Initiative 1433 – Washington State Minimum Wage

Washington state already has one of the higher minimum wages in the Unites States, and our minimum wage is already adjusted for inflation every year. However, that does not mean we have a living wage. Initiative 1433, on the ballot in November, aims to increase wages for the working poor by increasing our minimum wage and instituting a few other worker-friendly protections. I am sure there are some marginal businesses that this will hurt. If you are making a crappy product that is barely selling, having to pay people better wages may make your business not feasible. I’d rather protect people who are marginally making it than businesses that are marginally making it. So, unsurprisingly, I am in favor of Initiative 1433. The things it would do are:
  • Raise the minimum wage:
    Year Projected w/ Current Law New Minimum Wage
    2017 $9.55/hr $11.00/hr
    2018 $9.77/hr $11.50/hr
    2019 $10.02/hr $12.00/hr
    2020 $10.28/hr $13.50/hr
    2021 $10.56/hr $13.86/hr (projected)
  • Require businesses to provide paid sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 40 worked.
  • Require 40 hours of accrued sick leave to be rolled over every year.
  • Prohibit employers from requiring employees to find their replacements for sick time taken.
  • Prohibit discrimination against workers who use sick leave.
  • Expand minimum wage law coverage to include some additional caregivers who provide DSHS services.
The proponents of I-1433 claim that the new minimums will increase wages for 730,000 workers, citing the Budget and Policy Center (BPC). I can’t find with a cursory search how they obtained their numbers. In one place, the BPC says that 500,000 workers make less than $12/hour. The financial impact statement prepared for the voters pamphlet makes clear that a fair number of people will be raised out of poverty with I-1433, as it predicts a reduction in caseloads for a number of state programs that benefit the poor. the I-1433 opposition says that 1.13 million people make less than $13.50/hour in the state. That’s a lot of people who will be helped. One of the big arguments against I-1433, as noted by the Defeat 1433 folks is that the initiative would cost the state $363 million through 2022. What they don’t note in that argument is that those costs are primarily due to a 4 year lag in collecting unemployment insurance premiums. In other words, rates for 2020 are based on what employers pay from 2015-2019. So we’d be paying out unemployment compensation based on the new minimum wage but collecting based on the old minimum wage. As unemployment insurance rate calculation is not affected by this initiative, the legislature could easily remedy that through a simple majority vote. If the legislature doesn’t want to, any shortfall is on them, in my view, not I-1433. I-1433 also mandates sick leave. Workers at the low end of the wage scale don’t have much of a safety net if they can’t work. This gives them a safety net. The principle reason opposing this, according to the organization advocating defeat, is that it is unclear how much sick leave can be taken in a single year. That argument is based on rolling over 40 hours into a new year plus an additional accrual of 52 hours that year. How is a business to survive if they can’t tell if an employee might take between 0 and 92 hours of sick leave in a one single year??! You might think I’m being facetious with that claim, and you’d be right. A business allocates a certain percentage of money into a reserve account to account for that. That is approximately 5% of full time hours. It’s a fairly narrow range of unpredictability. I think they can adjust to the uncertainty a lot easier than low wage workers can adjust to the lack of income when they are sick. It’s important to note that opponents of higher wages predicted gloom and doom when Seattle and Seatac raised their minimum wages. Nothing of the sort happened. Maybe the opponents will be correct this time, but it would be a first. And if they are correct, then the legislature can halt or roll back the increases. A quick look at who is funding the campaigns, because I think that says a lot about who benefits. The Defeat 1433 campaign’s contributions come from the Washington Restaurant Association, the Washington Food Industry Association, and the Washington Retail Association. Their workers would benefit from higher wages. The other campaign is being funded by Nick Hanauer (a local businessman), unions (who might see higher dues from higher minimum wages), and a group called The Fairness Project. I should note that as of the information in the PDC’s database today, the proponents have raised over $3.8 million to the opponents $54,000. Featured image for this post taken by Elvert Barnes and used under a Creative Common Attribution license.

