WA State legislature proposes new revenues

Last week, state Senate leaders proposed a revenue plan that includes a temporary sales tax increase, as well as a permanent capital gains tax that would be dedicated to education funding. If passed in Olympia, the proposals will go to voters for approval. Solid Ground supports these revenue-generating bills through the advocacy of our Statewide Poverty Action Network.

New revenue proposals in the WA State legislature would raise taxes on investment income as well as temporarily increase sales tax. Funding the 2008 Working Families Tax Rebate will mitigate the impact of the sales tax increase on working class people.

The capital gains tax, HB 2563, affects only high-income earners because it taxes non-wage income, such as that gained from stocks and bonds. Its revenue is earmarked for education, including scholarships and grants for low-income and first-generation college students, educational support services and K-12 education.

While we support the temporary sales tax increase, we also know that is it regressive, which means that it affects low-income people more than it does high-income earners. The Working Families Tax Rebate (WFTR) offsets the sales tax increase by refunding a portion of our regressive state sales tax to over 350,000 families. In 2008, Poverty Action helped pass this rebate, but it has been languishing without funding since then.

The WFTR would allow our state to raise funds for programs that help thousands of residents meet their basic needs, while mitigating the effects of the sales tax increase on low-income communities.

Lawmakers need to hear from you today! Urge your Representatives and Senator to support HB 2563 to make education a priority, and support funding for the Working Families Tax Rebate to mitigate the effects of regressive tax measures on middle and low-income workers in Washington.

You can email them directly from Poverty Action’s website.

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Keeping Perspective after a Tough Election

(Editor’s Note: Marcy Bowers is the Membership and Communications Coordinator for the Statewide Poverty Action Network, a program of Solid Ground that works to build grassroots power to end the root causes of poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper.)

Volunteer canvassers in Tacoma

I confess. I’m an eternal optimist. I believe in crazy notions like “things will always get better,” and “there is always something gained, even when things go wrong.” I think this is what drove me to choose a career in organizing, what has kept me in this field for the past eight years, and what allows me to keep going in the face of devastating election losses.

This year in Washington, voters faced a record seven statewide ballot measures. Of those seven measures, three (I-1098, I-1053, and I-1107) will directly impact our state’s ability to balance the budget without making drastic cuts to the programs and services that people depend on to survive.

Reflecting a national wave of anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric, those three measures decidedly “went wrong:”

• I-1098 would have created a limited income tax on Washington’s wealthiest 1%, bringing in over $2 billion a year for healthcare and education. It failed, 65% to 35%.

• I-1053, this year’s Tim Eyman disaster, will require a two-thirds vote in the legislature or a vote of the people to raise taxes or close corporate tax loopholes. In this economy, this measure will surely mean more budget cuts. It passed, 65% to 35%

• I-1107 repealed a small tax on soda, bottled water, candy and gum that Poverty Action and other advocates passed during last year’s legislative session. These taxes would have brought in $300 million a year for schools, kids’ health care, domestic violence and sexual assault services, and many other basic services. It passed, 62% to 38%.

So, let’s get back to that optimism thing. How in the world can I possibly be optimistic when Washington is facing another $4.5 billion budget deficit and voters just repealed taxes and made it nearly impossible to raise revenue in 2011? How can I possibly be hopeful knowing that, as a result, Washington State is poised to be the first state to cut prescription drug benefits for people on Medicaid?

Canvassers' toolkit: clipboard and educational materials

To be honest, there’s not a lot of hope to be found if I only look at those daunting questions. For me, it’s about taking a wider view of election organizing and remembering that elections are only partly about the issues on the ballot. I became an organizer to help build political power in low-income communities, not just to pass or defeat ballot measures. The work of building political power is simply too big and too important to achieve in just one election season. It’s about the process of building trust and community, engaging new and infrequent voters, registering voters whose right to vote was recently restored, and talking to people about why their vote matters and how issues on the ballot will impact their communities.

Even with devastating election losses, I can still be proud of the work Poverty Action did this year to register over 1,200 new voters. I can still find hope in the knowledge that we reached out to 12,000 voters in low-income communities and communities of color and talked about the real impact of this year’s ballot measures on their communities. I will be encouraged when I remember that the building blocks to real political power are found in the countless conversations we had at transitional housing facilities, in food bank lines, and at resource fairs this summer and fall.

And those numbers and conversations matter. In a state where gubernatorial elections have been decided by just 133 votes (Gregoire in 2004), 1,200 newly registered voters, armed with knowledge and ownership of their role in state politics, can easily decide the outcome of future statewide elections in Washington. From my perspective, it’s hard to not feel optimistic about that!

Even Mr. Money Bags supports Yes on 1098

Even one of the most famous monopolists of all time supports taxing the wealthy in WA state to raise revenue to fund education and health care! Vote YES on 1098!

Political ads we like

Thanks to the Washington Bus, not every political ad is a pack of fear-mongering lies.

People who will pay for Yes on I-1098

Lots of folks who would be the hardest hit by the state income tax on high wage earners proposed in Initiative 1098 support the Initiative because of the way it would fund education and health care, as well as cut the taxes of most of the rest of us.

