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Push is on to tax the super rich and legalize jaywalking

It’s Day 36. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 Washington Legislature

2023 Washington Legislature, Day 36 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 13, 2023 — Happy Monday. We’ve got a holiday tomorrow and a legislative cut-off come Friday. That’s a recipe for a few broken hearts.

Valentines Day will begin with an early morning show of love for taxing the super wealthy. It will come in the form of an 8 a.m. hearing on House Bill 1473 in the House Finance Committee. There’s yet to be as much love given the companion Senate bill.

The proposal would treat stocks, bonds and other financial assets as property, and impose a 1% tax on that property. The first $250 million of assessed value would be exempt. Proceeds would be funneled into education, housing, disability services and tax credits for working families.

A lot of Democrats love this wealth tax. Forty-three in the House and 19 in the Senate signed on as sponsors. Republicans are not enamored with it at all. And this idea didn’t pass muster with the bipartisan Joint Tax Structure Work Group tasked with exploring ways to make the state’s tax system fairer for all.

Will this legislation get to the governor’s desk? Probably not this session. Will it get to the floor in either chamber? Possibly.

If you plan to tune in Tuesday, 21 people signed up to testify in support as of this morning. Two people, one of whom is Tim Eyman, want to speak against the bill.

A lot of empty beds

References to nursing shortages get tossed around freely this session. Here’s a factoid revealing how significant it is in one arena.

As my colleague Joy Borkholder writes in this article today, about 6,800 of the 19,386 licensed beds in skilled nursing facilities in Washington sat empty as of June 2022. That’s roughly one of every three beds.

A lack of money is a big problem. There’s not enough to recruit and retain qualified staff. Ways to bolster the ranks of nurses and fill more licensed beds with patients are the subject of several bills this session. One of those, Senate Bill 5526, would increase the Medicaid rate that the state pays to skilled nursing facilities, and require it be adjusted annually for inflation. As constructed, more dollars would flow to workers throughout facilities, not just nurses.

“Often times nursing homes are having empty beds not because there’s not people to fill them, but because they don’t have the staff work them,” Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, the bill’s sponsor said at a hearing last week.

The Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee is slated to vote on the bill Tuesday.

In praise of jaywalking

Many of us have probably darted across a street illegally at some point in our lives. We look both ways for a cop before walking against a red light or sprinting to the other side mid-block when we see no bikes, cars or other vehicles coming.

The rules could change in Washington. A bill making jaywalking legal gets an airing today at 4 p.m. in the Senate Transportation Committee.

It’s a complex conversation. Supporters argue Blacks and people who were poor or homeless get cited most for jaywalking. Those interactions with law enforcement don’t always go without incident. Opponents contend more people will be hurt if the laws go away.

NW News Network’s Tom Banse delves into the debate with his coverage of last week’s hearing on the companion House bill. It offers a good preview of what to expect today.

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