How to pay for education? What your legislators said tonight @ 34th District Democrats

November 12, 2014 9:05 pm
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From tonight’s meeting of the 34th District Democrats, a look back at the November election, a look ahead to the Legislature in January, and more, ahead:

ELECTION POSTMORTEM: Chair Marcee Stone-Vekich lamented the “slightly depressing” election results and especially the fact that our state had its lowest voter turnout since 1978. She said the 34th Dems had done their part with get-out-the-vote, but while it didn’t pay off this time around, she expressed optimism for 2016. In the 34th, though, she said almost everything and everyone the group endorsed had won election/passed, except for the Highline Public Schools bond measure, which needed 60 percent approval to pass, and is falling short at 59.1%. (Speaking about that later, a supporter said that it’s not expected to gain much more ground, and that next spring, Highline has to take a maintenance/operations levy to the ballot, but a bond measure “will be back.”

LEGISLATORS’ UPDATE: Sen. Sharon Nelson said she doesn’t think the education goals can be done “without new revenue … so it’s a question of, what revenue. I’m asking my caucus not to take any option off the table. … We have a Republican majority again in the Senate. They need to govern.” Their “no new taxes” mantra, she said, “is something they’re going to have to face. … We won’t go to cutting the social safety net.” The educational needs are going to have to be met: “We’re not getting out of town without taking care of our kids.” She spoke personally of a grandchild, now 18 months, leading to “a whole new look that I’ve been giving education these past 18 months … and it’s refreshing.”

Speaking next, longtime Rep. Eileen Cody, first calling for applause for Sen. Nelson, saying the Senate Democrats did better in the election than the House Democrats, who “had a few losses we didn’t expect.” In particular, she says, her Health Care Committee “has been decimated” by losses among fellow health-care professionals who had been House members. She says they’ll get through it, but it means mutual support – “that’s the message we’re giving each other, we all have to stick together … you may have to vote for some things you don’t like” if any of their initiatives are to succeed.

And then Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, just re-elected, called it “a terrible year for Democrats,” who he said “just stayed home” rather than “suddenly changing their mind and voting for Republicans.” The districts that saw Democratic losses tended to have a “terrible turnout,” he said. Switching gears, he said, “We’re all tired of coming up here and telling you how bad the budget is, but this year it’s really bad, worse than before.” He also expressed optimism for 2016, saying the Democrats don’t want to stay in the Senate minority, at a 51-vote bare House majority, etc.

Asked how the funding for McCleary (the mandated education spending) might look, Nelson said more than $3 billion would be needed, and that again is why she wants everything on the table – “until we know how we’re going to fund this.” Property tax? Sales tax? Closing loopholes? Lists are being made she said, and “there are options out there … we’re going to have to look at every possible revenue source.”

“Is there any chance we’re going to pass a transportation package?” is the next question.

Fitzgibbon said flatly, “No.”

Cody then said, “It’s not totally off the table.”

“I agree, I was being a little flip,” Fitzgibbon then said.

Nelson pointed out that there’s water trouble in Eastern Washington – possibly a $4 billion bond issue needed – and that might be leverage for getting Republicans to agree on education funding, maybe even transportation.

Reacting to a suggestion of sin/sugar taxes, Cody said that’s not so easy, recalling the passed-then-repealed pop tax, and also pointing out that tobacco use is migrating to “vaping,” which has many ramifications.

Next question: Dollar value for I-1351, the class-size-reduction measure now passing? “It adds potentially another $3 to $4 billion dollars,” Sen. Nelson replied, adding that part of it is covered in McCleary. “I’m expecting that the Republicans will ask us to suspend it.” (That could be done with a two-thirds majority immediately, it was clarified shortly thereafter.) It’s “going to be a heavy lift,” Nelson says. “I want to see (the Republicans’) answer to 1351, I really do.”

What about marijuana tax revenue? Fitzgibbon says, “We’re kind of hesitant to book a bunch of revenue when we’re not sure how much … we know it’s not going to be enough for McCleary.” As for 1351, he mentioned an initiative that was funded for a few years – I-728 – which was suspended after two years, when that could be done with a simple majority, and then was eventually repealed.

Discussion about loopholes ensued. Addressing the Boeing loophole, for example, Nelson said they have a “sledgehammer” because of the jobs they could pull, although she then said she is “tired of being held hostage.”

Bill Schrier brings up the issue of body-worn video for law enforcement now facing “massive requests” (public disclosure) that could render it a burden on some local governments, and might they consider an exception.

“Public disclosure, whenever it comes up on refining that law and scaling it back, becomes incredibly difficult,” responds Nelson.

TRANSIT-FUNDING PROP 1: City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen spoke for a few minutes about its passage, calling the 62 percent approval “powerful.” He also reminded, “Keep in mind, this is only a temporary tax … that’s why it’s important we elect Democrats to the Senate and House because we need a transportation package (with) a more equitable way of (funding) transit.” He mentioned the citizens’ oversight committee that will be created, and promised to let the group what the process to get onto that committee will be. He said an oversight committee will “make sure promises are kept.” Once the money flows into the bus service, “you’ll see the best bus service Seattle has ever had.”

COUNTY COUNCILMEMBER JOE McDERMOTT: Speaking next, Councilmember McDermott sounded an optimistic note post-election, regarding local successes such as Prop 1 and preschool passage, and declared, “Our district is strong – we have a fantastic legislative delegation … we want to support them by assisting districts around us.” He also mentioned that he’s been focused on the County Council’s budget work over the past two months or so, with a final vote due next Monday, and highlights including a plan to keep all 10 county health clinics open – for now – and “re-funding the Sheriff’s unit for domestic violence.”

OPEN MICROPHONE: Topics brought up included Ivan Weiss mentioning a report that that city Families and Education Levy money has been found to be usable for charter schools, and urged everyone to keep watch for that happening, and “raise a stink” if it does. … Max Vekich spoke about longshore workers working without a contract for more than four months, and decried the terminal operators’ claim of a work slowdown, ignoring factors such as reduced terminal space (he mentioned the T-5 closure) and larger ships. What about the higher number than usual of anchored freighters in the area? For one, he mentioned grain ships that are still catching up from a lockout; and he added that a lot of current challenges that are leading to less productivity than usual. The presidential election also came up, with one member declaring she’s hoping for more options than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

PARK DISTRICT BOARD: Ted Barker pointed out that the City Council will meet as the Park District Board on November 24th, so anyone interested in how that’s going to work should be there.

VETERANS’ DAY REMEMBRANCE .. was offered by former State Rep. Max Vekich, looking back to its origins, followed by a moment of silence.

The 34th District Democrats usually meet on second Wednesdays, 7 pm, The Hall at Fauntleroy, and are online at

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