Virtual Conversation | 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 15, 2021 Register

Morning Wire: Ballot returns, Rep. Peter Abbarno, Tax benefit performance

Happy Primary Election Day! There are thousands of city council races taking place today that will impact the direction of your local community far more than the stuff you watch on MSNBC or Fox News. So, turn off the cable tv for a bit and go to an election night party tonight for the candidate of your choice. In COVID, there are not a lot of “parties” in the traditional sense. But I can guarantee you, candidates would still appreciate having someone drop by their home to check up on them around 7:00 tonight ahead of ballots dropping. Bring a bottle of wine or maybe a pie — whatever says “I’m here for you, friend!”

1. The mixed logic of measuring tax benefit performance 

JLARC’s “Tax Preference Performance Review” looks at how well certain tax breaks are meeting the legislative goals for the program. In a twist of logic that only tax policy geeks can love, JLARC recommends killing the tax benefits that were successful, and keeping those that are not meeting their goals. It presents its findings later today.

A tax credit to support solar capacity has been so successful, JLARC now says it should be eliminated. The program, launched in 2017, allocated all of its funding by 2019 and met its goals for solar-related employment. A B&O tax preference for print newspapers has not stemmed the tide of job and revenue losses, down 38% and 29% respectively since 2015. From JLARC: “As the industry transitions to digital, a preference for producing a physical newspaper may be less helpful.” A sales and use tax deferral for manufacturing resulted in none of the beneficiaries meeting the goal for new manufacturing jobs. JLARC staff say it should be extended. 

2. Criminal justice reform in Washington State 

“What do we have to do to affect real change?” This from a commentary piece we posted from a man sentenced to 65 years for murder. He is in prison at Monroe, and says he is doing everything he can to live a life with accountability. He says legislative support for incarcerated individuals to reduce sentences by 1/3rd, regardless of their crime, would create a pathway and incentive for rehabilitation.

“The state has ramped up the pressure to save money through the Department of Corrections, now let’s pass criminal justice bills that will bring back hope and purpose to a place that has historically been fueled by isolation, division, and violence.”

3. Q&A: Rep. Peter Abbarno

As part of our series giving voice to some of our new legislators, this week we feature a Q&A with Rep. Peter Abbarno. He is a Republican from the 20th LD, a former Centralia city councilman, and says he is primarily concerned with issues of poverty, education, and homelessness. In many ways, he represents the kind of Republican that leader Rep. JT Wilcox has been recruiting for years: a steady voice that is rooted in his community.

From the interview: “I live in Centralia — the school district has 100% free or reduced lunch [and] there’s a high level of poverty. I think looking at how we can invest in our students, invest in our families, and create more opportunities is always going to be one of those overarching issues I’m going to have. And that is incentivizing growth in a smart way, and trying to give families more money in their pockets so that they can provide for their families.” 

4. Tech sector and diversity 

I tend to think of our tech community as a diverse one. That isn’t necessarily the case, according to a new report from OneAmerica. Reporter Aaron Kunkler writes “At Facebook, Google and Microsoft, less than 5% of employees are Black, less than 7% are Hispanic/Latinx, and less than 1% are Native American, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders.” Likewise, Amazon has only 29.3% of women in senior leadership positions. 

OneAmerica is an immigrant and refugee advocacy organization founded by now-Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Marcus Courtney is one of the authors of the study. He is a long time labor rights activist and past legislative candidate. April Sims of the Washington State Labor Council sits on the board. 

In other words, the organization has some deep relationships with some heavy hitters. It’s worth watching whether they will continue to target the tech giants, and what results are likely to come from it.

5. Ballot returns are pretty abysmal

As of Monday, the day before the Primary Election, King County had received 16.69% of the total ballots in this election. In Pierce County, that number is 11.6%. Snohomish is 16.2%; Spokane is 17.73%; Clark is 15.46%.

In 2019, the statewide total for the primary was 29.56%. In 2017, it was 26.92%.

In recent years, a larger and larger portion of the total vote will wait to come in at the last minute, often getting tabulated throughout the week following the election. But, to hit the marks set in the last few off-year primary elections, about 40% of the total vote will need to come in on Election Day or after.

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