial Intelligence and robotics change or replace some jobs, while others are created. Work will be less structured and more based on specific projects rather than job functions. Think of entertainers who get a “gig” working in different venues. Independent workers are increasingly choosing to offer their services on digital platforms including Upwork, Uber, and Etsy and, in the process, challenging conventional ideas about how and where work is undertaken. The Legislature enacted my bill creating the Future of Work Task Force to prepare our state for changes as significant for our economy as the steam engine was for the economy of weavers and Luddites in the First Industrial Revolution.

MANUFACTURING INNOVATION INSTITUTE: MII

In cooperation with the Federal Government we are working to establish a Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) to serve as a catalyst for high-tech regional development. It is an initiative focused on coordinating public and private investment in emerging advanced manufacturing technologies. The MII brings together industry, academia, and government partners to leverage existing resources, collaborate, and co-invest to advance manufacturing innovation and accelerate commercialization. With an MII as the core institutional structure, the resulting “innovation cluster” is projected to grow rapidly and pay above average wages and salaries.

SIGNING

EDUCATION

The paramount goal and responsibility of our state is to provide students with the skills and capabilities they need to thrive in the knowledge-based global economy. We funded our schools with another billion of tax-payer dollars help all students obtain the credentials needed to participate in the future of work. These funds also put our state on the pathway to compensating our teaching workforce for obtaining the professional credentials we require them to possess.

The GED test is an option for the 500,000 out-of-school youth and adults in our state without a high school diploma to demonstrate their skills and knowledge and earn a state-issued high school equivalency credential. We reformed the GED test to cover material taught in high school rather than college. The changes will empower test takers to enter the workforce with the essential admission ticket or to obtain additional credentials to move up the career ladder.

EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY

We changed the rules for small works projects to permit small contracting business to expand their book of business. The National Minority Business Advisory Council’s President, Frank Lemos, presented their award as Legislator of the Year for this work.

EQUAL PAY: BRINGING HOME THE BACON

After waiting 75 years, women in our state will finally have a path to receive equal pay: workers now have the right to discuss and inquire about pay and compensation without retaliation. It also requires pay to be based on bona fide job-based criteria—such as education, training, or experience—instead of unfair assumptions and practices. We also passed legislation would have stopped employers from relying on prior salary history when making pay decisions.

HEALTH CARE

The people of our district are demanding health care form and relief from outrageous co-pays and spiraling increases in the price of prescription drugs. (Just this month – $200 co-pay on an asthma inhaler!). I introduced the single-payer health care bill seeking to ensure fair prices from drug companies, lower medical bills and overhead costs. Doctors, not insurance clerks, would make medical decisions. The beauty of a single-payer system is exactly that: one source for payment and administration, similar to social security. The legislature directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to conduct a study of single payer and universal coverage health care systems due December 1, 2018.

PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS = Tax shifts

Washington taxes all property unless the law specifically exempts the property. Some exemptions are constitutional exemptions while others are legislative exemptions. Stocks and bonds, the fastest growing source of wealth, are legislatively exempted property. Churches and schools are constitutionally exempted from paying property taxes. Property taxes include the state property tax (for public schools), and local property taxes (for services and programs provided by counties, cities, fire districts, school districts, library districts, etc.) Exempting property from taxes results in a tax shift because the property tax base has declined in value by the value of the exemptions. When the assessor spreads the taxes across the base, the tax rate increasesbecause the amount of money that must be collected is the same no matter how many are paying. The exempt taxpayer now pays no property taxes but their tax obligation shifts to other taxpayers still in the base. In 2016, the majority (R) party changed the tax calculation for state property tax temporarily to a “rate based” system which allowed different property owners to pay different amounts. Wealthy property owners were given substantial exemptions on their tax bills. Even so, the amount of taxes collected was more than was needed which is why the new majority party (D) is refunding some of those taxes.

TAX JUSTICE

The tax struggles in our state are not new. 1927 brought deep recession and rising property taxes to the Agrarian West when state farmers lost their market share. By the Constitution, property tax was the source of revenue for the young state and property owners were given five years grace if the got behind on their taxes but no more. Farmers lost their farms and homes through tax or mortgage foreclosures and the state or the bank took title to the property. Only North Dakota escaped mortgage foreclosures because their state bank refused to foreclose. The Grange was the hero leading the fight for tax reform. The Grange proposed two taxes: first, stocks and bonds, “intangible” property, to be taxed uniformly at the same rate as “tangible” real estate and secondly, a progressive (not flat rate) income tax. It was an attempt to equalize the tax burden. The State Constitution was amended, (Art 7, Section 1, Amendment 14) requiring “uniform” taxation on both “tangible and intangible” property. The legislature then enacted progressive income tax which the court declared unconstitutional because income was “intangible” property and a progressive income tax was not uniform. The then legislature enacted a property tax on stocks and bonds but that was vetoed by the Governor. In 1932, for the first time, Democrats took control of the legislature.

The 1935 the legislature enacted the Revenue Act which is still in place today. The result? Washington has the most regressive, upside-down tax system in the entire United States. Low income people pay 17% of their income in taxes but wealthy pay a mere 2%. How fair is that? Washington State public policy is to tax homes but not stocks & bonds or earned income (wages and stock earnings); we tax gas, utilities, necessities, filing fees, etc., but not the fastest growing source of wealth in our state, (stocks and bonds), intangible property, while the majority of wage earners are living with wage stagnation since 1979. People refinance their homes (reducing their assets) to meet expenses, or go into bankruptcy because of outrageous medical expenses. All it takes is for the legislature to act. If your concerns are not at the table, you are on the menu.

In 1997 the Legislature removed the last vestige of intangible property from the tax rolls but they did not lower the amount of property taxes to be collected. Instead they shifted the tax responsibility onto those who are still paying property taxes based upon their real estate, the family home usually.

                               TAX