Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Waiting For the Storm To Hit

Tomorrow morning the Governor will reveal her budget proposal. The Governor is constitutionally obligated to submit a balanced budget -- based on existing revenues -- prior to the Legislative Session. With revenues plunging, we are all going to see what almost $3 billion in cuts looks like -- and it's going to be bad.

The problem is exacerbated because most of the state budget is "off limits." That means certain unprotected areas of the budget are going to have to bear the cuts. Fortunately, our friends at the WA St Budget & Policy Center are here to give us an idea of what this really means:

"Primarily as a result of the recession, Washington State, like most states, is now facing a large deficit ($2.6 billion). As we pointed out in our recent slideshow on the state economic and fiscal outlook, most of the budget is off-limits to cuts. This means that an all-cuts budget would require elimination of entire programs and services.

A new presentation by the Senate Ways and Means Committee staff provides more detail on this issue. They estimate that only $7.7 billion of the state budget is vulnerable to cuts in the coming session, with programs that provide economic security for lower income Washingtonians being especially exposed.

They break down the $7.7 billion into three categories: 1) timing (nearly $10 billion will already be spent by the time the new budget is signed), 2) legal restrictions such as state constitutional requirements, federal law, and debt and pension obligations, and 3) strings attached to the federal recovery funds."

"The graph below breaks down the vulnerable part of the budget into program areas:"

"They also provide a possible scenario (see table below) to illustrate what $2.6 billion in cuts could mean. It includes elimination of financial aid, the Basic Health Plan, in-home services for clients with long-term care needs or developmental disabilities, and money that is used to equalize school funding between rich and poor districts."

We will all see first-hand tomorrow morning why an all-cuts approach is both unrealistic and irresponsible. After that it will be up to us to fight for what is right.

-- Dennis

Monday, November 23, 2009

Understanding the State's Fiscal Crisis

Last week's announcement that the state budget deficit facing lawmakers in January had grown to $2.6 billion is staggering. It's hard to even comprehend the magnitude of the deficit, let along how and why we got here.

Fortunately, the good folks at the WA St Budget & Policy Center have put together a 12-minute slide show, complete with audio, to explain it all for us.

[Note: Click on the green “play” button on the bottom to begin the narrated slide show. The large black arrow on the right-hand side just skips forward to the second slide.]

-- Dennis

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Labor vs. the Democrats?!?!?

A recent article in the Seattle Times raised, once again, the issue of the labor movement's unhappiness with the Democrats in Olympia. The Times then followed up with an editorial criticizing labor's "kamikaze effort."

As you might imagine, I have a number of strong opinions about this topic. Yet there is nothing I could compose that would be as articulate or effective as what our old friend David Groves at the WA St Labor Council had to say. Here is what Dave wrote:

"...[A Seattle Times] editorial was written regarding last week's Times story reporting that unions are not contributing to Democratic campaign funds because of unhappiness over the party leaders' agenda and performance in Olympia. The editorial suggests this 'is a kamikaze effort that works against the interests of the Democratic Party and the workers of Washington.' It goes on to point out that labor's legislative agenda -- from restoring unemployment benefits cut in 2003 to the passage of the Worker Privacy Act -- are misguided. That the conservative Seattle Times editorial board opposes labor's legislative agenda is nothing new. What is new here is the Times' concern about the Democrats' re-election prospects. As blogger David Goldstein points out, 'nobody is a bigger supporter of the Democratic Party than the Bush/Rossi/McGavick/ Reichert/Hutchison endorsing Times.'

Feel free to disagree with the WSLC's new political strategy -- which, as outlined here, is essentially to support legislators who support labor, as opposed to party organizations. Feel free to disagree with delegates representing WSLC's affiliated unions, who unanimously approved a convention resolution for the WSLC to make no campaign contributions in 2009 to anyone. Feel free to disagree that labor has a right to be upset after what happened in the last legislative session. But ask yourself this: to what extent is the Democratic Party entitled to labor contributions? We're talking about the withholding of contributions -- not a political attack or the funding of opponents -- the withholding of money. And it is being described as a 'kamikaze effort' that one former party chairman calls a 'strategy of self-destruction.' Who is threatening who here?

Meanwhile, we can't wait to read The Seattle Times exposés on the Sierra Club only contributing to pro-environment candidates or NARAL only supporting pro-choice candidates."

The Seattle Times' patronizing editorial aside, this isn't exactly a new story. The Puget Sound Buiness Journal reported back in May that labor was outraged with actions taken by the Legislature during the 2009 session. "Labor and other groups knew this session would be rough," wrote Deirdre Gregg, "given the scale of the budget shortfall. One thing that particularly frustrated labor was that bills with no price tag to the state — such as labor-friendly changes to unemployment insurance — also stumbled."

State workers, in particular, took a pounding this past session -- both in the budget as well as on policy issues. On one hand we understand elected officials have a right -- even a responsibility -- to do what they think is best regardless of whether or not WFSE members agree with their decision. On the other hand, we look pretty foolish if we continue to support elected officials that clearly have a different set of values than we do. [Note: Seven months later, as state revenues fall further into the red, some powerful voices in the Democratic caucuses are content to continue an all-cuts budget approach into the future.]

Naturaly, the rift between labor and legislative Democrats has incited some debate out in the blogosphere. The Northwest Progressive Institute argued "this change in support is a good object lesson for Washington's elected officials: If you take your supporters for granted, you may pay the price come election time." Meanwhile, the Washington Technology Industry Association thinks "the unions are the biggest bullies around" and "it is well known that you have to suck up to labor to get their endorsements and money and they will lord it over you if you are not with them 100% of the time."

Of course, the most provacative response is from Piper Scott at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation: "Well, all I can say to this effort by WSLC is PA-LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE do it! And the sooner the better...Pa-leeeezzze, pa-leeeeeze, pa-leeeeze, pa-leeeze, pa-leeze! What a great way for them to marginalize their influence and free many in the Legislature from being under labor's domineering thumb!"

For the record, WFSE supports what the WA St Labor Council is doing. We have contributed to DIME PAC. And the WFSE Executive Board also adopted a resolution withholding support and contributions from any candidates or candidate committees for the time being.

The Seattle Times, the high tech industry, the EFF, and the other anti-union voices out there are all missing the real point. Labor is adapting and modernizing its political program: We are refocusing to ensure our endorsement and support is based on issues, not parties -- and that our support is more meaningful than ever. Certainly no strategy is flawless. But I think the labor movement is headed in the right direction.

-- Dennis

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Get Your Ballots In Today!

It's election day. Whether you vote by mail or vote at a poll site, today is the day to get 'er done. Remember: Only you can stop Tim Eyman.

-- Dennis

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stephen Colbert Tackles the Tough Issues Raised By R71

I get all my news from the Comedy Channel. It's more accurate and more balanced than the garbage the networks churn out.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Don't Ask Don't Tell
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-- Dennis

Monday, October 26, 2009

Approve R71 -- It's the Patriotic Thing To Do

America is built on the idea that "all men are created equal" yet some still want to draw lines between us. The good news is we all have an opportunity to strike a blow against hate and division. We can vote to approve R71. It's the patriotic thing to do. -- Dennis

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Attention King County Voters!

