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“Project Alamo,” budget pushback, rural Democrats

Here’s to hoping your property didn’t catch fire yesterday!  We’re now about halfway through the third special legislative session, one that won’t seem to quit.

We’ve got a few things we think merit some attention for your short week.  As always, thanks for reading our stuff.

1. “Not been given serious consideration”

The rush to finalize the operating budget before a July 1 government shut down meant many legislators didn’t know what they were voting for.  The 617 page document isn’t a light read. Sen. Carlyle said the process and its lack of transparency was “outside the bounds of acceptability.”

Buried in the fine print was a 40% B&O tax break for non-aerospace manufacturers, matching Boeing’s deal from 2013. Sen. Rossi claimed credit:  “By leveling the playing field for all manufacturers, we are offering employers in other parts of the state the same opportunity as Boeing to invest, be profitable and create new jobs.”

Many House Democrats were not as excited. Twenty-five joined a letter to Gov. Inslee asking for a veto of the language, saying that the idea had not been fully vetted. Others have noted this is one of thirteen new or extended tax cuts in a year of significant property tax increases for many in Washington State.

2.  Death of the “rural Democrat?”

We’ve covered the Hirst decision throughout this session. Addressing it was one of rural legislators’ highest priorities, and was directly tied to final passage of the capital budget. Negotiations broke down in the final days before the budget was finalized, but it’s still possible it will get addressed during the final days of this third special session.

Sen. Tim Sheldon argues that the breakdown was a result of Democrats simply not understanding what rural Washington is like. His recent post at the Wire became our most widely read story so far this year, so apparently it has some resonance. You should read his take.

“Today, not a single Democratic legislator is elected from Eastern Washington, outside of central Spokane. The Democratic Party has increasingly been concentrated in the urban districts of the Seattle-Tacoma area, where it is free to ignore the needs of those who live anywhere else.”

3. Kim Wyman, your voting info and Donald Trump

A federal commission set up to investigate voter fraud has requested voter information from all 50 states. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, after considering the request, told the media that the idea of voter fraud was “ludicrous.”  That makes Washington State now the 44th state in the country to tell the commission to “go jump in the Gulf,” as Mississippi’s Secretary of State stated.

But, let’s be honest: this data is already available. The 2016 Trump campaign team reportedly had 4,000 – 5,000 data points on 220 million voters. This was called “Project Alamo,” was led by Jared Kushner, and is probably one of the most important innovations in campaigning that happened in 2016 – and one hardly anyone is talking about.

4. Impacts of pending Senate health care vote

The Congressional recess this week gives members an opportunity to hear from constituents on health care.  Sen. Cantwell is holding a town hall tonight at UW’s Kane Hall.  Expect a standing-room only gathering in the large hall.

Also expect a very liberal crowd to bring up a single payer model. And, interestingly, some health policy observers are starting to see that policy issue get legs politically. I think it’s becoming one of the most important macro-policy trends in health care today, building on the rhetoric from 2016 and the legislative action in states like California.

That may be the most lasting outcome of the Republicans federal health reform efforts:  galvanizing support for a policy that Congressional Democrats wouldn’t touch in 2010.

5. Study for a state bank funded in budget

Sen. Bob Hasegawa has long advocated for a publicly-funded bank to support local infrastructure projects. His legislation promoting the idea hasn’t really taken off, neither when it was promoted in the House nor now in the Senate.

However, Hasegawa was successful in putting $75,000 in the budget placed quietly (where few look) in the section on the State Treasurer’s budget.  Those dollars would go towards funding a task force that would explore the “feasibility of creating a publicly-owned depository to facilitate investment in, and financing of, public infrastructure systems.”

From a Hasegawa statement:  “No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, a state bank would be a win for Washingtonians. It allows us to invest our tax revenues in Washington state, not Wall Street.”