Today Crystal is joined by political consultant and friend of the show, Heather Weiner, to discuss the news of the week, including:
Jay Inslee’s new capital gains tax proposal and its prospects this legislative session
Deb Haaland, the first indigenous person to be appointed to run the Department of the Interior.
Jenny Durkan’s renewed focus on clearing out homeless encampments, against public health advice.
A full text transcript of the show is available below, and on the Hacks & Wonks blog at LINK.
Inslee unveils Washington budget proposal with taxes on capital gains and health insurers to fund COVID-19 recovery by Joseph O’Sullivan, The Seattle Times https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/inslee-unveils-washington-budget-proposal-with-taxes-on-capital-gains-and-health-insurers-to-fund-covid-19-recovery/
Interim Guidance on People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness from the Center for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/homeless-shelters/unsheltered-homelessness.html
Full Show Transcript:
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hacks and Wonks. I'm your host, Crystal Fincher. On this show, we talk with Policy Wonks and Political Hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work, with behind-the-scenes perspectives on politics in our state. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows, where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program friend of the show and today's co-host: local political consultant extraordinaire Heather Weiner.
Heather Weiner: [00:00:46] Hi Crystal! So nice to be here.
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:49] So excited to have you back on! And we have a lot to dive into and we will start with Governor Inslee's budget - and he is proposing new revenue - he's ready to tax the rich. Is everyone else ready? What are your thoughts on this development?
Heather Weiner: [00:01:06] Oh boy, I have so many thoughts on this development. So first of all, Governor Inslee is now in his third term. It does not look like he is going to be leaving to join the Biden administration, which some had been speculating on. The positions - and we'll talk about that a little bit more - about who is being picked for some key spots.
So Jay is here, and Jay is the Honey Badger of Governors right now. He is out there - he just rolled out a four days - exhausting everyone, including the press - as he, without any apparent fatigue, started just rolling out his plan for racial equity, his plans to combat climate change, his plans to help small business owners, and his plans to pay for it by taxing the rich ... finally. Crystal, you know - I don't know if your listeners do - that Washington is the worst in the country. We are #51, including DC. We are the worst in the country when it comes to taxing the poor and not taxing the rich. In other words, if you are a low-income person, 17% of your income likely goes to taxes. If you're a high-income person - and by high-income, I mean millionaire - likely somewhere around 3% of your income goes to state taxes. It's time we fix that. And Jay Inslee has proposed something that will help take us from worst to best.
Crystal Fincher: [00:02:29] Literally it will bring us to the best.
Heather Weiner: [00:02:35] Well, not single-handedly, but it's a plan to get there.
Crystal Fincher: [00:02:38] Gotcha. So what is he proposing?
Heather Weiner: [00:02:42] So Jay - I'm sorry, we're not on a first name basis - he doesn't ever call me up and say, Heather! So let me just say ... I wish he would though - call me anytime, Jay! So Governor Inslee has proposed something he's proposed in previous budgets - and that is to tax capital gains. Capital gains from the sales - large sales, windfalls - from the sales of stocks, bonds, other intangible type passive wealth - wealth that people make off of doing nothing other than just letting their money continue to sit there. This is not a tax on the sale of your house, the sale of your small business, anything like that - it doesn't apply to retirement funds. Just if you were a gazillionaire, like, I'm not going to name names, Jeff Bezos, and you are making millions and millions of dollars every day. You will then have to pay about 9% of your profit to the state to help pay for small business support, helping struggling families, and public health. And I think that's a great first step.
Crystal Fincher: [00:03:47] It seems like an excellent first step and something that, as you said, had been proposed before, but didn't progress through the session or have much of a strong push. This seems like the case is different this year. Do you think there's a chance in the legislature?
Heather Weiner: [00:04:04] Yeah, I do. I do. I think there's a big chance. And I'm going to tell you - I'm going to tell you why Crystal. Number one - we are in a huge economic hole right now in the state of Washington. You know, we still have a quarter of a million people laid off without work, small businesses - we've had 2,000 restaurants alone - just restaurants - close permanently here in Washington state. We're in tough shape right now and it doesn't look like it's going to get better in 2021, honestly, even with the vaccine. So we've got to do something and we've got to do something now. And so I think the pandemic is really lighting a fire underneath the shoes of our legislators.