There is a lot of confusion over the unfortunate placement of I-1033 on King County vote by mail ballots. It would be a shame if folks didn't get a chance to vote "No" on the latest knuckle-headed tomfoolery from professional demagogue Tim Eyman just because they didn't notice the appropriate box in the lower left-hand corner.

Tell your ma. Tell your pa. Vote No on I-1033!

Trick Or Vote 2009

From our friends at the Washington Bus:

"The Last Halloween, 300 of our closest friends knocked on over 6,500 doors to get out the vote and we're doing it big again this Halloween.

The Bus is looking for organizations to sign on as co-sponsors and for individuals to sign up as captains. All you need is a costume and a love for democracy. Sign up here and get all you need to know to be in the know for the hottest GOTV party...EVER.

WHO: You and 300 of your closest friends. ALL AGES!

WHERE: Super secret location in Georgetown

WHEN: Saturday, October 31st, 1pm – 9pm (canvassing from 2-7)

WHY: GOTV and YES on R-71 and NO on 1033.

You may be too old to trick or treat, but you’re never too old to Trick or Vote!"

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mainstream Republicans oppose I 1033

No matter how you look at it, 1033 is a bad idea with bad timing and a insidious agenda. Here is a story that tells us that the word is finally getting out about this wrecking ball of an initiative.


This is what they had to say directly from the MSR blog page:

Mainstream Republicans urges voters to vote “No” on I-1033. Although Mainstream acknowledges that legislatures have failed to control the growth in spending, we believe that I-1033’s meat axe approach to revenue/appropriations reform is irresponsible. The remedy proposed by I-1033 is worse than the problem it purports to fix.

Vote no on 1033 and drag your neighbors along with you.


Why We Need a Public Option -- In 30 Seconds!

The latest TV commercial from Health Care For America Now! explains, in simple terms, why a public option is a critical component to any health care reform legislation.

-- Dennis

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I-1033: The Colorado Experience

Tim Eyman's I-1033 is actually an old idea -- known as TABOR -- that has been on the ballot in numerous other states over the years. I-1033 would put a restrictive and arbitrary cap on all state, county and city government spending -- with the current recessionary budget levels as the baseline. In 2009, TABOR is on the ballot in two states: Washington and Maine. [Note: I'm not sure if Maine also has an unemployed watch salesman who makes a living by qualifying crazy ballot measures. If not, we'll be glad to send Eyman there.]

Only once has TABOR actually been implemented: in Colorado. And the results there were horrific. At last week's WFSE convention, we were treated to an extremely compelling video on the harm TABOR caused in Colorado. Since not everyone was able to attend, I thought it would be helpful to post that video here. Feel free to pass it along!

Of course, just because we know Eyman is a demagogue peddling yet another destructive scheme from the lunatic fringe doesn't mean we can take the outcome of this election for granted. The No on I-1033 campaign is running phone banks in Federal Way, Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Spokane, Tacoma, Olympia, Vancouver, and Bellingham -- and they need volunteers. Unless we want Washington state to be the Alabama of the West, we need to step up to the plate and lend a hand.

To get plugged in, send an e-mail to April or give her a call at 1-800-562-6002, or visit the No on I-1033 website. Thanks in advance for your support. -- Dennis

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yours truly visits Eastern Washington

I just got back from a 4-day tour of Eastern Washington last week. While there I had the pleasure of visiting some of our folks at Pine Lodge, Lakeland Village and Ahtanum View Correctional Center. All three of these facilities are being considered for closure or vast down sizing in this year’s legislative session.

The “meat saw”, designed by last years legislature to tear apart institutional care within our state, came to us in the form of a budget proviso. Not only did that proviso not provide public hearing regarding the expenditure of $500,000.00 to fund a study, the proviso language was also crafted in such a way as to limited the full range of options that the consultants could consider. Top that with the fact the both the consultants hired are former executives at DOC and DDD. It could leave one believing the outcomes were set before the study was conducted. The proviso also attempts to limit the choices of the legislature once it receives the consultant’s recommendations. The proviso mandates cutting 1500+ beds from DOC, 250 beds from RHCs and 235 beds from The Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration. Telling the legislature what they can and can't do should fly like a lead balloon with them. As always, they do have the choice of not choosing any of the consultants recommendations and proceeding as they see fit. They have done that before, I am told.

The folks I talked to at the three facilities were worried. Of course they were worried about the impact this consultants report could have on their jobs and their families. But not surprisingly, they were just as worried about the impact such closures could have on their neighbors and community. The issue of diminished public safety and protection of our most vulnerable came up time and time again. Who better to know how dangerous or fragile the folks these state employees work with are than them? Who better to forecast the gaps in service and security if their job or facility went away than them?

The message was clear in each place I visited. “We are ready to educate anyone who will listen about the importance of the service we provide. We are ready to fight for safety and a responsible level of service to our communities, the clients we serve and our families.”

I was very clear in describing the up hill battle we faced with the budget and the seeming agendas of some of our legislators. For the folks I talked to at Pine Lodge Correctional Facility, Lakeland Village and Ahtanum View Correctional Center, their response was clear, their tone was strong and their stare unblinking.

“Bring it”, they said.

This will be an interesting session.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Adrienne For Edmonds: Hop On the Band Wagon

Our friend Adrienne Fraley-Monillas is in the stretch run of her campaign for Edmonds City Council. Adrienne is an adult training supervisor at Fircrest School and a member of the WFSE Executive Board from Local 341.

The exciting news is Adrienne finished first among three candidates in the August 18th primary -- and the incumbent council member was eliminated. The task now is for Adrienne to carry that momentum on to victory in November. And we can help.

Adrienne has scheduled doorbell events in bucolic Edmonds on Oct. 17th and Oct. 24th, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A lunch will be provided. So please check your calendar, sign up for one of those dates, and bring a friend or two with you.

I hear Edmonds is quite nice in October.

-- Dennis

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Have Insurance? You Need Health Care Reform

Opponents of health care reform have certainly had their voices heard over the past few weeks. It appears the main arguments against reform are “socialism is bad” and “Obama is Hitler.” My proposed response is to engage in a rational discussion about public policy.

Much of the debate so far has been focused on the uninsured, the public plan, and death panels. What we really need to be talking about is how people who already have insurance are being taken to the cleaners by our dysfunctional health care system.

Just this month, the Commonwealth Fund released a study documenting what most of us already know to be true: “Middle-income individuals and families have been losing ground as the cost of health insurance continues to rise at a faster rate than incomes.” Among the Commonwealth Fund’s findings:

- “Between 1999 and 2008, employer-sponsored family health insurance premiums rose by 119 percent nationally, while median family income rose by 29 percent.”

- “Studies indicate that slower growth in wages and lower savings for retirement (worker and employer contributions) have been part of the trade-off to preserve health benefits.”

- “Despite such trade-offs, the monthly cost of premiums paid by workers and their families is up—consuming an ever-greater share of any wage increases they might receive.”

- “Absent significant reforms, current projections estimate that national per-person spending on health insurance premiums will increase by 94 percent from 2009 to 2020, increasing an average of 5.7 percent annually.”

The trends are true for Washington State as well. A series of reports released by Health Care For America Now demonstrate in each state how health care costs are growing much faster than wages. Among the findings:

- “Health insurance premiums for Washington working families have skyrocketed, increasing 87 percent from 2000 to 2007.”

- “For family health coverage in Washington during that time, the average annual combined premium for employers and employees rose from $6,496 to $12,120.”

