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Morning Wire: Washington’s safety net, Transportation budgets, Climate legislation

A big thank you to former Sec. of State Sam Reed and former Rep. Larry Seaquist! They both became recent supporters of the Wire through a sustaining contribution. They’ve joined Colleen McAleer, Casey Brown, Christopher Robison, Richard Rupp and Kirk Williamson, all of whom have made contributions in the last few days to support our work at the Wire.

So, thanks very much for putting wind in our sails here at the Wire. Your contributions go directly into our work to tell smarter, more well informed stories about the politics, policies, and personalities of Washington State. 

With help from Michael Goldberg

1.  Am I taxed too much? It depends

On day one of our series on what the K-shaped recovery looks like in Washington State, we published a two-part look on the question: Am I taxed too much? In answering this question, part one is a review of the idea of regressivity versus progressivity in fiscal policy, and how the taxes on which we rely to fund Washington State government impact individuals based on their income. 

Part two puts this structure in context with other states with the idea that we can learn something about our burden as taxpayers by looking at how other states answer the same question. What’s clear in the final review is that no where in the US are folks at the bottom quintile of income taxed more highly than they are here, and it’s not even close. If you’re in the top 1%, you’re even better off in Washington State, with lower taxes, than even Texas.

2. How does Washington State’s safety net stack up?

During a period of major job losses, the metaphor of a “safety net” becomes more real than theoretical. So, we wanted to review whether Washington’s safety net has big holes in it, or whether it stacks up pretty well compared other states. First, we dug into a report which found that Washington State had the best safety net in the country for workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Then we took a look at the variation in state safety net programs across the country, diving into the data for Washington, Texas, California, Virginia, and Michigan. We highlighted both the strengths, and weaknesses, of their safety nets and examined how they’ve been able to respond to the pandemic. 

3. Legislative Democrats release transportation budgets

The Senate and the House Democratic Caucuses released their 2021-2023 biennium and second 2019-2021 supplemental transportation budgets on Monday. The House proposed budget for the supplemental and biennial budget provides a spending authority of about $9.5 billion and $10.9 billion, respectively. The Senate’s proposed budget includes just over $9 billion in supplemental appropriations and $11.7 billion.

House Transportation Chair, Rep. Jake Fey said things are looking up since last year when transportation was in a “terrible fiscal position” due to the pandemic pandemic, the pending I-976 case, and the need to fund fish passages. But declining gas tax revenues and higher transportation costs still challenge infrastructure funding. Fey says this budget is designed to invest in green transportation, major construction projects and policy reforms that will boost equity and opportunity.

Sen. Steve Hobbs told the Wire that the Senate budget bill is based on the recent revenue forecast, which showed that the pandemic continues to have negative impacts on nearly all transportation revenue sources. This further illustrates the need for a transportation revenue package, said Hobbs.

4.  “The most significant piece of climate legislation the state has ever considered”

Last night, the Senate Ways and Means Committee voted out SB 5162, a “cap and invest” bill aimed at pricing carbon and taking aggressive measures to have Washington State meet the Paris Climate Accords. Most of the revenue goes into transportation, specifically Sen. Hobbs’s Forward Washington program he is negotiating with Sen. Curtis and Saldaña. This sets up a “grand bargain” in the final days of session where a deal on transportation infrastructure funding could be tied to pricing carbon to generate revenue. 

spoke with Sen. Carlyle last evening, as well as some of the advocates working the bill. While Carlyle recognized there were a number of steps to go before the legislation became law, some of the advocates were more direct and concrete: “This is the most significant piece of climate legislation the state has ever considered.” 

5.  Bill seeks to stem the tide of childcare providers leaving the industry

While Washington State may have had one of the best safety nets in the country for workers during the pandemic, a recent Oxfam report found that childcare for essential workers was one area where the state fell short. In this context, a bill that aims to expand access to affordable child care is headed to executive session. In a House hearing last week, Aida Rodriguez, an owner of a childcare facility and member of SEIU 925, said that subsidies available for providers are unsustainably low.

“The biggest reason for providers to have left the industry is because the state hasn’t paid us for the true cost of providing high-quality care … This is just not sustainable, I cannot continue to accept subsidized families into my program at a loss of 50%. Childcare providers are largely women and women of color, and we’ve been declared essential workers but the state has never paid us fairly for our work.”

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