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Morning Wire: Rep. Frank Chopp, Juneteenth, Data on police militarization

I know we’re all tired of hearing about COVID. But, Washington State’s new per capita COVID infection count is now as high as it was on April 18th after a month of lock down. Put differently, the recent statewide uptick in cases has erased the efforts of our community to stay home over the last two months. 

But, our state is really an aggregation of widely disparate experiences with COVID. I discuss Yakima more below, but for perspective King County has a new infection case rate of 24.8 per 100,000 residents. Benton County is 155.6. Spokane is 47.2; Skagit is 18.6 and Clark is 16.0.

So, enjoy summer and get outside. But be sure to wash your hands, and wear a mask at the grocery store even if you don’t want to. Like wearing shoes and a shirt, it’s good manners when you’re shopping.

With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Q&A: Rep. Frank Chopp’s $2 billion revenue proposal

Rep. Frank Chopp, former Washington Speaker of the House, released a proposal last week to raise more than $2 billion in revenue to fund expanded community and health services. Titled “Public Priorities and Progressive Revenues Plan,” the proposal includes a tax on capital gains, large corporations, and a payroll-style tax similar to Washington’s existing family-and-medical-leave law.

In a call with reporter Michael Goldberg yesterday, Chopp described his proposal in detail, including how he used social security as a model for the childcare portion of the proposal. He also shared a few lessons he learned from Washington’s economic recovery following the 2008 financial crisis and discussed bringing business leaders into the fold to address homelessness.  

2. Virtual event: Racism, protests, and the policy response

This Friday, June 19th, we host a virtual conversation with three leaders at the forefront of our state’s politics and public policy about the ongoing structural racism and systemic inequities of our society. On Juneteenth – the holiday commemorating the end of slavery – our panelists will discuss racism, the recent protests, and how Washington State policymakers should think about responding.

The panel includes April Sims, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council; Lee Lambert, Executive Director, City Year Seattle/King; and Rep. Jesse Johnson, Member, Washington State of Representatives. It’s a tremendous honor that these three folks are coming together to make this conversation possible. I hope you’ll find time to listen and to be part of the conversation with us this Friday.   

3. Data set: excess DOD transfers in Washington State

Among a multitude of issues, the demonstrations in response to the murder of George Floyd has made visible the widespread use of military equipment in police forces around the country. Writer Katie Kurtzlooked at the data for excess Department of Defense property transfers for Washington state and compiled it in a spreadsheet. 

According to Kurtz, a review of the statewide data shows a disproportionate per capita allocation of military equipment. Union Gap, a small town adjacent to Yakima of 6,160 residents, has received just under $1.3 million in allocations and has among its equipment a Mine Resistant Ambush protected vehicle. Notably, for some reason that we couldn’t ascertain, the City of Seattle’s data wasn’t included in the DoD data set. 

4.  What 15% cuts at HCA, DOH, DSHS look like

Tomorrow, OFM will release an updated revenue forecast that will guide a supplemental budget to address the shortfall. In preparation, Governor Inslee directed state agencies to prepare a list of budget cuts equal to 15% of revenue. The HCA’s list of cuts to Medicaid include elimination of adult dental benefits, hospice services, OT/ST/PT services, and Medicaid covered abortion services.

At DSHS, cuts include 100% furloughs of staff two days a month, rollbacks of staff salary increases, and the closing of 6 wards at the decertified Western State Hospital. At DOH, reductions include hits to neurodevelopmental centers for kids, family planning and reproductive health, and the rural health program.   

5. Yakima County COVID update and context

Yakima County has emerged as one of the nation’s top hot spots of COVID infections. The latest data from the Yakima Health District shows an infection rate of 700 cases per 100,000 during the last two weeks, and approximately 31.4% of COVID tests in the district are positive. On June 9th, one week ago, the infection rate per 100,000 in Yakima was 537 and positive tests were 1.4% lower at 30%. Of the 328 new cases reported in Washington yesterday, 116 of the cases (35%) came from Yakima County despite the area making up just 3% of the state’s population. 

recent report from the Institute of Disease Modeling explores potential reasons for the different virus trajectories in King and Yakima Counties including demographic variations. But one things is certain: Yakima County is understaffed and under resourced when it comes to public health support. According to 2018 data, there is one public health worker for every 8,800 Yakima County residents, the poorest ratio in the state. The county also spent just $23 per resident on public health in 2018, the third lowest in the state.     

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