- “The combined cost to employers and workers of health insurance for a Washington family of four is equal to 21 percent of the state’s median family income. Given current trends, that share will grow to 42 percent in 2016.”

- “The cost of employer-sponsored health insurance in Washington is growing at an annual rate of 8.6 percent, compared to a 1 percent growth rate for income.”

In fact, people who receive health insurance through their employer have a greater stake in reform than just about anyone else. As columnist Froma Harrop wrote, “Your company health plan does not come free… Employer-provided health coverage cut cash wages by nearly 8 percent last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

The 2009 Milliman Medical Index, an annual industry survey, had similar findings. According to reporter R.H. Sheldon, the latest MMI study found that “A family of four covered by employer-sponsored health insurance now incurs $16,771 per year in medical expenses, which represents a 7.4% increase over 2008 costs… Add to this the trend toward greater cost sharing on the part of the employee, and families are paying more out-of-pocket medical expenses than ever... [2009] is the third consecutive year in which there has been a double-digit percentage increase in the amount that employees and their families are spending for health care services.”

Researcher David Grande wrote, “Most working Americans underestimate how much they are already paying for health insurance, since most get it through their employers… Their employers' share is really paid through lower wages… Health-care costs are rising at more than three times the rate that middle-class wages are. Any pay increase workers might receive is chewed up by rising health care costs, and many workers have less money available for things other than health care with each passing year.”

The bottom line is the standard of living for every state worker, as well as everyone else, will continue to erode until Congress finds the courage to enact meaningful reform. Boy, I sure hope Congress comes through. I'm tired of getting ripped off. -- Dennis

Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care Terrorists Are a Riot (Get It?)

I've already written at length about the shameful tactics some conservatives are waging in their campaign to oppose health care reform. Rather than debate the issue on its merits, well-heeled interest groups have engaged in a program of deception and intimidation in a partisan effort to derail the Obama Presidency.

The chanting, bullying health care terrorists, -- who shout out their opposition to "government-run health care" while they cash their Medicare checks -- have (unintentionally) become a great source of comedy.

In a very funny column appearing in Salon.com, satirist Anne Lamott writes a letter to President Obama volunteering to serve on his death panel. "I do not know when you first began to insist that Sarah Palin's baby boy would need to appear before one of your (death) panels," Lamott scolds, "but I can tell you this, Mr. President, it is not going to fly with the American people."

Of course, Jon Stewart and the crew at the Daily Show are always quick to spot the comedy in our nation's political discourse, and the health care terrorists have been a great source of material.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Healther Skelter
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

And, finally, I'll give the last word to the razor-sharp wit of the Seattle P-I's David Horsey:

-- Dennis

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care Terroists In the News

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a report on how “health care terrorists” were engaged in an organized campaign to disrupt Congressional town hall meetings using tactics that bring shame on every responsible conservative. Since then, the news has been filled with stories focused on health care opponents behaving badly.

The “death panels” are a big lie

The Associated Press published an independent Fact Check about the “death panel” claims of health care reform opponents. The conclusion? It’s a lie. “Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a ‘death panel.’ Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong. Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision.”

The Seattle Times editorial board, normally a mouthpiece for the corporate elite, criticized the misinformation campaign of health care reform opponents: “One example is the bogus charge by opponents – backed by less-than-informed comments from former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin – that Obama’s health care reform would include a ‘death panel’ that would make life-or-death decisions about which patients get care and which would not… This is a gross distortion…”

In perhaps on of the most ironic twists of the whole debate, it’s now being reported that one of the loudest propagandists, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), actually voted in favor of an identical "death panel" provision in 2003. Oh, and Sarah Palin supported “death panels” too, as recently as 2008.

Health care reform opponents are lying about other things, too

Speaking of ironic twists, Paul Krugman of the New York Times reports “There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they ‘oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.’ Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.” My guess is that question wasn’t covered in the Tea Party Talking Points.

In fact, even conservatives rely on the government for their own health care coverage. Darren Hutchinson, writing for Salon.com, states, “According to a recent Gallup report, only 13.3 percent of Americans with health insurance purchase their policies on the open market. The remaining individuals are enrolled in either state-sponsored plans or in employer plans that are heavily subsidized by state and federal tax policy. The notion of a free market in health insurance is a myth for the vast majority of Americans.”

Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA), at his most recent town hall meeting, “responded to one of many questions from a critic of proposed reform by reiterating that ‘the bill does not force people to change their health care plan.’ He then adds: ‘Folks will say that's not true but, I've got facts on my side and you've got Glenn Beck on your side.’"

The town hall protesters are really partisan hacks

The mainstream news media has finally decided to start reporting about the role of the Republican Party and the health care industry behind the town hall protesters – something that has been widely reported in the blogosphere for a couple weeks now. A recent article by the McClatchey News Service stated, “Much of the money and strategy behind the so-called grassroots groups organizing opposition to the Democrats' health care plans comes from conservative political consultants, professional organizers and millionaires, some of whom hold financial stakes in the outcome.”

Still doubt these health care protesters are organized rather than organic? The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim reports that while “town-hall meetings are intended for constituents of congressional members’ districts, some if not a majority of attendees seemed to have come from further away.” Sign-in sheets from a town hall meeting held by Cong. John Dingell (D-MI) “lend credence to the accusation that the protests are a product of Washington-based ‘Astroturf’ organizations, rather than evidence of a groundswell of popular resistance to health care reform.” Staff for Cong. Gene Green (D-TX) report “as many as eight of ten members of the audience were from outside of the district.” A protester at Cong. Steve Kagen’s (D-WI) town hall meeting who described herself as “just a mom from a few blocks away” turned out to be the former vice chair of the Republican Party of Kewaunee County who had worked for Kagen’s most recent opponent. After a raucous town hall meeting in his district, Cong. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) provided evidence the protest “was a well-planned bit of political theater with the actors invited by the Chair of the Travis County Republican Party…”

Why all the bother? Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent has the scoop: “On a private conference call, a group of top Tea Party and conservative organizers offered a surprisingly frank description of their goal, according to a source on the call: Completely blocking any kind of bipartisan compromise, and completely preventing any type of health care reform bill at all from ever becoming law.”

News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan writes, “Democrats have begun responding by urging supporters to show up at the same town hall meetings. At a Florida meeting last week, some burly union members were accused of intimidating those who tried to intimidate a congressman. While we don’t want our politics to turn into a battle of street toughs (insert Nazi Germany reference here), it is difficult to work up tears for those who think it is their right to intimidate members of Congress but unfair to be intimidated themselves.”

There are a lot of honorable conservatives who aren't raging bullies

Even some Republicans have had enough with the outlandish behavior of the most extreme elements in the health care debate. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) rebuked her fellow Alaskan when she said she was offended by Sarah Palin’s irresponsible rhetoric. “It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that there’s these end-of-life provisions, these death panels,” Murkowski, a Republican, said. “Quite honestly, I’m so offended at that terminology because it absolutely isn’t (in the bill). There is no reason to gin up fear in the American public by saying things that are not included in the bill.” Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), a member of the House GOP leadership team, called for a more respectful debate. “I certainly don’t condone violence,” she said, “I don’t condone calling President Obama Hitler and painting swastikas on signs at town halls.”

