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Morning Wire: K-shaped recovery, Budget proposals, Equity bills

This is an increasingly tense time of the session. Folks are tired from long hours of advocacy and policy making. We are close to the end game on big ticket items like the capital gains tax. And, the work of months or years of effort is on the cusp of affirmation or rejection for hundreds of folks. 

So, as tensions rise and tempers flare, remember that we’ll all need to work together again tomorrow. Watch the old hands in both chambers and the Third House. The voices of experience usually remain calm throughout a session, including the end. The voices of those more exercised and emotional are those either newer to the work or at the end of their rope. Remember, everyone will still need to work together tomorrow and after the session.

With help from Michael Goldberg

1.  K-shaped recovery: Challenges of a small business

You’ve got to watch this video. This is exactly what the K-shaped recovery looks like in the real world with three brave stories of small businesses navigating through the COVID economy. You hear first hand the stories of dreamers: people trying to build small businesses in the midst of this pandemic. It was produced by Chan Pedersen, Michael Goldberg and Ian Portman on our team. 

Can you imagine opening a restaurant right now? Nick Pitsilionis is doing it. We join him at his soft open in Pullman. How about the herculean challenge of taking over a small, historic hotel on March 16, 2020, just as tourism collapsed. We’ve got that story from Christina Dingman in Dayton. We also hear about a Walla Walla winemaker who shifted his business model a few years ago away from restaurants and to a direct-to-consumer model. With some innovation and ingenuity, 2020 was Justin Wylie’s best year ever

2. Operating budgets out later today

The legislative end game begins today as Senate Democrats release their two-year operating budgets. Sen. Rolfes chairs Senate Ways and Means. She is practical and careful to build a budget that reflects the majority of her fellow Senate Dems while giving Republicans a number of wins, too. The budget released today from Rolfes will serve as the starting point for negotiations, with the House, with Republicans, and within her caucus.

Here are a few things I’ll be curious about. First, we’ll see whether she includes revenue from a capital gains tax (I expect yes), which is not yet a foregone conclusion. We’ll look to see how big COVID relief will be, and to whom it will be targeted. As a bit of a wild card, I’m curious to see what investments in child welfare we’ll see with strong budget reserves after decades of systemic underfunding.

3. K-shaped recovery: Working in a pandemic  

I think this is another must-watch video. In the second video from our series on “What the K-Shaped Recovery Looks Like,” we feature five voices from across our COVID economy: an electrician, an administrative assistant, a physician, a plumber/pipefitter, and a restaurant worker. What you hear in their voices is fear, frustration and anxiety, the accumulation of 12 months of worry.

This morning, the US Labor Dept. announced that 684,000 Americans filed new jobless claims. This is the first time in 53 weeks that new jobless claims were below the worst week ever in US history of new claims (695,000, 10/1982). That is a full year of what otherwise would have been all-time records for weekly jobless claims prior to COVID. This week’s announcement, and every week for the last 53 weeks, has been worse than the worst week of new claims during the Great Recession.

Sponsored post by the
Washington Housing Alliance

The Washington State Legislature is considering legislation that would protect tenants across the state from unfair evictions. House Bill 1236 would require landlords to have a legitimate reason for evicting a tenant — currently, landlords can evict a tenant with just 20 days’ notice without cause, even if the tenant has never paid late rent or violated a lease.

The Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund is fighting to make sure this bill passes before the end of the legislative session next month. HB 1236 would help stop thousands of people from entering homelessness. It is supported by organizations across Washington, including the Tenants Union, Association of Washington Housing Authorities, Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance, Washington Build Back Black Alliance, the League of Women Voters of Washington, and many more. To contact your legislators and urge them to pass HB 1236 and other bills that prevent evictions and homelessness, fill out this quick form.

4.  Equity bills on the move

Two pieces of equity legislation are headed to executive session in the House this week, one on environmental justice and the other on medical training. Perhaps the central environmental justice bill this session, The HEAL Act, SB 5141, would require agencies to complete environmental justice assessments and incorporate environmental justice principles into budget processes. Republican Sen. Mark Schoesler said bills like this result in a “stifling of job development in all four corners of the state.”

SB 5228 would require public medical schools to develop a health equity curriculum for medical students. While sponsor Sen. Emily Randall says she’s been thinking about this policy since her first session, she said health disparities exacerbated by COVID-19 made this a more prominent need for the state. The deadline for bills to pass out of committee in the opposite chamber is Friday. 

5.  What’s in the proposed Capital Budget

The House’s proposed 2021-23 Capital Budget authorizes new appropriations totaling $6.5 billion. House Capital Budget Chair Steve Tharinger says it would fund $5.7 billion in construction projects throughout the state, including $400 million in federal funding for investments in water, sewer, and broadband service. For broadband alone, the proposal sets aside $155 million to expand access. 

Public schools, colleges, and universities would receive almost $2 billion in construction funding. Other big line items include $249.5 million for toxic cleanup, $175 million for the Housing Trust Fund, and $120.9 million for affordable housing and emergency homeless shelter. 

“After the pandemic, it will take this level of funding to put men and women in hard hats to work rebuilding our economy,” Tharinger said. “We listened to each other and worked as a team to write this budget, and I believe that teamwork is reflected in how the House budget puts serious funding toward solving so many of our common challenges throughout the state.” 

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