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Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson is urging all state legislators to balance a Unemployment Insurance tax cut for businesses with a children's benefit -- at a fraction of the cost of tax cuts -- that will provide meaningful support for families suffering from joblessness.
"In a legislative session that will be remembered for heartbreaking and gut wrenching budget decisions, you have an opportunity to do something extraordinarily positive for families, businesses, communities and our economy," Johnson wrote in a letter to every state legislator. "No other set of legislators in any state in the country has the opportunity to do what you can do by passing such a bill. Our unemployment insurance trust fund is in a position to significantly help businesses, families of the unemployed, and our communities and still remain healthy and solvent." Read more.
► In today's Yakima H-R -- Yakima County to close jail to close budget gap -- Closing the 4-year-old county jail and seeking wage concessions from corrections officers are part of a plan by Yakima County to close a $9.3 million budget gap in the Department of Corrections. Wayne Johnson, business representative for Teamsters Local 760 of Yakima, which represents corrections officers and some supervisors, said the membership will vote next week on the county's request they forego a 5% wage increase, part of its three-year contract that expires at the end of this year.
► In today's Kitsap Sun -- Carbon-composite plant could bring 200 jobs to Bremerton -- Profile Composites, a maker of lightweight composite products, is expanding to Bremerton, potentially creating 200 jobs in the next five years.
► From AP -- Wash. court: Out-of-state companies subject to tax -- The Washington Supreme Court says the state can collect business-and-occupation taxes from out-of-state companies that do business here even if they have no local sales force, offices or stores.
► In today's Ellensburg Daily Record -- Federal immigration enforcement action hits Ellensburg -- U.S. ICE and other law enforcement officers served 11 search warrants and made an undetermined number of arrests during an enforcement effort in Ellensburg early Thursday morning. The effort was part of "a targeted criminal investigation... not a raid, not a sweep," said an ICE spokeswoman.
► At Publicola -- Illegal immigration initiative filed -- A ballot initiative to empower local law enforcement to coordinate with federal immigration authorities to arrest illegal immigrants and to mandate that employers check all employees immigration status has been submitted.
► In today's Seattle Times -- Machinists sue over S.C. governor's Boeing plant remarks -- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley faces her first big lawsuit after saying the state would try to keep unions out of the Boeing plant in North Charleston. The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court by the International Association of Machinists and AFL-CIO asked for a court order telling Haley and her state labor agency director to remain neutral in matters concerning union activities.
► In today's (Everett) Herald -- Cantwell plans to probe aerial tanker bid -- With a decision in its $35 billion tanker contest expected soon, the U.S. Air Force has new tidbits to ponder: a midair mishap with EADS' tanker and a pending Senate hearing in front of a staunch Boeing supporter. Sen. Maria Cantwell plans to grill Air Force officials in a hearing next week over their mishandling of proprietary bid information in a contest that pits Boeing's 767-based tanker against EADS' A330-based tanker. EADS is the parent company of Airbus.
State Legislature news:
► From AP -- Lawmakers worry about college slots -- Washington state already is among the states with the fewest slots for undergraduate students at its public universities, as a percentage of its state population. The state Office of Financial Management reports that every year more than 1,000 students donít get accepted to any state university and decide not to go to college.
► At Publicola -- House Democrats set to raid hazardous substance cleanup fund -- The supplemental budget released Tuesday by House Democrats contains $123.8 million in fund transfers in addition to $216 million in specific cuts. One of the major fund transfers is $17 million from a hazardous waste clean-up fund created back in 1988 when voters approved the Model Toxics Control Act.
► In today's (Everett) Herald -- Can't avoid hard choices forever (editorial) -- House Democrats avoid some of the hard decisions that are reflected in Gregoire's budget plan, like eliminating the Basic Health Plan for lower-income workers and the Disability Lifeline program. Instead of dealing with the reality of significantly lower revenue and resetting priorities, theyíre trimming around the edges of everything.
► In today's Olympian -- Bill would end money shell game for campaigns (editorial) -- The Legislature must move to ensure that campaign disclosure laws are clear and end the practice of hiding the true source of donors. Pridemore's bill starts the conversation and moves us in the right direction.
► At SeattlePI.com -- King County pays for the rest of the state -- is that fair? -- Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) says that fact should be taken into consideration as the Legislature deals with a huge budget deficit.
► At The Slog -- Do rural conservatives really want to talk about "redistribution of wealth"? -- There are eight counties out of 39 in Washington whose taxpayers put more into state coffers than they collectively receive. This chart graphs the percentage of total state tax revenues collected by county, compared to the percentage of total state K-12 funding received by each county. Only six counties paid a higher percentage of total state revenues than the percentage of total state K-12 funding they received, but no county's disparity came close to that of King's, which in 2008 generated a whopping 42% of state revenues, while benefiting from only 24% of state K-12 spending.