Initiative 1464 – Washington government accountability act

It looks like there’s going to be a lot on the ballot for the 2016 Washington general election, so I’m going to get started early on reading up on measures and candidates. These posts are not endorsements exactly, though some will end up being just that. Keep in mind that I am a liberal and I am not going into these posts unbiased looking for the ultimate correct answer.

First up, is Initiative 1464 which bills itself as the Washington government accountability act. It’s not really a general government accountability act. It’s a campaign donation accountability act at best.

The headline feature of the initiative is a form of public finance for state legislative and executive campaigns. I don’t hate the program, but I suspect it’s not going to have a transformative effect in Washington politics. The Democracy Credit Program lets each voter in the state make $50 donations to three candidates where the money comes from the program rather than the person’s own pocket. To be eligible to receive these funds, a candidate has to collect 75 small donations from voters within their district.

Reading a summary of Initiative 1464 for the state legislature, it appears that candidates have to forego all contributions besides the 75 qualifying ones. It’s for this reason why I don’t think this will have a transformative effect. Candidates who can collect enough contributions through the current system are going avoid the new program. The Democracy Credit Program is a lot more work, because it requires that candidates spend a lot of time cajoling people to give them one of their three $50 contributions. I think a lot of candidates would rather spend their time convincing people to vote for them. Smaller candidates may well jump on the bandwagon. But from the elections I’ve seen, they have less well thought out and comprehensive platforms, so we’ll be giving money to fringe candidates and not affecting how mainstream candidates fund raise.

The Democracy Credit Program would be funded by revoking the sales tax exemption we give to out of state residents. The appeal is that we publicly fund candidates with other people’s money.

The initiative also has limits on contributions, $100 per candidate for lobbyists and contractors who have business before the agency that the candidate would run. Note that this appears to be $100 total for such donors to these candidates, rather than the current limits which allow donors to start over at $0 after the primary.

What candidates can do with unused campaign funds would be more limited under the initiative. They would no longer be able to pay themselves a salary in excess of the state median income.

It would makes so-called independent expenditures count as candidate donations under a whole host of circumstances. For example, I campaign official could not leave the campaign to run an independent expenditure campaign and have the independent campaign continue to count as independent. So lots more could count against campaign limits.

The initiative would require political committees that advertise to list the top 5 donors while disallowing the committees to hide the ultimate donors’ names behind additional anonymous committees.

A new proscription means that an official cannot lobby their former agency for three years after leaving the agency. There are additional restrictions on lobbying for former state employees as well


The no campaign doesn’t appear to have a working web site. Looking at the PDC web site, they appear to have limited funding that comes primarily from the contractor and food industry. Supposedly they want us to worry about funding state education before we do this, but I don’t see them making any effort there, so I call bullshit on that point.


The Yes on 1464 campaign is generously funded, at just under $2 million as of this writing. One fourth of that comes from Connie Ballmer, wife of Steve Ballmer. That makes me very suspicious. Steve Ballmer funded the committee that opposed a state income tax initiative a few years ago, and he’s generally behaved like a jerk with respect to Washington politics. Connie Ballmer has also generously funded ($500,000) an attempt to defeat Barbara Madsen, the Washington Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion that invalidated one of her pet initiatives, publicly funded charter schools in Washington. Makes me think that she thinks Initiative 1464 won’t hurt her chances to get her own way.

Other contributors to the yes campaign do not follow the rules that would be enacted as part of this. Every Voice has contributed $300,000 to the campaign, but not filed any reports with the Washington State PDC. Neither does $100,000 contributor Represent US. Pretty sneaky for a campaign that supposedly is supposed to increase transparency.


I’ll be voting for this, but it’s not a strong endorsement. Given the Supreme Court’s declaration that campaign contributions constitute political speech, I just don’t see any way we can meaningfully reform campaign finance. Rich people will just opt out of any voluntary system. And frankly, if it fails I won’t shed a tear because the people behind the yes campaign appear to believe their proposed rules apply only to other people.