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), hardly an arm-waving liberal, was extremely patient when boorish, bullying protesters hijacked his recent town hall meetings. “I’m not going to complain about (protesters) being organized. They have a right to speak,” he said, “but I think we have to explain, they’re not necessarily representative of America. I think they’re vocal. I don’t think they’re representative.”

In the end, terrorists always lose

According to Columnist Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post: "Republican strategists and their media rabble-rousers cleverly thought they could dispatch their shock troops this month and kill health reform once and for all. Instead, they're on the verge of generating what they've been desperate to avoid -- an urgent, national, rational conversation on how to make the health-care system fairer and more affordable.”

As President Obama said, at his own town hall meeting in New Hampshire, "Where we disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to what's been proposed.”

-- Dennis

UPDATE: David Horsey's latest cartoon really seems to belong here:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Top Five Health Care Reform Lies

Courtesy of MoveOn.org:

"Lie #1: President Obama wants to euthanize your grandma!!!

The truth: These accusations — of "death panels" and forced euthanasia — are, of course, flatly untrue. As an article from the Associated Press puts it: "No 'death panel' in health care bill." What's the real deal? Reform legislation includes a provision, supported by the AARP, to offer senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor who will provide them with information on preparing a living will and other issues facing older Americans.

Lie #2: Democrats are going to outlaw private insurance and force you into a government plan!!!

The truth: With reform, choices will increase, not decrease. Obama's reform plans will create a health insurance exchange, a one-stop shopping marketplace for affordable, high-quality insurance options. Included in the exchange is the public health insurance option — a nationwide plan with a broad network of providers — that will operate alongside private insurance companies, injecting competition into the market to drive quality up and costs down.

If you're happy with your coverage and doctors, you can keep them. But the new public plan will expand choices to millions of businesses or individuals who choose to opt into it, including many who simply can't afford health care now.

Lie #3: President Obama wants to implement Soviet-style rationing!!!

The truth: Health care reform will expand access to high-quality health insurance, and give individuals, families, and businesses more choices for coverage. Right now, big corporations decide whether to give you coverage, what doctors you get to see, and whether a particular procedure or medicine is covered—that is rationed care. And a big part of reform is to stop that.

Health care reform will do away with some of the most nefarious aspects of this rationing: discrimination for pre-existing conditions, insurers that cancel coverage when you get sick, gender discrimination, and lifetime and yearly limits on coverage. And outside of that, as noted above, reform will increase insurance options, not force anyone into a rationed situation.

Lie #4: Obama is secretly plotting to cut senior citizens' Medicare benefits!!!

The truth: Health care reform plans will not reduce Medicare benefits. Reform includes savings from Medicare that are unrelated to patient care — in fact, the savings comes from cutting billions of dollars in overpayments to insurance companies and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.

Lie #5: Obama's health care plan will bankrupt America!!!

The truth: We need health care reform now in order to prevent bankruptcy — to control spiraling costs that affect individuals, families, small businesses, and the American economy.

Right now, we spend more than $2 trillion dollars a year on health care. The average family premium is projected to rise to over $22,000 in the next decade — and each year, nearly a million people face bankruptcy because of medical expenses. Reform, with an affordable, high-quality public option that can spur competition, is necessary to bring down skyrocketing costs. Also, President Obama's reform plans would be fully paid for over 10 years and not add a penny to the deficit."

Don't let the insurance industry and corporate lobbyists get away with their lies. Stand up and let your federal legislators know you support the President's health care reform plan. -- Dennis

David Horsey On Health Care Reform

-- Dennis

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I-1033: Tim Eyman's Latest Tomfoolery

If you haven’t already heard, Tim Eyman’s latest terroristic attack, Initiative 1033, will be on the ballot this November. WFSE has joined the coalition to oppose I-1033 because the measure will destroy vital public services at the state, county and city level.

Initiative 1033 is already a proven failure. Tim Eyman’s latest Initiative uses the same failed formula as the “TABOR” law passed in Colorado, which led to deep cuts to public schools, roads and highways, and children’s health care. It did so much damage to the state’s economy that in 2005, Coloradans voted to suspend the law.

I-1033 will also make it harder for us to dig out of the recession. The national recession has cost our state thousands of jobs and forced billions in cutbacks to important public services. I-1033 will force even deeper cuts and lock them in for years to come – meaning more job losses, more hard times for Washington families, and a longer delay waiting for our economy to recover.

Eyman’s initiative will mean more bad news for our communities and small businesses. I-1033 will make things harder than ever for local communities already struggling to maintain basic services such as road repair, libraries and public safety. Small businesses rely on those services, and oppose I-1033 because they will continue to suffer during a prolonged recession.

Times are tough enough already – let’s not make them worse. Let's defeat I-1033.

WFSE/AFSCME, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, the Seattle Children’s Alliance, the Nature Conservancy, AARP, Washington Education Association and the Washington State Hospital Association have already joined the effort to say “No” to another harmful Tim Eyman initiative in Washington. Hopefully you will too.

For more information go to www.no1033.com. To get involved in the campaign, send an e-mail or call April at 1-800-562-6002.

In the meantime, if you've had it up to your eyebrows with Tim Eyman's self-serving demagoguery, you can get some temporary relief here. -- Dennis

Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Care Terrorists

The political battle for health care reform is raging at levels beyond anything I've seen in my 25 years in the business. Developments over the last couple of days ought to serve as a powerful wake-up call to proponents.

Case in point: It's now being reported that some conservative "think tanks" -- funded by lobbyists and corporate interests -- are orchestrating a nationwide effort to mobilize protesters to disrupt Congressional Town Hall meetings during the August recess.

First, Politico.com, a respected news source for national politics, reported that crowds of angry, disruptive and threatening protesters are turning town hall meetings all across the nation into a circus. "Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting," Alex Isenstadt wrote, "the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress."

Then, the Progressive States Network released a copy of an e-mail that has been circulating among health care reform opponents describing, in step-by-step detail, how political terrorists "should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress." Among the best practices recommended in the memo are to "spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half (of the room)," "yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early," and "the goal is to rattle (the Congressman)..."

The Progressive States Network did some digging into these think tanks, and their funding sources, and concluded that "the principle organizers of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. The two groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests..."

And it's happening right here in our back yard.

WFSE members who receive the Federation Hotline knew that Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) recently held a town hall meeting on health care reform. I wasn't able to attend in person, but an e-mail I received from someone who did has taken on new significance. The following are excerpts from an eyewitness report distributed among the members of the Healthy Washington Coalition:

"I attended Congressman Smith's health care town meeting this past Saturday, and it was a horrifying experience. To begin the meeting, Cong. Smith gave a pretty rational and informative presentation about the state of the health care reform process. When he concluded that this was an issue too important to rush, thus he would not support the President's efforts to pass legislation before the August recess, the room erupted in applause...

Then Cong. Smith asked for comments, and the comments began. The first question: would this new plan include tax payer support for abortion? The next question, from one of the young fellas sitting in front of me: on page ... of the House bill, (reading from a copy he had obtained from the internet) it says plainly that if an individual elects the public insurance option, he can never ever have private insurance again. Then many people in the room started to vocalize and clap, drowning out Cong. Smith's response, and shouting arguments to him.

He asked for people to line up at the microphones for comments. Many people did line up... They spoke of their distrust of the government; the post office, social security, etc; they did not want their health care in the hands of bureaucrats. Several people said in a very angry tone of voice, I just want you (Cong. Smith) to be the first to take this new public insurance, and see how YOU like it. At this, the people in the room jeered, some shook their fists, some said angrily Yeah!

When Cong Smith then took a question from an elderly person sitting up front, who had not lined up at the microphone, a young man shouted loudly that she should wait her turn, why did HE have to stand up if she didn't... Much supportive vocalization from the seated people. More comments from the next person at the microphone: People who are uninsured now can afford to buy insurance, they just don't. Many people qualify for medicaid and they just don't bother. The statistics of infant mortality (the US being number 42 or so in industrialized countries) are false...

I wanted to describe my experience of this town meeting so you all would know that people who I believe are the lunatic fringe of opposition to health care reform are out-organizing us..."

At the time, I thought it was unfortunate that proponents were outmobilized at Cong. Smith's town hall meeting. Now I learn it's all part of a cynical ploy engineered by people wearing $5,000 suits. Is this what political discourse has come to in our nation? Barry Goldwater must be rolling over in his grave

The fact is an overwhelming majority of WFSE members support the President's efforts to reform our nation's health care system, but our voices are being drowned out by a handful of well-heeled interests and some noisy extremists.

We've got to step up our game. If we want to see health care reform happen, we're going to have to earn it. -- Dennis

I Survived Candidate Survivor

My trip up to Seattle to take in the Washington Bus' Candidate Survivor forum was well worth the effort. There were hundreds of people -- mostly under 35 -- who packed into the Showbox to watch the candidates for Seattle City Council compete for the affections of the crowd.

The candidates came out on stage dressed in track gear, dancing and mugging while the audience cheered. The first challenge was for each to introduce themselves in haiku -- no speeches allowed! I noticed most of the candidates failed to use proper the proper haiku form, but it was still an interesting way to get them to say something meaningful without putting everyone to sleep.

The action was non-stop. There were "yes and no" questions, multiple choice questions, a talent show, a dance off, and more. Three times during the night the audience was invited to vote via text message for their favorite candidate, and those receiving the fewest votes were asked to leave the stage.

Reporter Chris Grygiel of Seattle P-I wrote "it's a safe bet that a candidate forum where you find out that Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin has skinny dipped in Lake Washington and smoked pot is not sponsored by the League of Women Voters."

Grygiel's post focused on the sensational rather than the substantive, forgetting to mention that serious questions about health care, transportation and the environment were also asked. But it's also true the forum was intended to be frisky and fun.

The alternative weekly The Stranger promoted the event heavily and had reporters in attendance as well. Among them was Lindy West who wrote "last night was awesome. The candidates were all great sports, and I think we all learned a lot about democracy, track suits, robots, and Sally Bagshaw's sexuality." Laugh if you will (I certainly did), but I'll bet every kid in that room will vote in the primary on August 18th.

I came away impressed with the competence and effectiveness of the good folks at Washington Bus who continue to pioneer ways to engage young people in democracy that are both fun and informative. I came away thinking that candidate forums don't have to feel like a trip to the dentist. And I came away hoping I'll be able to attend if they hold this event again. -- Dennis

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Candidate Survivor" -- Tonight!

I'm heading up to Seattle this evening to attend the "Candidate Survivor" event sponsored in part by the Washington Bus. I've been impressed by the work of the Washington Bus as they engage young people in our democracy by making politics both fun and productive. I am expecting to be entertained, and I am expecting beer. I hope to see you there. -- Dennis

Friday, July 24, 2009

Taking a Time Out -- Politically Speaking

Last Saturday, the WFSE Executive Board voted to adopt a resolution that suspends our endorsement process for 2009, withholds certain contributions, and creates a member-driven process to reconsider how our political program will work. I was expecting a vigorous discussion but the resolution was adopted overwhelmingly.

State workers suffered a terrible beat-down during the 2009 Legislative Session. In truth, we expected that to a large degree. We're in the middle of a global economic crisis, and sacrifices from state workers needed to be part of the solution. Faced with a $9 billion deficit, the Legislature and the Governor decided to balance the budget with $4 billion in one-time federal stimulus dollars and $4.5 billion in budget cuts. Included was $1.2 billion taken directly out of the pockets of state workers.

Taking $1.2 billion from state workers might be understandable, but the manner in which they chose to make those cuts was highly objectionable. The cuts to our health care benefits and to pension funding threaten the long-term economic security of every state worker. We offered a number of proposals to mitigate those cuts (cuts in WMS, closure of tax loopholes, forwarding a revenue proposal to voters, etc.) to no avail.

Making matters worse were actions taken by the Legislature and the Governor that had nothing to do with saving money: undermining our collective bargaining rights, privatizing child welfare services, adopting a budget proviso intended to close institutions in DD, JRA and DOC, and rejecting the worker privacy bill. None of these issues were about money. Instead, they were about values.

The truth is, legislators from both parties caused us great harm. It was a bipartisan beat-down. And we came away feeling like there were a lot of politicians who have been telling us over the years that they share our values, but who proved otherwise by their actions this year.

Our union and our members have been challenged like never before, and we need to decide how we are going to respond. The resolution adopted by the board is intended to provide a rational, member-driven process for considering what our endorsement process and our political program should look like in the future. I'm getting a lot of good feedback, and ideas are being put on the table, so WFSE members should keep sending us their thoughts and suggestions.

I really don't know how this will all evolve or what our next political model will look like. But one thing I do know that we're not backing down! -- Dennis

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

...And the train keeps a rollin'... WMS and Disability Retirement

We have had some calls wondering where a few projects left over from the Legislative session were at, so we thought we'd update our reader, and maybe he/she will spread the word.

EHB 2049, the WMS study bill called for a study of WMS/EMS. We are happy to be able to report that the state auditor, Brian Sonntag's office will be conducting the state wide performance study. We are very excited about the opportunity to work with the great staff team over at SAO. We can count on an unbiased and thorough examination of the issue that will be performed by a competent and professional team. The auditor’s office is ready to proceed with the study right away and they are in the first stages of making that happen.

I have been told that some of the state agencies have run into trouble trying to collect data about WMS/EMS bonus' and performance pay. I am not sure what the issues are, whether it is about them not having kept track of the data, or if it is some kind of IT problem, but I am told that it may be a while before they are ready to comply with the reporting requirements. Luckily, that won't slow down Sonntag's crew. The bill's sponsor, Representative Larry Seaquist of the 26th district, is still very much involved. We have spoken to him several times since the end of the legislative session, and he continues to show support and interest in keeping the project moving forward.

Another holdover issue is the disability retirement study. This is a study that was funded by the legislature to be performed by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy. This study will focus on the feasibility of the state providing a benefit to those members of the public employees’ retirement system (to include teachers) who suffer a catastrophic health event and can no longer hold meaningful employment. The other focus of the study will be the potential for employee paid insurance benefit that would cover the penalty a state employee would suffer if they had to retire early due to a catastrophic health event. The idea is similar to disability insurance currently available to some state employees. The current program stops coverage in the event that one could not return to work. This proposal would kick in at that time and cover the actuarial penalty to the employees retirement benefit.

There will have to be some limits to these benefits, to hold down cost. A few that have been suggested are that eligibility would be limited to those employees with 15 years of service or more, the level of disability has to be profound enough that the person can no longer hold down any meaningful employment (similar to the current SSI standards) and the insurance feature would be an "{opt out" policy offered at the beginning of an individuals employment.

WSIPP has started study on the issue and should have findings by November or so. By August they should have a pretty good idea of what the universe looks like, so we should be able to tell you more about it then. If the study offers conclusions that seem economically feasible, then you could expect us to forward legislation to make it happen.

Well, that is all for now. Have a great independence day and remember: Democracy is not a spectator sport. You have to play to win. Get in the game...what are you waiting for?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Debating the Direction Of the WFSE Political Program

The sense of anger and betrayal among our members since the conclusion of the 2009 Legislative Session is widespread and deep. Our members feel like they were thrown overboard by elected officials (from both parties) that we had endorsed and supported.

A couple of weeks ago an old friend reminded me that when things are going badly, the first response should be to look in the mirror. Right now it sure seems like what we have been doing isn't working any more. As a result, we are re-examining our entire legislative and political program, looking for new strategies that will allow us to advance our members' interests more effectively.

The WFSE Legislative & Political Action Committee, responsible for leading this discussion, met last night and after a hearty debate agreed unanimously to forward a resoultion to the Executive Board that would suspend our regular endorsement process and establish a series of workshops where WFSE leaders could consult with experts regarding the various strategic options at our disposal.

To be clear, the committee was not unanimous on whether the resolution should ultimately be adopted -- there were articulate arguments on both sides -- but they all agreed it was important for the Executive Board to debate and decide this issue. The next scheduled Board meeting is July 18.

I'm pasting a copy of the entire resolution below. I'd love to hear what WFSE members think. -- Dennis

WHEREAS, the 2009 Legislative Session resulted in tremendous harm to all WFSE members and state workers; and

WHEREAS, we understand the state is facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and that we, as state employees, must make sacrifices. Still, the Governor and the Legislature chose cuts that threaten the long-term security of all state workers. Our pension system has now been under-funded four out of the past eight years and the cuts in health care benefits might never be regained; and

WHEREAS, the harm to state employees as a result of massive budget cuts is bad enough by itself, yet the Governor and the Legislature repeatedly took actions(1) that were hurtful to our members that didn’t have anything to do with saving money: and

WHEREAS, we understand and respect that it is the right and the obligation for our elected officials to make difficult policy decisions, and that there are always going to be times when WFSE members disagree with those decisions; and

WHEREAS, our members are united by certain core principles, and actions by the Governor and the Legislature this past session to weaken collective bargaining rights, close institutions and privatize state services are in direct conflict with our principles; and

WHEREAS, it seems clear now that we have, over the years, supported a lot of elected officials who really don’t share our values. As a result, we need to reconsider how we conduct our entire legislative and political action program.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, WFSE will suspend its normal endorsement process and take no action in the 2009 special elections for the Legislature, although this is by no means intended to discourage WFSE locals from participating in local government elections; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, WFSE will make no contributions to any candidate for the office of Governor or State Legislature, or any committees controlled by the Governor or Legislators, for the duration of the 2009 calendar year; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Legislative & Political Action Committee will conduct a series of three workshops this year. The committee will bring in experts from outside our union to discuss with us a variety of political strategies including, but not limited to: revenue options such as tax loopholes; whether the initiative process is a viable alternative for advancing our members’ interests; and other tools and options available to strengthen our voice. The council will reimburse travel costs for one representative from each local, as well as for executive board members, who attend the workshops.

(1)Note: There were no savings achieved when the Governor refused to forward our contracts to the Legislature. We all knew our contracts would never be funded in the face of an economic crisis, but the Governor chose a course of action that permanently damages the integrity of the entire collective bargaining law.

Any alleged “savings” from the massive closures in DDD and JRA that the Governor and the Legislature have set in motion are miniscule at best. We believe the mandate in the budget to close institutions is motivated far more by ideology than by cost.

The Governor and the Legislature agreed to privatize 30% of Child Welfare Services even though it adds millions of dollars in unfunded mandates to an already overburdened Children’s Administration.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Government Reform" On the Table

Adam Wilson of the Olympian has the story:

"In a meeting with The Olympian's editorial board Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Chris Gregoire outlined some rather ambitious plans for future changes in state government.

Ambitious, that is, considering the Legislature started by eliminating a 18 boards and commissions out of hundreds and renamed CTED the Department of Commerce. Most of the savings in the new budget come from reductions in staff and service.

Gregoire defended the action as an important start, and said lawmakers now want to establish a process to determine which residential treatment centers could be shut down, similar to one used by the military to pick bases for closure.

'We're looking at consolidating all the natural resource agencies; asking, can it, should it be done,' she added.

She also outlined an attorney-general style information technology service, in which a state chief information officer would assign staff to assist agencies, replacing the in-house functions now used.

Functions like motor pool, personnel support and real estate services could follow a similar model, Gregoire said. She’s counting on a review of state government by State Auditor Brian Sonntag to guide some of those decisions.

'That's in part why I did not take all of the cuts from the auditor’s office,' she said."

It's going to be critical for our members to be engaged in these discussions over the summer and fall. It looks like we have our work cut out for us. -- Dennis

Friday, May 8, 2009

HB 2049, a small victory in a session of losses

Well Reader (optimistically, in the singular;-), we're back! After a long hiatus and a longer legislative session, I find a minute to jot a line or two.

I have gotten several phone calls and questions regarding what we have affectionately named the WMS bill. Rumors are floating around about what the bill is, or is not, so I thought I would talk about that so that you, our reader, can spread the word to the other 40 thousand members who might be interested.

Engrossed house bill 2049 regarding exempt employment practices was prime sponsored by Representative Larry Seaquist from the 26th legislative district. Larry was an absolutely great champion for our cause. Folks from the Gig Harbor area are lucky to have this kind of competent representation in the House of Representatives.

The bill has three basic components. The first provides transparency to the growth and compensation of WMS and Exempt Management Services. This has been a very important goal for the union over the last several years. We have seen and suspected that upper management has grown and are compensated disproportionately to line staff. Proving it has always been difficult because each agency is allowed by RCW to develop their WMS/EMS systems independently. Public disclosure requests to each agency would be necessary to get the full picture.

This bill requires the Director of the Department of Personnel to report to the Governor and Legislature annually on the number of classified, Washington Management Service, and exempt employees; the number of bonuses and performance-based incentives awarded to agency staff; and the cost of each bonus or incentive awarded. The pay off here will be huge at the bargaining table.

The second component of the bill blocks management’s ability to turn vacant classified positions into exempt positions at will. The union will now be able to act in lieu of an incumbent employee to file objections when vacant positions are exempted. This should help us keep account of how many positions management takes away from classified service and makes into exempt ones and protect the number of classified spots available to perform the frontline services of the agency.

Lastly, 2049 declares that the legislature intends to review the state's senior management and exempt services and understands that possible refinements in the service are needed. A review, in consultation with the various stakeholders and in light of current best practices, is warranted. The bills sponsor, Rep. Seaquist and the chair of the State Government and Tribal Affairs committee, Rep. Sam Hunt, have asked the State Auditors office to conduct a statewide performance audit of WMS/EMS. We are hopeful that Auditor Sonntag will agree to perform this review. His office is just the kind of independent reviewer this project needs to produce fair and thoughtful reform to a broken and out of control system.