► In today's NY Times -- Poll finds wariness about cutting Social Security, Medicare -- Voters' preference for spending cuts instead of tax increases, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch the most people and also are the biggest drivers of the government's projected long-term debt. Nearly two-thirds of Americans choose higher payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security over reduced benefits in either program. And asked to choose among cuts to Medicare, Social Security or the nationís third-largest spending program -- the military -- a majority by a large margin said cut the Pentagon.
► At Huffington Post -- Cash-strapped states seeking a way to declare bankruptcy -- As they confront massive debts and diminished revenue, some states are trying to determine whether they could take a drastic and illegal step: declaring bankruptcy. Such a move, though currently out of the question, might free states from some of their most burdensome debt and allow them to rebuild their finances.
► At TPM -- Senate Dems plot aggressive strategy to fight health care repeal -- A top Democratic aide says that leadership staffers are considering ways to make Republicans take tough votes on popular elements of the bill, as Republicans figure out if and how they'll force a vote on full repeal.
► In today's Washington Post -- House GOP group proposes deep spending cuts over next decade -- Conservatives demand far more dramatic cuts in government spending than House GOP leaders have proposed, in the first sign of a fissure between old-guard Republicans and tea-party-backed newbies.
► In today's NY Times -- Obama is latest to hunt for elusive "dumb" rules -- It has become an article of faith that the government's extensive rulebook is riddled with burdensome requirements that are unnecessary, contradictory or, to borrow a phrase from the president, "just plain dumb." His administration, like its predecessors, has now promised a thorough weeding. But specialists on both sides of the political aisle say that the president is wasting the governmentís time.
Is what's good for G.E., good for America?
► One one hand, at AFL-CIO Now -- $93 million upgrade will save GE plant, 700 jobs -- Two years after GE said it was going to shutter its refrigerator plant in Bloomington, Ind., workers are celebrating a new day. Instead of closing it, GE says it will invest $93 million in upgrades. Not only will that save 700 jobs there, it will create 200 new ones, which GE will move back from Mexico.
► But then again, in the NY Times -- GE to share jet technology with China in new joint venture -- As China strives for leadership in the world's most advanced industries, it sees commercial jetliners -- planes that may someday challenge the best from Boeing and Airbus -- as a top prize. And no Western company has been more aggressive in helping China pursue that dream than one of the aviation industry's biggest suppliers of jet engines and airplane technology, General Electric.
► We'll soon find out, in today's NY Times -- Obama picks GE chief for board as focus to turns to jobs -- Obama is naming Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive of GE, to run his outside panel of economic advisers, succeeding Paul A. Volcker, the former Fed chairman, who is stepping down.
► Here's a clue, in today's Washington Post -- How to keep America competitive (by Jeffrey R. Immelt) -- My hope is that the council will be a sounding board for ideas and a catalyst for action on jobs and competitiveness. It will include small and large businesses, labor, economists and government. Areas of focus will include manufacturing and exports, free trade, and innovation.
Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson is urging all state legislators to balance a Unemployment Insurance tax cut for businesses with a children's benefit -- at a fraction of the cost of tax cuts -- that will provide meaningful support for families suffering from joblessness. (Read more here and here about the WSLC-backed U.I. proposal that is being supported by a broad coalition of community and labor groups.)
"In a legislative session that will be remembered for heartbreaking and gut wrenching budget decisions, you have an opportunity to do something extraordinarily positive for families, businesses, communities and our economy," Johnson wrote in a letter to every state legislator. "No other set of legislators in any state in the country has the opportunity to do what you can do by passing such a bill. Our unemployment insurance trust fund is in a position to significantly help businesses, families of the unemployed, and our communities and still remain healthy and solvent."
The U.I. legislation is fast-tracked for quick action. Passage of the business tax cut is needed by Feb. 8 to stave off an average 36% increase in U.I. premiums this year. Under the balanced children's benefit proposal, businesses would get an even larger tax cut in the first three years than they would under the Governor's initial proposal, which helps 90% of employers avoid a tax increase in 2011 and more than half would actually pay less in U.I. taxes. This would be an extraordinary benefit for Washington businesses, as employers in most other states face a significant tax increase because unemployment remains high and their U.I. Trust Funds are in poor shape -- and in several cases, insolvent.
HB 1090 and 1091 are scheduled for executive session today in the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee. The WSLC will report its status in our next Legislative Update, to be posted on Monday.
Here's Johnson's entire letter:
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO