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December 6, 2013 at 2:02 PM

What state treasurer Jim McIntire’s study says about a $15 minimum wage

Jim McIntire, State Treasurer

James McIntire, State Treasurer

What is the likely effect of the rise in the minimum wage in SeaTac to $15, or some other increase? I was cleaning out my paper files preparatory to retirement, and under “Minimum Wage” was a study dated January 1991 from the University of Washington’s Northwest Policy Center. The principal investigator was James McIntire, who is now Washington state treasurer, the official responsible for floating state bond issues on Wall Street.

The study’s aim was to judge the effect of a 1968 state ballot measure that increased Washington’s minimum wage in two steps to $4.25 ($7.59 in today’s money) by January 1990. The effective minimum in Washington for most workers had been the federal minimum of $3.35.

This was a 27 percent increase over two years, which was fairly big, but less than half the 63 percent increase between the 2013 state minimum of $9.19 and the 2014 SeaTac minimum of $15.

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Comments | Topics: minimum wage

December 4, 2013 at 5:38 AM

Bruce Ramsey’s favorite columns, 2000-2012

pulitzerramsey20

On the eve of my retirement, Times Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley suggested I pick my favorites from the 342 columns I’ve written for The Times since 2000. Here are 10, with my own headlines:

1. “Games With Words,” April 12, 2000. This was my takedown of the World Trade Organization protesters, who used loopy logic to justify their disruption of an international conference.

2. “A Republican War,” April 9, 2003. I hated the Iraq war and wrote three columns against it before President Bush started it. This one was written while U.S. soldiers were on the way to Baghdad. In it, I predict that the conquest of Iraq would result in an electoral disaster for the Republicans in 2004. I was wrong; the disasters came in 2006 and 2008.

3. “Eight Parking Places at a Strip Club,” August 27, 2003

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Comments | Topics: 2013 elections, democrats, iraq war

November 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM

A low-carbon fuel standard for Washington state?

Michael Osbun / Tribune Media Services

Michael Osbun / Tribune Media Services

A representative of the oil refiners was talking to Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday about something called the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Washington doesn’t have a LCFS but California does, and the Golden State’s ideas tend to migrate here. And the oil refiners say the California experience is none too good so far.

The LCFS is explained to me as a rule that alcohol be mixed into gasoline or biodiesel into diesel to lower the percentage of carbon, because carbon heats the Earth. Upon hearing this I said, sure, I’d seen the sticker on the pump where I buy gas. The fuel contains up to 10 percent ethanol. No, no, they said; that’s the federal standard. We can satisfy that by mixing some stuff in. No problem with that. The LCFS is much more complicated.

California’s LCFS wants to know how much carbon was burned to create the ethanol or biodiesel. To calculate that, it wants to know what the feedstock was, how much energy it took to refine it and how far it was moved. This is particularly a problem with ethanol, said Kevin Adams of the Boston Consulting Group, which is working for the Western States Petroleum Association. It means that ethanol from corn, which is the sort of ethanol in the gasoline I buy, doesn’t help you enough. Too much carbon was burned to create it. 

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Comments | Topics: Energy

November 26, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Civil Disagreement: Washington Supreme Court on gun rights for an accused shooter

Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times Editorial Page. Here editorial writers Lynne K. Varner and Bruce Ramsey come down on opposite sides of a recent Washington Supreme Court ruling supporting state law forbidding guns to persons arrested for, but not yet convicted of, a gun crime.

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Comments | More in Civil Disagreement, Pro/con | Topics: crime, gun control, gun rights lobby

November 25, 2013 at 5:56 AM

Is a tree owner responsible for fallen leaves?

If your neighbor’s tree dumps leaves on your roof, who is responsible? You are. Cy Baumgartner (whose name felicitously means “tree gardener” in German) received that message Nov. 21 from King County District Judge Arthur Chapman. It was a happy note for Baumgartner, because the tree in the dock was his. He lives and works on Mercer…

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November 21, 2013 at 11:57 AM

In defense of Washington’s tax-advisory votes

(William Brown / Tribune Media Services)

(William Brown / Tribune Media Services)

Washington’s tax advisory votes, which were on the November ballot, are under attack in Olympia. The House Government Operations & Elections Committee is having a work session at 10 a.m., Nov. 22. The chairman of the committee is Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, a regular opponent of the activist who created those votes—Tim Eyman.

If I were testifying about the advisory votes, here is what I would say:

The votes were part—a minor part—of two state ballot initiatives sponsored by Eyman and passed overwhelmingly by the people of Washington: Initiative 960 and Initiative 1185. The major part of those initiatives was the requirement that raising taxes required a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature or a vote of the people. Some Democrats challenged the two-thirds rule at the Washington Supreme Court, and they won. The court said the rules for passing a tax increase are set out in the state constitution, and in Washington we can’t amend the constitution by initiative.

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November 15, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Kshama Sawant lead shows no need for campaign finance reform

The apparent victory of Kshama Sawant over incumbent Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin proves something other than that a socialist can win election in lefty Seattle. It also shows that Seattle Proposition 1, taxpayer financing of city council campaigns, was not necessary. It’s losing, narrowly, and that’s good. Taxpayers of Seattle, who are taxed heavily already,…

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Comments | Topics: campaigns, district elections, kshama sawant

November 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM

I liked those tax-advisory votes

(William Brown / Tribune Media Services)

(William Brown / Tribune Media Services)

I don’t share the media cynicism about the five tax-advisory questions the people of Washington voted on last week. Media folks are parroting politicians, and politicians have motives that are different from those of ordinary people.

It’s true that the advisory votes don’t determine anything. The tax is in effect already. If the people vote “Repeal,” the tax is not repealed.

Why have a vote, then? To tell the voter, who hasn’t been paying attention to this stuff, that there have been tax increases. How many people knew that there had been five such increases, or tax breaks erased, in the 2013 legislative session? Not one in 100 knew this. Three of the five changes were tiny taxes and four applied only to a few people. Still, they were increases that added up to hundreds of millions of dollars over 10 years, and the Voters Pamphlet told citizens about them.

“They made people think. How can that not be good?” says Tim Eyman. The advisory votes were last defined and put into law in Eyman’s Initiative 1185, which voters supported in 2012. The other part of 1185 was the rule that the Legislature required two-thirds of both houses to raise taxes, or a simple majority plus a vote of the people. The Washington Supreme Court nullified that part. The advisory votes are all that’s left of this measure to slow down tax increases.

Initiative 1185 includes a part of the Voter’s Pamphlet that lists the legislators and how they voted on tax increases. For example, in the 26th district, you could see that Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, and his challenger, Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, had voted “Yes” on the three little increases. They had voted “No” on the increase in the telephone tax, a fairly substantial increase that affected a lot of people. On the retroactive enactment of an estate tax, a big increase to a small group of people, Schlicher had voted “Yes” and Angel had voted “No.”

Was that worth knowing? Maybe it was, if you were in the 26th district.

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Comments | Topics: advisory votes, initiative 1185, taxes

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