As a related aside, we did manage to get budget provisos in both the house and senate budget that would have mandated specific percentage cuts to WMS/EMS. Senate and house leadership opted not to be that prescriptive, but did put more general language, which called for personnel reductions which have the least possible impact on employees responsible for direct service delivery. Our gentle reader should make sure he/she reminds his/her labor management representatives to remember this when layoffs are negotiated for each agency and bargaining unit.

ESHB 2049 is not all we hoped it would be, but, after it is all said and done, is a small victory for labor in the world of state employees. Proper acknowledgment must be given to our members in ecology, who got this ball rolling with their WMS study presented to the executive board last winter.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

More Fun Budget Provisos: Consolidating Natural Resource Agencies

Another proviso in the budget bill that will be of interest to our members is Section 907, which reads as follows:

"The governor shall convene a work group consisting of representatives from the natural resource agencies. The work group shall consider the experience of other states and their organizational structures to identify consolidation opportunities to improve service delivery and reduce costs. The work group shall submit a comprehensive written recommendation to the governor and the office of financial management by September 1, 2009."

It's looking like we're going to have a pretty rough summer and fall, and like next year's legislative session could be every bit as bad as this year. -- Dennis

Final Budget Mandates Study Of All Institutions

Whenever a budget comes out, I always make it a point to skim through the text of the actual budget bill. The Legislature is adept a slipping provisos -- instructions to agencies -- in the budget that can have a profound affect on WFSE members, and this year is no exception.

The final budget compromise this year doesn't close any institutions immediately, but a proviso has been included that appears intended to have that same effect. In the section making appropriations to the Office of Financial Management [Sec. 130] the following subsection appears:

"(4) $500,000 of the general fund--state appropriation for fiscal year 2010 is provided solely for a study of the feasibility of closing state institutional facilities and a plan on eliminating beds in the state institutional facility inventory. The office of financial management shall contract with consultants with expertise related to the subject matters included in this study. The office of financial management and the consultants shall consult with the department of social and health services, the department of corrections, stakeholder groups that represent the people served in these institutions, labor organizations that represent employees who work in these institutions and other persons or entities with expertise in the areas being studied.
(a) For the purposes of this study, "state institutional facilities" means facilities operated by the department of corrections to house persons convicted of a criminal offense, Green Hill school and Maple Lane school operated by the department of social and health services juvenile rehabilitation administration, and residential habilitation centers operated by the department of social and health services.
(b) In conducting this study, the consultants shall consider the following factors as appropriate:
(i) The availability of alternate facilities including alternatives and opportunities for consolidation with other facilities, impacts on those alternate facilities, and any related capital costs;
(ii) The cost of operating the facility, including the cost of providing services and the cost of maintaining or improving the physical plant of the facility;
(iii) The geographic factors associated with the facility, including the impact of the facility on the local economy and the economic impact of its closure, and alternative uses for a facility recommended for closure;
(iv) The costs associated with closing the facility, including the continuing costs following the closure of the facility;
(v) Number and type of staff and the impact on the facility staff including other employment opportunities if the facility is closed;
(vi) The savings that will accrue to the state from closure or consolidation of a facility and the impact any closure would have on funding the associated services; and
(vii) For the residential habilitation centers, the impact on clients in the facility being recommended for closure and their families, including ability to get alternate services and impact on being moved to another facility.
(c) The office of financial management shall submit a final report to the governor and the ways and means committees of the house of representatives and senate by November 1, 2009. The report shall provide a recommendation and a plan to eliminate 1,580 beds in the department of corrections facilities, 235 beds from juvenile rehabilitation facilities, and 250 funded beds in the residential habilitation centers through closure or consolidation of facilities. The report shall include an assessment of each facility studied, where and how the services should be provided, and any costs or savings associated with each recommendation. In considering the recommendations of the report, the governor and the legislature shall not consider closure of any state institutional facility unless the report recommended the facility for closure."

The hits just keep on coming! -- Dennis

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Major Battles: Child Welfare Services

The Senate continues to push hard for the privatization of child welfare services on a massive scale. ESSB 5943 as passed by the Senate (and 2SHB 2106 as amended by the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee), represents the broadest contracting out proposal to receive serious consideration by the Legislature in more than a decade. Adding insult to injury, the Senate continues to wage a direct attack on state employee collective bargaining rights in the language of the bill. We agree change is needed at CWS, but the Senate proposal is risky, expensive, and continues to demonstrate contempt for the state employees who work so hard to protect our children.

On the other hand, the House is on a far more responsible path for reforming CWS. As adopted by the House, 2SHB 2106 would create a pilot program to find out if an evidence-based contracting scheme would even work.

ESSB 5943 passed the Senate, but the House Early Learning & Children's Services Committee stripped the Senate language from the bill and replaced it with a modified version of their pilot program proposal. At roughly the same time, the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee replaced the contents of 2SHB 2106 with a modified version of their privatization proposal. So, for those keeping score at home, now 2106 is the awful bill, and 5943 isn't so bad. -- Dennis

Major Battles: Community Corrections

Both budgets make significant cuts to community supervision, but the House budget cuts are much deeper and will result in a decimation of our entire transitional system. Not only is community supervision more cost-effective than incarceration, it provides offenders with the support structure necessary to change their behavior once they are released from prison. These cuts will result in higher crime rates and the House budget in particular represents a tremendous risk to public safety. -- Dennis

Major Battles: Institutions

The Senate proposal to close Yakima Valley School would result in traumatic disruption to 90 of the most vulnerable people in our society, eliminate respite services for over 100 families a year, eliminate hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity – all to save (optimistically) $2.5 million over the biennium. The proposed closure of YVS doesn’t appear to be motivated by cost savings. The Senate budget makes a bad situation worse with the inclusion of a proviso requiring DSHS to immediately prepare a plan to close the Francis Haddon Morgan Center [PSSB 5600 Sec. 205(2)(f)].

Both budgets would close a JRA institution even though studies have shown the evidence-based continuum of services provided by JRA to be very effective. The Senate proposes closing Green Hill School, which would completely dismantle the JRA institutional system -- and is unjustifiable on a cost-benefit basis. The House proposes combining the closure of Naselle Youth Camp with dramatic cuts in JRA’s enhanced parole services, which would cause permanent harm to our state’s transitional services for juvenile offenders. -- Dennis

Major Battles: State Employee Health Care Benefits

There are 17 days left in the Legislative session and the pressure is building daily. The House and Senate are both expected to be on the floor, in either session or caucus, all day every day (and often into the night) until they adjourn (or not) on April 26th. Legislators will take two days off for Easter weekend and then work straight through to the end.

A lot of issues are resolved, for better or worse, and now we're down to focusing all of our lobbying efforts on a handful of issues that are still up in the air. For state employees, the single biggest issue is health care.

State employees have already sacrificed our COLA, we’re losing thousands of jobs, and our pension funds are being raided. Health care is the only meaningful benefit remaining for state workers. Neither budget fully funds employee health care, but the Senate budget cuts much deeper and will result in significant erosion in benefits.

What's happening is that other interests are arguing that health care dollars should be taken away from state employees and be used to fund their favorite program instead. Many Legislators forget that you can't have programs without people, and so a battle ensues. Protecting health care benefits is our highest priority right now, and we need all the support we can get.