Bill Gates, Sr. supports I-1098

Poverty Action initiative endorsement: YES on 1098 & 52, NO on everything else

This year, there are a record number of issues, initiatives and measures on the ballot in Washington State. And ALL of them will impact our state’s investments in the health and wellbeing of our communities, particularly our low-income communities and communities of color.

hands in air "voting"Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network combed through all of the election information, researched what impact these ballot measures would have on our families, friends and neighbors, and came up with a list of endorsements. Solid Ground’s Board of Directors also endorsed these positions (with the exception of taking no action on I-1082 and Ref 52).

In short, Poverty Action urges you to vote YES on I-1098, APPROVE Referendum 52, and vote NO on everything else.

And here’s why:

VOTE YESVOTE YES ON I-1098 & REF. 52

I-1098 invests in Washington communities. Vote Yes
I-1098 would raise over $1 billion per year for health care and education by establishing a limited income tax on the wealthiest 3% of Washingtonians (individuals who make over $200,000/year or couples who make over $400,000/year).

Ref. 52 makes our schools safer and creates jobs. Vote Approve
Approving Referendum 52 means that our state can continue our commitment to making schools safer, saving energy and creating 30,000 new jobs.

VOTE NOVOTE NO ON EVERYTHING ELSE.

Big oil, big developers, big insurance and big banks have bankrolled these five dangerous initiatives that would cost Washington communities more than $1.2 billion.

I-1053 is Tim Eyman’s latest anti-tax disaster. Vote No
I-1053 would require a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature or voter approval for every tax increase, surely leading to more cuts to priorities like education, health care and other critical programs.

I-1107 would lead to further cuts to education and health care. Vote No
I-1107 would cut $300 million from our schools and kids by repealing a small tax on soda, bottled water, candy and gum.

I-1082 is bad for you and good for the private insurance industry. Vote No
I-1082 would privatize our workers’ compensation insurance system, which protects workers who are injured on the job. This would cost our state millions, drive up employer costs and prioritize corporate profits over workers’ health.

I-1100 & I-1105 put our jobs, education, health care and public safety at risk. Vote No
By privatizing the sale of hard liquor, I-1100 & I-1105 would strip $350 million each year from local schools, health care, police, firefighters, and alcohol and drug abuse programs, and lead to more underage drinking, drunk driving and alcohol-related crime.

Still have questions? Email vote@povertyaction.org and we can help you figure it out.

Want to help us spread the word about these ballot measures? Email volunteer@povertyaction.org and we’ll get you set up.

Why giving the rich a tax break will not work as a strategy to fight poverty!

The New York Times magazine ran a story about ‘the Charitable Giving Divide’ this weekend, validating what those of us who raise money for social causes know to be true — that the wealthy give a smaller percentage of their total income to charitable giving than do the poor. In fact, households making less than $25,000 a year gave 4.7% of their income to charity, while households making $75,000 a year or more gave away just 2.7% of their income! Community Chest card from MonopolySo while that 2.7% of a higher income might mean more actual dollars than the 4.7% of a lower income, it also means that as a percentage of their income, wealthy households give less than low-income households. At a time when poverty rates are rising, we need more resources to meet the great needs of our community.

So while I applaud Bill Gates’ commitment to give half his wealth away, I hope that this will not be used as proof or evidence in support of extending tax cuts for the wealthy. Giving the wealthy tax cuts clearly does not mean that they will turn around and donate these funds. And when they do donate, we also know that it often does not go to those in the most need:  “instead it was mostly directed to other causes — cultural institutions, for example, or their alma maters…”.

Why do the wealthy give less and the poor give more (as a percentage of their overall income)? Paul Kiff from the University of California at Berkeley found in a study that he conducted “that if higher-income people were instructed to imagine themselves as lower class, they became more charitable. If they were primed by, say, watching a sympathy-eliciting video, they became more helpful to others — so much so, in fact, that the difference between their behavior and that of the low-income subjects disappeared. And fascinatingly, the inverse was true as well: when lower-income people were led to think of themselves as upper class, they actually became less altruistic.”

Hmm? So we all should go out and make ‘sympathy-eliciting’ videos in order to fight poverty? Sure let’s do that, but I would also encourage a few more actions as we head into this next school year!

1) Advocate for NOT extending the tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s clear that these tax cuts do not mean that there will be more resources for those living in poverty.

2) Give more yourself! If folks making less than $25,00o a year are giving 4.7% of their income to charity, clearly those of us making more than that can at the very least match that! For example, I have made a personal commitment to give at least 5% of my income to charity each year (I usually give about 8% but commit to no less than 5%).

3) Teach young people about giving and the importance of giving. Check out the program I direct, Penny Harvest. Your child’s school can participate in this youth philanthropy and service learning program.

4) Volunteering is much more powerful than ‘sympathy-eliciting’ videos. Check out volunteer opportunities with Solid Ground, or get your workplace involved in United Way’s Day of Caring.

5) Share this article with friends and family, and encourage them to commit 5% of their income to charity!

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