The President-Elect and Vice President–Elect promise to restore civility and hope to the federal government. However, we should not expect miracles, especially with the likelihood of divided federal decision-making, between the President, the Senate, and the House, not to mention the Supreme Court. The political climate and the results of this week’s historic election underscore the need to establish progressive economic policy at the state level – the work in which EOI specializes.
Over the past two decades, with little federal help, Washington has succeeded in implementing some of the strongest worker protections in the nation. Together with many allies, we increased the minimum wage; won statewide paid sick days, and paid family and medical leave; increased health coverage through the Basic Health Plan; helped to pass Cascade Care, Washington’s public option; and broadened overtime protections to far more workers. Now we must double down on our efforts and develop and win progressive revenue to rebuild our economy and fund the services our state needs to make a strong recovery.
By raising new revenues and increasing investments in public services we can ensure that essential workers, including child care and agricultural workers, have health coverage; that we finally and fully fund public health; that child care is affordable, accessible, and well compensated; and that the opportunity of higher education is available to everyone. Our state needs to cover the pandemic/recession shortfall in regressive revenues like the sales tax, and invest another $5 billion for public services we need, both during this pandemic and after, to help all individuals and communities across our state thrive.
Luckily, the elections for the Washington State Legislature brought in a new group of energetic and eager lawmakers that more closely reflect the electorate to join the state’s more senior members. With record breaking representation for women and people of Color – four additional representatives of Color will be joining the State House of Representatives come January – altogether, 18 of the 58 Democrats will be representatives of color, while 34 of 58 will be women. In the state Senate, the split between Democrats and Republicans will remain the same, 28 to 21, with 8 of the 29 Democratic senators being people of Color, including the first Black state Senator in a decade, Twina Nobles.
Of course, Governor Inslee returns, and of great interest is the election of Mike Pellicciotti as State Treasurer, a very thoughtful advocate for establishing a public bank.
We should remember that good policy is not the monopoly of one party or another. In 1989, then freshman state senator Patty Murray successfully got groundbreaking family and medical leave passed through a Republican controlled Senate and then through the Democratic House. In 2017, a comprehensive and progressive paid family and medical leave program passed through the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Our task is to build the policy and the popular support to make sure that our senators and representatives have the political will to actually move progressive policy forward, including taxes on the very affluent to fund services for all the people of our state. While we may have a friendlier face in the White House, we know the responsibility for advancing good policy for the people of our state resides with us. Building our shared commonwealth is both an opportunity and a privilege. Let’s persist and prevail!
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