The Senate continues its assault on state employee benefits in the surprising striking amendment to SB 5869 adopted in the Ways & Means Committee eliminating the “substantially equivalent” language pertaining to state employee benefits in current law. The underlying bill was carefully negotiated between WFSE and the Administration, and we testified in support in committee. However, with the Senate amendment we are now opposed. -- Dennis

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Schoolhouse Rock: How a Bill Becomes a Law

This posting is for my boss who never thought I’d read our blog, let alone post to it.


Friday, March 13, 2009

TVW Covers Impact Of Budget Crisis On State Employees

This week's edition of The Impact, one of TVW's weekly news programs, covers in some detail the impact of the budget crisis on state employees. The program starts with an interview with WFSE Executive Director Greg Devereux, and then features an insightful discussion with Rep. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia) and Rep. Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup). The total segment relating to state employees is about 15 minutes long.

The rest of the program delves into park closures and community supervision of offenders, which will also be of interest to many. -- Dennis

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This Post Is For You, Joe

Ever since the link to the WFSE Political Blog was removed from the WFSE main page (against my wishes) I figured our readership would drop from four to zero. However, I have since learned that Joe still checks the blog regularly and he's disappointed that I'm not adding any new content. Buoyed by the notion that I actually have one reader, I'll try to go ahead and post something once in a while.

This has been an absolutely brutal week, culminated by the Senate's disastrous decision to pass the bill that would privatize all child welfare services on a 33-15 vote at about 8:00 pm last night. Feeling bruised and battered, I'm looking for a little levity. Fortunately, I found it in Schenectady, NY.

It appears Steve Raucci, Facilities Supervisor for the Schenectady City School District (and the local CSEA president), is accused of arson. According to the Times Union (Albany, NY), "It took Steven C. Raucci a long time, a prosecutor said Monday, but he did get even with a driver he suspected of scratching his car in a mall parking lot. Raucci remembered that a yellow Ford Mustang with vanity license plates had been parked next to him that day at the Rotterdam Square Mall, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said. About a year later, Carney said Raucci saw the car again and tracked down where the owner lived and worked. Then, the DA said, Raucci placed two explosive devices on the car's windshield and blew them up."

But wait! It gets better.

As part of the court records, a letter Raucci wrote to a new female employee was released, outlining "additional conditions" for her job (typos included):

> Be sure your supervisor is always happy
> Take time everyday to keep your appearance pleasing for your supervisor
> Be attentive to your supervisors needs and wants during the work day
> Always keep your hair at its present length or as closely as possible
> Talk to your supervisor as often as needed for him to feel comfortable
> Always remember that your supervisor is a man first and a supervisor second and he should be treated as such in that sequence
> Being attractive, sensitive and classy with a touch of sexiness, are crucial to the position
> If you are married or living with a significant other, it must be understood that during the hours of 7am-3:30pm you are there for your supervisor.
> Always express your feelings on anything that does not set well with you both in the office and out
> Your health, physical condition must always be your top priorities
> NEVER forget that you were chosen because you met all the above criteria's.

I don't know if Raucci really is an arsonist, but he's obviously an idiot. Nonetheless, I'm grateful to him for brightening up my week. -- Dennis

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Budget Crisis Update

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10) sends out a regular e-newsletter and the edition I received yesterday has an outstanding description of the state budget crisis. Here is the text of her article, in its entirety:

- - - - - - - - - -


The Legislature has been concerned about the growing shortfall in state revenues for quite some time, which is why we requested that the Department of Revenue prepare a revenue forecast to be delivered ahead of the normal date in mid-March.

Last week they told us that their projections indicate that Washington’s revenue shortfall is the largest in modern state history, both in terms of total dollars ($8.3 billion) and in percentage of the overall budget (nearly a quarter of the state budget).

This puts our state in worse fiscal shape than when the initial all-cuts budget was proposed by the Governor in November, and we’re not alone — the recession has wreaked havoc on 46 state budgets all across the country to the tune over $350 billion over the next two-year cycle.

The global economic meltdown has made lawmakers’ task for writing a budget harder, and there are no easy solutions. Although a federal economic recovery bill was signed by President Obama this week, it is not a bailout — the vast majority of those funds are dedicated to specific programs and projects that will help create jobs. This funding will not be able to fill the gap in state revenues that are the result of a national recession that began more than a year ago.

We are in the midst of an economic crisis that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression, but we can’t let that become an excuse for sacrificing things like education for our children, access to health care, and protections for those who can’t take care of themselves.

The Legislature has already sent a first round of budget cuts to the Governor — the earliest in state history that’s ever been done — as an indication of just how urgent this situation is, but we’ve got more to do.

Unfortunately, using a “cuts only” approach to close the gap between state revenues and state spending isn’t as easy as it may sound. We wouldn’t be able to save enough through cuts even if we eliminated our entire state’s correctional system, our entire higher education system, all care for our seniors, and all care for those with developmental disabilities!

We also need to recognize that spending reductions alone can actually harm our economy.

Economics professor Dick Startz of the University of Washington estimates that every $1 billion reduction in annual state government spending during the recession will cost Washington about 15,000 public and private sector jobs.

Balancing the desire to fund worthy programs against our limited fiscal resources is a challenging task that will require everyone — Democrats and Republicans, advocates and citizens, all levels of government — to help find solutions.

This is a difficult challenge for all of us, and we will rise to meet this challenge as one community.


The budget is a complicated issue that takes far more time than is appropriate in a single issue of E-news, so I’ll be providing some detailed information each week on state revenue and expenditures, the budget process, and what the Legislature is doing to help ease the impact of the nationwide recession.

This week, I’d like to address some budget myths that my staff and I have heard:

Budget myth # 1: The Governor and the Legislature are to blame for Washington’s budget shortfall.

Budget reality: The Governor and the Legislature have doubled the state average of total annual reserves in each of the last three years. 46 states currently face budget shortfalls, totaling $350 billion over the next two years.

Budget myth #2: Washington’s budget shortfall is the result of overspending.

Budget reality: State spending as a share of personal income has been declining for over a decade.

Budget myth #3: State spending in 2005 is the appropriate level for state spending today.

Budget reality: With an increase in population, inflation, service costs – and despite disappearing federal dollars — Washington has made record investments in education, health care, public safety and the environment over with past four years. But no one believes our kids are too educated, our families are too healthy, our communities are too safe, or our air and water are too clean.

Budget myth #4: We can simply cut waste and inefficiency in government and do more with less.

Budget reality: Washington ranks as the best-managed state in the nation, according to the Pew Center on the States in 2008. In 2003-05, the last time we used a cuts-only approach to address a serious shortfall, the state cut health care for 20,000 people, eliminated dental care for low-income adults, and froze funding for better teachers and smaller classrooms. We face similar choices now. A cuts-only budget means we do less with less.

Budget myth #5: Cutting human services creates costs savings.

Budget reality: Cutting needed human services such as health care and mental health treatment doesn’t eliminate the need. In most cases, it exacerbates the need, and increases the costs — both financial and human — down the road.

Budget myth #6: The federal stimulus plan will bail out our state budget.

Budget reality: The federal stimulus funds will optimistically help with about a quarter of Washington’s budget shortfall."

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Sen. Haugen lays out the issues nicely. Of course, the real issue is how the Legislature will respond. Time will tell. -- Dennis