3 Ways to Tell if Your Distaste For Hillary Clinton is Sexist

3 Ways to Tell if Your Distaste For Hillary Clinton is Sexist

Implicit messages are more insidious because they are consumed and deployed beyond the realm of consciousness. We need not think deeply to identify the racism in Donald Trump’s depiction of Mexican immigrants as rapists or the sexism of his asking if Megyn Kelly’s tough questions were due to her being on her period. Identifying subtler racist and sexist cues is more challenging, however, because no one is immune to these subtleties, even those among us who have engaged in personal and public anti-racist and anti-sexist work.

Source: msmagazine.com/blog/2016/03/17/3-ways-to-tell-if-your-distaste-for-hillary-clinton-is-sexist/

Seattle City Council’s tone argument

I’m not delusional enough to think Sawant’s fellow council members are only now realizing they don’t like her, but a switch has flipped—maybe it’s as simple as the fact that it’s an election year—and now they’re willing to air their unhappiness in public.

I for one am glad that the era of false collegiality at the Seattle City Council is over. I think too much of our American culture is based on a false niceness. I want us to be a culture where we can openly disagree, sometimes vehemently, and still work together for the common good. What the rest of the city council members are using is essentially the tone argument: we’d listen to you if only you said things nicely. Not only does Ms. Sawant bring different ideas to the table, she brings a different political process.

And I say that as someone who disagrees with her position on rent control. I’d much rather have a discussion with her over how to make housing affordable in Seattle than with the rest of the council, because she values the issue and policy over being nice. She’s not going to take her ball and go home if she’s not shown deference. Most of the rest of them, I think are too worried about keeping everyone happy instead of solving a problem.

Subject line is a link.

Seattle Propositions 1A and 1B – Early Childhood Education

The history of this one is a little convoluted. Labor unions ran an initiative to do a number of things regarding childcare, chief among them raise the childcare worker minimum wage to $15 per hour and require training and certification. They got enough signatures. The city council worked on a universal preschool pilot program. The propositions aren’t exactly one or the other like initiatives 591 and 594 are, but they both concern how to help preschool age children. So the city made it an either-or proposition.

My assumptive goal is to provide children with the resources to be functioning members of society.

So, if either of these measure does that, I’m going to vote yes on part 1. So on to checking both proposals:

Preschool Colors
Photo by Barnaby Wasson (CC By-Nc-Sa)

Proposition 1A

1A does a few things:

  • It sets the minimum wage for child care workers at $15 per hour with a phase-in of three years. The city council passed a $15 minimum wage that can phase in for up to 7 years. I see no reason to make that more complicated. It was a hard negotiated compromise, and I opposed businesses messing with it and I oppose labor messing with it.
  • 1A mandates that the city adopt goals, timelines and milestones to institute a policy that no family pay more than 10% of their income for early education and child care. While that’s a laudable goal, I think a hard limit of 10% is misguided as it doesn’t factor in number of children, their needs, or their families’ circumstances. I think a sliding scale based on family income and adjusted for other factors is a better target. That’s what 1B does.
  • 1A states that violent felons cannot provide child care in a licensed or unlicensed facility. This is perfectly reasonable, though I’d be surprised if the state doesn’t already prohibit violent felons from working in child care facilities.
  • 1A requires the city hire a Provider Organization to facilitate communication between childcare workers and the city. As far as I can tell from the requirements in the initiative, that organization would need to be one of the unions that is sponsoring the measure. I’m all for unionization, but this seems a bit like making the city talk to the union and pay for the privilege.
  • 1A would establish a training institute to be run by the Provider Organization from the last bullet point that would train and certify all childcare workers. Requiring training and licensing seems fine with me, but requiring the program to be run by a union seems a big loss of independence. I’d rather it be run by another organization, or the city itself.
  • 1A creates a Workforce Board to oversee the measure, including the training institute and standards. Half the board is nominated by the mayor, half by the Provider Organization. That seems like too large amount of influence to give to a union.
  • 1A creates a fund to assist small child care providers to meet city standards. That seems like a great idea.