The second thing that's happened is the elections. Although the makeup of the House and Senate haven't changed dramatically in Olympia, we are seeing a lot of new people coming in - freshmen who very much support progressive revenue - T'wina Nobles, one of your former clients, to name one - who are going to be out there advocating for it and a lot of the older legislators who've retired were still kind of stuck in the nineties. So I'm hopeful that that will work. This is - listen, capital gains is the very least that we can do - it is passive wealth. It only applies to the very, very wealthiest people here in Washington state. It is the least that we can do. There's a whole bunch of other things we can do - taxes on big corporations that have been making so many big profits off of, and during the pandemic, not to name any names, Amazon - and all different kinds of loopholes that we have been overlooking for the rich and the very wealthy for years at the expense of the health of our state. I'm psyched. I'm ready. I'm like, Go Jay, go.
Crystal Fincher: [00:05:49] I am ready also, especially on the heels of, as you referenced, so many loopholes and tax giveaways to some of the wealthiest corporations in the state with absolutely no accountability tied to it. We saw a record-breaking hundreds of billions of dollars given to Boeing with no jobs guarantee attached, and they just started laying people off and then announced that they're leaving town. If we can have no problems shoveling money to those with resources, how in this pandemic and emergency that we have, do we not show ourselves as eager to make sure that we're taking care of people - by taxing and just asking people to pay their fair share as they do to a greater degree in every other state. It just seems fairly basic, particularly in light of the fact that we're hearing that the congressional stimulus relief package is really disappointing, lackluster - probably does not include any bailout or help to local and state governments. So help that people even thought was coming in the midst of this emergency is not, and it really is up to us to provide for our own residents. And the only way we can do that is if everyone pays their fair share, and we don't continue asking those with the least to bear the greatest burden. So I'm excited. The House is saying that they believe they have the votes to pass this, which is really exciting. There's a number of new members in the House - I think they have a lot of new energy. I think that a lot of the new members on Finance are excited to push this through. And so it really looks like it's going to be a question about, is there the political will to do this in the Senate? I know a lot of people have that will - is it going to be enough? And I think that paying attention to where all of our Senators stand is going to be really important.
Heather Weiner: [00:08:02] Yeah. Agreed. For example, let's talk - well, last time I was here, we talked about Senator Mark Mullet and he is once again, a key vote out in Issaquah. This is the guy who last time has held up all kinds of things by sitting on these Senate committees and voting with Republicans. So I am hopeful that Senator Mullet is going to be changing his tune a little bit, or that the rest of the Senate Democratic leadership is going to be willing to override him and move forward. We'll see what happens. Again, this is a great first step I think Jay is doing - I'm sorry, Governor Inslee - is doing the right thing. Now it's up to the legislature to really find a progressive revenue package that again, takes Washington state from being worst in the nation to eventually - I think we should be the best. We've been the best on minimum wage, we've been the best on LGBTQ rights. We should be the best when it comes to revenue.
Crystal Fincher: [00:08:56] We should be the best and on so many other issues in other areas, we're leading the country in terms of policy and we're setting the standard with, as you said, minimum wage, with paid sick leave, with so many different things - and to be this behind on the revenue that funds everything else and makes those things more possible for more people, I would think that we would be more excited to get this going. So hopefully this is the year and hopefully people look around at the need, which is only going to increase in 2021, and they get on board. And I guess, kicking this off, obviously session is going to be starting in January - on January 11th. Is there anything else that you're keeping your eye on that looks like it's going to be a topic and going to have legislation moving forward in this session?
Heather Weiner: [00:09:49] So it's super interesting because the legislature is going to be doing a lot of their deliberation by Zoom online. I think the whole apple cart is going to be turned over. The first thing we're going to see is a lot of legislators wanting to do a lot more grandstanding because there's going to be a lot more people watching them, a lot more constituents who have the time and the access online to comment and to see what they're doing. At the same time, leaders have said that they want to limit their legislative work to focus on the pandemic and dealing with our budget crisis. So I think there's going to be some really interesting things happening. We see a little bit about police reform, a lot about racial equity work, a lot about the environment, moving forward. I don't know - I think a lot of those small bills, the little gifts to lobbyists that we often see, may not get through this year. So I don't know - we'll see what happens. I'm really excited, though, about the access for the public to watch the sausage being made and to hold their legislators accountable. And I think our legislators who are more social media savvy, like Joe Nguyen, for example, are just gonna, mmm, they are just gonna rock it. I think it's going to be a real fun time to watch. And since I'm not as excited about the Seahawks this year, unfortunately, this is my new sport that I'm going to be just yelling at the TV about.
