Olympia, WA — At a hearing today of the Washington State Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, the actuarial firm Mathematica Policy Research will present a new study showing that Washington state could cut health care costs from $300 million to $800 million and boost economic activity anywhere between $370 million to $1.6 billion from a range of comprehensive health care reform initiatives proposed last year by state lawmakers.
Set against the backdrop of devastating budget shortfalls in states and households across the country, the report bolsters the case for national and state health care reform playing a central role in ongoing economic recovery efforts.
Washington State minimum wage workers got a raise January 1st to $8.55
per hour -- now the highest minimum wage in the country. Like nine
other states, Washington automatically increases its minimum wage each
year at the rate of inflation to make sure families don't face a de facto pay
cut as rising costs eat into family budgets. Because the federal
minimum wage is not indexed to inflation in this way, we have seen a
decline in its value from $9.34 in inflation-adjusted dollars down to
just $6.55 per hour this past year. This trend highlights why state
efforts to index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation are so
With legislative sessions getting underway around the country, this
Dispatch provides a list of key bills and policies that we encourage
legislators to consider introducing. While not exhaustive of the range
of needed reforms in states, they emphasize initiatives of strategic
importance that are being considered in multiple states. Working with
our various partners, Progressive States Network is providing staff
support for these policies and will work to use movement in multiple
states to generate national media and attention. This in turn will
create greater momentum to assist individual states in pushing bills to
passage. The following is a quick checklist of key policies with links
to model legislation and policy summaries.
Direct democracy through popular intiatives and referenda began a
century ago as a grassroots, progressive reform aimed at circumventing
corrupt legislatures and increasing civic involvement. The long history of this reform
indicates that in the whole this experiment in direct popular
participation in the legislative process has been successful as an
avenue for passing populist policies that maintains the favor of
the public over time. However, throughout this history there have
also been attempts, sometimes successful, to manipulate the process and
the electorate into passing legislation that would not garner majority
support had voters possessed an accurate conception of its content and
This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will
appear on state ballots across the country this November. Whether it's
workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health
care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an
The benefits of a post-secondary degree are plentiful. For example, an employee with a four year college degree earns 60 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma. Paying for college, however, has become a daunting task and strain for many American students and families. The cost of higher education across the country is rapidly increasing, at almost double the rate of inflation, outpacing increases in financial aid and many families ability to pay. The combination of these factors result in too many students being unable to earn or complete their degrees due to financial constraints.
The federal Department of Veterans Affairs for months has been
embroiled in a controversy over its prohibition on voter registration
drives in veterans' facilities. Now 10 Secretaries of State and the
Attorney General of Connecticut have stepped into the maelstrom, demanding that the VA reverse its policy.
Late last month, Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal attempted to register voters at the
Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven. They were prevented by staff
from registering voters inside the facility, but they were able to
register a dozen veterans as they were leaving. One newly registered
voter is 92-year-old WWII veteran Martin Onieal.
Even with many states having short sessions, the 2008 state legislative
sessions have already had some impressive milestone victories for
families and communities across the country. This Dispatch
covers a few of the key issue victories this year -- and points out
that states are still taking the lead on issue after issue. Most of
the bills highlighted became law, while a few, falling short of final
passage, were innovative enough and showed enough movement to promise
greater things for 2009.