One thing not listed in this is where the funding for it comes from. That isn’t a definitive reason to vote against it in my view, but it does mean I’m gonna look hard at it. The city would have one more priority to work into an existing budget and it’s not like we have a lot of extra money floating around. I’d prefer if we had an explicit ordered priority for our budget so new things like this could be slotted in at some spot in the priority. We don’t, and so the city is going to have to do it, and going to have to cut something or raise taxes for it (and we don’t have much room to raise with current legislative limits). We could raise property taxes similarly to how 1B does it, but will require another vote. I’d much rather it be included in this vote.

All in all, I’m leaning against this, primarily for the reason that it puts too much control into the hands of the industry to regulate and manage itself on the city’s dime. It seems like a way to restrain trade rather than improve education and child care.

Proposition 1B

Proposition 1B creates a four year pilot early learning (i.e., preschool) program with the goal of making it permanent and covering all preschool age children in the city. It will have free or sliding scale tuition based on income. The oversight board includes 12 members of the Families and Education Oversight Committee, which is (I believe) an existing committee that oversees a previous levy. 4 additional members would be part of the oversight board, and they would be Seattle residents with interest and experience with the growth and development of children. Only one of them can be from an organization that receives funding through the measure.

The proposition enacts a property tax that raises $14 million to fund the pilot program. The city won’t need to prioritize other programs out of the budget.

Proposition 1B seems to be a good faith attempt to provide education to young children, which is my goal, rather than provide a large amount of control to a union. I’m all for unions, and even giving them seats at the table. But they should not be in charge, as their interests are with their members, not with children. I don’t think they are opposed to children’s interests, but they aren’t synonymous.

Upshot is, I’ll be voting yes for part 1 of proposition 1, and for 1B for part 2.

Washington Advisory Votes

Due to the remnants of a Tim Eyman initiative, we have advisory votes on anything that can be construed as a tax increase that’s passed by the legislature. There are only two such this year.

Advisory Vote No. 8

Marijuana crop, better known as help over here.
Photo by Stephen McGrath (CC By-Nc-Nd)

After we legalized marijuana two years ago, marijuana growers qualified for standard preferences for agriculture. The legislature eliminated that preference for them, costing about $25 million a year. I am relishing the thought of conservatives having to vote for a tax increase or for marijuana. Since our state is undertaxed, there’s no way I’m voting against what’s essentially a sin tax. That was part of the argument for the marijuana legalization initiative. Legalize it and tax it. So here we are. I’m voting maintained.

Advisory Vote No. 9

The legislature added $1.3 million in excise taxes on leasehold interests in tribal properties. I have no idea what exactly that is, but this is exactly the sort of thing we elect the legislature for. Absent a compelling reason against it, I’m voting maintained.

Washington Initiative Measure No. 594

Initiative 594 would apply currently used criminal and background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

Gun Show
Gun Show photo by Michael Glasgow (CC By)

While I tend to be a bleeding heart liberal, I’m generally less supportive of gun control measures than a lot of other folks. There’s essentially two things I want to see changed about guns in the United States. The first is that stupid people should not possess or own guns. Who should decide what and who is stupid? Me. Of course, that’s not going to happen. But that’s my ideal.

The second is I’d really like to see a change in culture away from a hard-core attachment to guns. That’s not a law thing; that’s a culture thing. Guns aren’t needed and aren’t useful in 99.9% of the cases people think they are. For example, open carry. To give an analogy, I think flip flops should not be worn except at the beach, pool, or locker room and yet people wear them everywhere. I do not, and would not, support any banning of flip flops. But that doesn’t mean I think people should wear them. Please, stop wearing flip flops. Similarly, leave your gun at home. I don’t think open carry should be encouraged, but I think it should be generally lawful.

So that brings me to I-594. I-594 is not a litmus test for me. I think people can vote in good conscious for this measure without earning my ire. There are two questions that determine my answer to this initiative. The first is, will this do any good? The second is, is it worth the loss of freedom to transfer or sell a gun without a check?

I’m going to delve into the second question first. The answer is, I don’t think so. The burden on a person selling a gun is not substantial. TA quick search says the cost for this is generally less than $100 currently. The wait will be between 0 and 10 days, depending on the results. Generally the check happens instantly if a person doesn’t have issues that need to be dealt with. After 10 days, the sale/transfer can go through even if the background check hasn’t come back.