Crystal Fincher: [00:11:08] Well, I will out myself as a 49ers fan - I'm a huge 49ers fan. I have been a 49ers fan for my entire life. So, you know, that's just too bad. We'll see what happens with the Seahawks - Russ looks a little challenged right now. I don't know what's going on with that, but I also will not talk about what's going on with the 49ers.
Heather Weiner: [00:11:30] Right, all right, right, right, right, I know. Someday Crystal, we're going to have a long podcast where we're just going to talk about women's basketball. Someday I'm going to suck you away from the NBA and into the WNBA where the basketball is just amazing. But we'll talk about that some other time.
Crystal Fincher: [00:11:44] I am on board. We can talk about that another time - I'm down to talk about the Storm - anytime, anywhere we go. But you know, I share your enthusiasm and excitement about this session, and the possibility for the public to engage to a greater degree than they have before, to participate without a lot of the barriers that we've seen before - because of the pandemic - the opportunity to be able to offer testimony remotely and to really standardize having all of this available, not just on TVW when you have to happen to tune in, but available via Zoom where the public can participate - where the legislators can see how many people are paying attention, and who is paying attention, and they know that eyes are on them in a way that they were not able to see or feel before. And I think, especially in light of the protests that started in the wake of George Floyd, and here locally, Manuel Ellis, and that have continued to now and continue still, there is a greater degree of interest and attention still being paid that I think is going to be fairly unprecedented. And that excites me.
Heather Weiner: [00:13:03] Yeah, it's fantastic - and as I've said to a couple of legislators, I hope that you keep the Zoom and public testimony, electronic public testimony, available. It certainly increases democracy and we've seen that with the Seattle City Council this year, where so many more people are able to testify when they weren't able to physically come down, both for income issues, work issues, and physical ability. So this is - I think it really improves democracy, I think it's great. Of course, I say that 'cause I usually agree with the people who are testifying - if it was a whole bunch of people that I disagreed with, I would say shut it down.
Crystal Fincher: [00:13:41] Well, I think what we see is - most of the public is representative of the people who don't set aside time and have the privilege and ability to do nothing but pay attention to those meetings and attend those meetings. And usually the people who do - have more resources, are members of majority populations and communities, and certainly do not face some of the same barriers and challenges that people who have been marginalized and who don't have the resources that they do. So that is most of us. And so when more of us - just regular people - and, you know, obviously I work in politics, I'm not really that regular, I'm a little weird - but for just the average person, they're more represented when we expand access. And that's really what we need to continue to do - I think being forced to do this through the pandemic has just really brought on so many accommodations and changes in process that should have happened a long time ago, and that we need to continue to explore - how we can expand this access and make it even more accessible to people.
With that, we can look at the Biden administration planning, and they're in the process of their transition. Certainly, Trump is still trying his little - literally coup - to defy the will of the people, and despite losing over 30 court battles, being turned away from courts at every level and the Supreme Court - thoroughly, handily, completely, he has lost the election and the electors have now voted. Biden is the President-elect. So he's moving forward, despite all the noise from everyone else. And he's moving forward with some particular picks for his cabinet that have a lot of people excited. You want to talk about that?
Heather Weiner: [00:15:53] Yeah - I'm so excited about the Department of Interior pick, which is Deb Haaland. Deb is a Native American woman from New Mexico. She was just elected in 2018, first Native American woman from that district to come in, and she has already just hit historic levels by being tapped to be the new Secretary of Interior.
Now I used to be a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for 10 years. My job was to lobby the Department of Interior specifically on environmental issues. And it always shocked me that they had a very large bureau that went almost unmonitored, called the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And the Bureau of Indian Affairs has wreaked havoc on Native American families and tribal governments for over a century. And here, finally, is a badass Native American woman, who is coming in to take over not just the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but the entire Department of Interior - and that includes Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service - it's just going to be - and the National Park Service. It's just going to be an amazing shift, both in representation and leadership, but also in the policy and direction for the Department of Interior. Go Deb Haaland - what an amazing feat - and kudos to Joe Biden for picking her. We had heard that Governor Jay Inslee - my beau, my boo - was considered for that appointment. Of course I was a little bit disappointed that he wasn't picked, but Deb Haaland, I'm going to give it 10 - 10 stars on that one. Great, great pick.
