Though the session started quietly, state senators this week engaged in lengthy and often heated debates on bills brought to a vote in the full senate. Today is the last day for consideration of bills in their house of origin, except for budget and transportation matters.
As the implementation date for Seattle’s strict $15 per hour minimum wage law approaches, the city is experiencing a rising trend in restaurant closures. The tough new law goes into effect April 1st.
The closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront.
Local taxpayers could face a large tax increase when the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “Cadillac Tax” on health insurance plans begins in 2018. This new tax will impose a 40 percent excise tax on health insurance plans the ACA sees as too generous, defined as $10,200 per year for an individual and $27,500 per year for a family. The cost of a health insurance plan above those amounts will be subject to the 40 percent tax.
"What does that mean for real people? For a start, it imperils the health of Washington state residents." That is the way Sen. Pramila Jayapal described clauses in the Senate transportation package requiring legislative approval for a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS).
Spokane Transit officials want voters to provide them with $300 million in new revenue via a major sales tax increase in a proposed ballot measure this April. The proposal is part of STA’s “Moving Forward” package. If passed, the sales tax would increase from 8.7% to 9% for most purchases, a rate that approaches the sales tax officials charge in Seattle.
Washington’s legislative session reached its midpoint this week on Thursday, the 53rd day of this year’s scheduled 105-day regular session. Major issues, such as education funding, a final transportation plan, and the state’s operating budget for 2015-17 still lie ahead. In the meantime lawmakers are moving legislation on other topics forward at a rapid pace.
The levy-swap concept, in which state lawmakers would take local levy funds in return for lower local property tax rates, is being debated in Olympia as one way to increase state funding for public education under the McCleary decision.
Today The Columbian published a strongly worded editorial in favor of making Washington a right-to-work state. The editorial begins by declaring that “the debate over right-to-work laws essentially comes down to a matter of individual freedom. It is a freedom that Washington state should embrace.”
Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear another case dealing with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare. This case, King versus Burwell, deals with the legality of the Internal Revenue Service giving subsidies to people who purchase health insurance in the federal health insurance exchange. Thirty six states either chose to use the federal exchange or were unsuccessful in establishing their own exchange.