For the sellers, the burden is the cost. If the cost to purchase a gun goes up, people will buy fewer guns. Licensed gun dealers already factor this in, and they are doing just fine. Unlicensed gun dealers are basically free riding. Truly private sales/transfers between known people will be more inconvenient. I don’t see much more burden for doing this than registering a car though, and that is a pain in the ass, but it’s something we live with and accept. For purchasers, guns will be more expensive and there will be less reason to purchase privately and more reason to just use a licensed gun dealer in the first place. The only real burden is that people who are ineligible to purchase a gun will not have as large of a loophole to get one.

So, the first question: will this do any good? That’s much harder to answer. Few jurisdictions have had background check measures for long enough to have good data. And any changes aren’t going to be easy to measure given that people can and do work around them. If effective, background checks will be more effective when people can’t go to the next state over to purchase a gun without a check. Residents of Spokane can easily evade this because they are 30 minutes away from Idaho which doesn’t have background checks. All this makes it hard to know.

Additionally, if there’s any effect, it’s hard to see it because so many other things affect gun violence. Something might reduce gun violence by 5% but the economy goes south so crime in general goes up by 10%, which obscures the effect of the first. You can’t just look at the fact that gun violence in Colorado went up after they passed background checks in 1999. There are so many causes that extracting that information requires university-level studies.

The pro I-594 web site gives out some statistics, such as 39% fewer law enforcement officers murdered with a handgun in states with background check laws. The web site does not give the source for that. It also doesn’t say fewer than what, what the time frame is, how this was measured, what the confidence is, etc. The Officer Down Memorial page gives the stat that 39 police officers have died in 2014 due to gunfire. That tells me any measurement of law enforcement deaths in background check states is going to have a low sample size. Other measurements might not have that issue, but it’s really hard to tell given what the pro I-594 group posts.

I looked on JSTOR to see if I could find anything. Unfortunately, the only study I could find using background check as the key term wasn’t looking at background check efficiency. It looked used measures of background checks as a proxy for determining gun ownership and effects of that on suicide rates.

At the risk of falling into the trap of something must be done. this is something. therefore this must be done. I’m planning on voting for the measure. My gut feeling is that it will help reduce incidence of bad people having guns, but only slightly, given that people can work around it. I don’t have anything except gut feeling at this point, because actual numbers are so hard to come by. Sorry, pro-gun people, but keeping the government from funding these studies means I have to go with my gut. I hope a local university will actually study the effect and we can revisit the policy in 5 or 10 years. If it’s not working at that point, I’ll support dumping the law.

The argument that it’s a burden or infringing on rights doesn’t hold water with me. California has done this for decades and it’s not a gun free zone.

Washington Initiative Measure No. 591

Kicking off my 2014 General Election ballot is Initiative 591, which prohibits government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms without due process, and prohibits requiring background checks unless there’s a national requirement to do so.

This initiative is an easy no. We already can’t confiscate guns without due process. A person’s guns have more protection than their houses.

The real goal of the initiative is the second part. The proponents want to prevent background checks. Basically, they want people to be able to sell guns to felons and the mentally ill. Those are the people that background checks catch. Not that background checks catch everyone forbidden to have guns. But it doesn’t make sense to prohibit the checking completely.

Jesse James, half-length portrait, facing front, holding handgun in left hand at his waist
Jesse James, half-length portrait, facing front, holding handgun in left hand at his waist

We have another initiative on the ballot on background checks. I’ll post about that one next. In the meantime, remember that these people want to sell guns to known criminals, like Jesse James.

For King County Transportation District Proposition No. 1

This proposition pisses me off for two reasons. The first is that we have to even have to vote for it at all. The Washington State Legislature has failed for years to give King County the authority to fund Metro in a sustainable fashion. So now we’re stuck with two options: cut Metro service by huge amounts or use regressive sales and vehicle taxes to fund it. While the latter option sucks, it’s better than cutting bus service. The second reason is that we aren’t using 100% of the proceeds to pay for bus service. We’re using 40% of it for roads. Theoretically, road maintenance rather than construction. But still, Metro needs the money.

Metro bus on Rainier
Photo by Adam Fagen (CC By)

So here’s what happens if we pass it on the revenue side: a sales tax of 0.1% and $60 dollar vehicle tab fee ($20 more than current fees), with a $20 rebate for poor people. On the expense side: $80 million per year for Metro which will stave off cutting 5 dozen routes completely and reducing service on tens of others. $50 million goes toward maintaining roads and road safety.

The anti-proposition 1 side says Metro needs to cut costs first. Metro has already cut $130 million in annual costs. Really what these people are pissed about is that poor people who ride buses are getting a freebie. That’s what they think, that transit riders are getting a subsidy while respectable drivers aren’t etting one. Never mind that they already have huge road subsidies.

I have a car. I am happy to pay the $60, and I won’t get the subsidy. But I also ride the bus. Metro service is more convenient than driving much of the time, and necessary for many people. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions over driving. It reduces congestion for cars. There are all sorts of benefits from bus service. We need Metro. It’s as simple as that.

Vote YES on Proposition No. 1.

2013 Seattle Mayoral Race: Against Kate Martin

Kate Martin’s top priority for transportation is the following: Decongest bus and street car routes to improve reliability. The following blog post talks about how she intends to do that: Congestion Rx

Kate Martin
(Credit: King County voters’ pamphlet)

Do you see any solutions in that? I don’t. What I see is a cranky neighbor who’s mad that bus drivers are getting overtime. Please explain to me how reducing overtime will materially improve bus service.

She’s got a few other blog posts on transportation as well.

Less Road Rage, More Comprehensive Transportation Planning

Her solution to road rage? Take bikes off the roads and put them on “Greenways.” I love the idea in theory. In practice, this isn’t going to work for a number of reasons. First, Seattle’s geography means that there are number of choke points where bicycles and vehicles will have to share space. Second, given the realities of cranky car people, bicycle roads are going to be shunted to corridors that are a pain in the ass for bicyclists. Is she going to push to turn Roosevelt way or 15th Northwest from a car through-way to a bicycle through-way? I doubt it. Is she going to make it so that bicycle crossings have equal or higher priority at crossings with cars, or will it be like the Burke Gilman trail where every crossing means bicycles have to stop and wait for a cross-walk light? It’s going to be the latter, and that will make it impractical for bicyclists to commute on a greenway.

Regarding Sound Transit Planning for Lightrail to Ballard

Rather than extend Link to Ballard, Kate Martin wants to add a Sounder Commuter stop in West Ballard. Where those tracks go is nowhere near the population centers of Ballard, and people aren’t going to walk that far. This would mean that the station would need a large garage for Park-n-Riders. The train ride would also put commuters at the Amtrak station at the very south end of downtown. That makes sense for people commuting a long distance (the nearest stations are Longacres and Edmonds) where the distance to offices from the station, while a chunky amount, are but a fraction of the total commute. But for commuters from Ballard who need to get to Belltown or north downtown? They’re not going to want a walk that is as long as their train ride to downtown in the first place. A Link route with stops in Interbay, Ballard proper, Loyal Heights and Crown Hill is going to serve commuters a lot better than a Sounder stop.

Or take for instance her priority of “Rebuild the Seattle Police Department”. Here’s how she would do that: SPD: A Path Forward.

Yup, her main idea is to get a strong leader. Duh. Nothing about body cameras, or tracking race to see if the SPD is biased, or getting people who live in Seattle to be officers, or new training programs. Those are ideas from other candidates. They may or may not work, but they are pro-active ideas at least. Kate Martin? In her other blog post on crime wants to target “incivility”: Crime and public safety. What that amounts to is that she wants all the people that annoy and scare her out of downtown, the poor people, the homeless people, the crazy people. Then women will come downtown again!

Sorry Kate Martin, you are a no go for me. A good portion of your policy ideas are dog-whistle items for NIMBYists, not forward-thinking prescriptions for an urban city.