Crystal Fincher: [00:17:38] Great pick. And Biden is being universally lauded for that pick - a number of people have been lobbying for Haaland's appointment to that position for quite some time. And across the spectrum of Democratic leanings, she has been extraordinarily qualified. She has already set the course - one of her tweets on Thursday was, Hey, in four years, Trump failed Indian country and only broke more promises. It was exacerbated by the administration's failure to take this pandemic seriously - looking forward to turning the page on this dark chapter. So we are going to see a radical change from certainly this past administration, but also our past period. And hopefully this can start to right some of the wrongs, mend some of the broken trust, and really get to work on really moving forward - considering everybody's needs, and living up to the promises and the potential that we have when we all respect each other and move forward together.
Heather Weiner: [00:18:46] And, you know, when people say that elections don't matter, this is a great example of where elections do matter. That by having President-elect Biden in leadership - he is able to pick amazing people like Deb Haaland to dramatically change the on-the-ground daily lives of other human beings. And I think that that right there makes it worth, makes it worth the votes. You know, I'm not as thrilled with some of the other picks or I'm a little befuddled, shall we say, by some of the other picks, but this one's pretty good.
Crystal Fincher: [00:19:22] That one's pretty good. Also, another pick - Biden's pick to head the EPA, Michael Regan - from North Carolina, African-American man, who comes with a long history of accomplishments. But certainly, in terms of the environmental movement and policy and priorities, this pick has been involved in environmental justice movement, has been involved in the EPA for over a decade - really understands that this isn't just a niche concern as it had been viewed by some in the past, but this really impacts us all. Climate change is not affecting us in the future - our environmental priorities - air pollution, water pollution - is something that is impacting communities today. And that, especially, is impacting communities of color, low-income communities, to a greater degree than others. And understanding that that is as much a health issue, as it is a racial equity issue and a social justice issue, is something that he certainly understands and a lot of people are excited about that pick. Again, similarly, some thought that this could be a place where Jay Inslee could fit into this administration and were considering that. But if the pick isn't Governor Jay Inslee, then this certainly is a great alternative.
Heather Weiner: [00:20:54] And I do have to say that as much as you and I would have loved a little bit of the drama that would have come from Jay leaving, because then, of course, we would have the cascade of - then Bob Ferguson runs for Governor and then who runs for AG, and so on. Despite the fact that we're not going to have that tea to drink, we are going to, at least, have some stability and really focused leadership out of our executive branch. So I'm very excited about that.
Crystal Fincher: [00:21:21] Very excited about that too. And he's putting forward a budget that here, on the state level, I am digging, and I want to see passed and want to see him continue to push this forward. And he certainly has been a strong and steady hand in leading throughout the pandemic. You know, from the very beginning - and charting the course and putting Washington on more stable footing than most other states in the country, so we're still happy to have Jay here, and look forward to his leadership throughout this pandemic and meeting the needs of the people who need it most.
So speaking of leaders, that brings us to Mayor Durkan, who isn't viewed quite as magnanimously or positively as Governor Inslee. And so this week - we know that last week, Mayor Durkan announced that she will not be seeking re-election. And I don't know if she feels like that frees her up to do more of what she was trying to do before with no apologies. But this week she decided to proceed with evicting people who have no homes from Cal Anderson Park, even though there are no homes for them to go to. What do you think about that, Heather?
Heather Weiner: [00:22:46] I am heartbroken this morning - 10 people have been arrested already today - protesting the eviction of people who were living in tents in Cal Anderson. Look, I agree with everybody - it's not the thing I want to see in the middle of my park - is people - I don't like to see human suffering. I like to turn away and not look. But as human beings, we have to witness that this is what has happened with our massive wealth, inequality and housing crisis in Seattle. And here we have actual human beings who are living out in the cold, in the rain. They have nowhere to put their trash. They have nowhere to cook and they have chosen a safe place, which is a park in the middle of a very busy district next to a community college, next to Seattle U, next to a lot of businesses. So businesses started complaining about there being people living in the park there and today , SPU and then the Seattle Police Department went in and started clearing people out. And they were met with protesters, and the protesters were doing their thing and 10 of them have been arrested so far.
Look, I mean, City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda pointed out in an email today, and a statement today, that there is no housing - safe, COVID-safe housing available. No COVID-safe shelters, even - not even just talking about housing, but just daily shelters. There's no COVID-safe daily shelters available. Where are people supposed to go? And so they're just going to continue moving their stuff from place to place and in misery - why are we doing this? Why are we spending taxpayer money doing this? It boggles my mind and also boggles my mind that Durkan's not being held accountable for this. The story that the news media are talking about right now are blaming the protestors and blaming the people living in tents, instead of blaming this administration for not coming up with a solution - that means renting hotel rooms, opening up unused City buildings to make sure that there are places where people can safely get out of the rain and the cold.
Crystal Fincher: [00:24:59] It is infuriating. It's infuriating for a number of reasons. First and foremost, we need to acknowledge and understand that these sweeps are specifically recommended against by the CDC and by public health authorities, including King County Public Health, because in a pandemic, this increases the chance and exposure of people to COVID-19. And this is a population that is also specifically vulnerable, more vulnerable than average. They're an at-risk population for COVID-19 and now you're increasing the likelihood of them being exposed, and everyone involved in this effort - it is so deeply irresponsible from a public health perspective and flies in the face of guidance. So at a time when she's saying she wants people to do what's necessary to keep each other safe, it would be nice if she did that herself, and didn't defy the CDC in order to push out people from a place where, at least they have a stable place that they can call their own and they can sleep right now in the pandemic, and not push them out because some people get their feelings hurt and get riled up by having to see them, as if that is the offense and not that someone doesn't have a home - when, as you said, there are many, so many hotel rooms available. There are so many vacant spaces available. And in a time when we have the hospitality industry, in particular, asking us to help them because they're struggling - rooms aren't being rented - wow, this does seem like it makes sense - that this can meet a number of needs if we were to partner or procure those rooms for people who did not have a place to live. And this is also happening in the face of State Supreme Court ruling that says that you can't kick someone, you can't remove someone who does not have a home, from public property if there is nowhere for them to go. And that's what we're talking about here and what infuriates me about Durkan - one of the things that infuriates me about Durkan - is that her and her administration seemed to put so much effort into acting like they were solving the problem, and a public relations effort with a Navigation Team who wasn't obligated to offer real services, and who was actually working in tandem with police officers to sweep instead of spending that money and effort and time on actually just providing people with housing. And it's so frustrating and it's so upsetting and angering, that the focus is on people who are upset by visible poverty - as if just the threat to their idyllic vision that other people - "those people" - shouldn't be around here and I shouldn't be subjected to them is just maddening and against everything that we should be standing for. It's offensive - protestors were out there for the same reason - they're out there for other items that are unjust. This was an unjust, unwise, and unhealthy action, and I hope we see the end of these when Durkan leaves.
Heather Weiner: [00:28:40] Yeah. Well, let's see if people are gonna run, if somebody's gonna run on fixing homelessness, like she ran on in 2017 - that was her major issue. And in fact, I remember the Chamber of Commerce ads in support of her, specifically showed tents in parks and said if her opponent, Cary Moon, was going to win, there would be more tents in parks. Guess what? Durkan won. We see tents in every single park - and it's not because she's not being tough enough. It's because there is nowhere else for people to go. And when you tell people to go get a job, to get themselves "cleaned up", to deal with substance use disorder or other mental health issues - suddenly, we are in a chicken and egg scenario because there is no way for someone to get a job or to deal with mental health or substance use issues when they are just trying to survive in a cold wet tent.
Crystal Fincher: [00:29:41] Absolutely. So I - we will certainly be hearing more about this. There is certainly a lot of resistance to this effort and obviously, one of the reasons why Durkan is choosing not to run again is it looks unlikely that she would have been elected again, because she and her leadership and policies are unpopular with the majority of Seattle residents. So we'll continue to stay tuned.
I thank you for tuning in to Hacks and Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, December 18th, 2020. Our chief audio engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones, Jr. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler. And our wonderful co-host today was Seattle political consultant, Heather Weiner. Thanks for joining us, Heather.
Heather Weiner: [00:30:30] Oh, so nice to chat with you and I'm happy to come back on again soon.
Crystal Fincher: [00:30:35] Thank you. You can find Heather on Twitter at @hlweiner. And you can find me on Twitter at @finchfrii. And now you can follow Hacks and Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts - just type Hacks and Wonks into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe, to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in. We'll talk to you next time.