Denny on the Issues
Meeting the Challenge of COVID-19
COVID-19 is the greatest challenge our state has faced in my memory. It has caused immense suffering – thousands seriously ill or dead; hundreds of thousands out of work, and millions dealing with disruption of life, separation from loved ones, and the burden of an unknown future. There can be no higher priority for state action:
- Continue following scientific guidance in requiring masks and social distancing, including restricting indoor gatherings where the virus is likely to spread. Other countries have shown that we can return kids to school and reopen businesses if we first successfully suppress the virus. We can do that – other countries have – with these tools.
- These restrictions and fear of the virus are causing significant economic damage. We must provide assistance to everyone affected to ensure that nobody loses their home or has to go without food or healthcare while we work together to get through this. Right now, I am especially concerned about evictions and I believe we must do far more to assist renters. It is also essential to continue the expanded unemployment insurance program to provide targeted assistance at all of those who have lost work.
- The loss of in-person school days poses significant hardship for parents and will almost certainly harm learning outcomes for students. As we have success suppressing the virus, we should adjust our priorities to focus more on schools. In the meatime, we must finance childcare resources for parents so they can return to work.
- Continue to provide free Covid-19 testing sites and medical care, with a focus on communities who have been hit hardest by the virus.
- Save small businesses.
A Healthy Environment
As we navigate the current COVID-19 crisis, we must also continue to address our climate crisis. We have a responsibility at the state level to ensure we are doing everything we can to combat the climate crisis and keep our communities healthy. This includes doing the following:
- Pass a progressive Clean Fuel Standard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, especially in our low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by the negative impacts of pollution and climate change.
- Expand funding for unionized green job training.
- Focus efforts to restore the health of the Puget Sound.
We are experiencing the most significant amount of social unrest in recent memory, and it is clear we have an issue with policing in this country. That’s why I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of the landmark Justice in Policing Act which will usher in a new era of accountability and transparency at the federal level. Here at the state level we must:
- Provide additional funding for departments to hire mental health crisis response teams.
- Limit funding available to departments to spend on military grade equipment.
- Require the use of independent investigations into officer involved deaths.
- Ban the use of the techniques which led to the death of George Floyd.
- Ban the use of tear gas.
Fixing our Broken Tax System
Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the entire country. To put this in perspective, those in the lowest tax bracket end up paying 17% or more of their income in taxes, while the richest pay 3% or less. As a state we are reliant on sales taxes which disproportionately impacts low-income communities. In order for us to have a fairer more progressive tax system, we must do the following:
- Close tax loopholes that give unfair advantages to already wealthy corporations over working people and small businesses.
- Identify and end state level pre-emptions that limit local city and county control over taxation.
- Pass the Working Families Tax Credit, to put more money in the hands of the working families who need it most.
- Institute a capital gains and other progressive revenue sources while decreasing property and sales taxes.
More Affordable Housing
All across the state – not just in Seattle – cities are seeing rising housing costs and increased homeless populations. These two are directly linked. The simple fact is that we have far too few homes for all of the people who want to live and work in our beautiful state, so the prices of the homes that exist get bid up higher and higher, and those who can’t afford them end up on the streets. The solution is simple: significantly increase construction, especially near transit lines, and require affordable housing as part of the new construction. In the meantime, we need to protect those who have housing but are under financial stress. There are several actions we should take:
- Expand property tax exemptions for Seniors and those on fixed-incomes.
- Enact renters’ protections, including Good Cause eviction protection.
- Modify the Growth Management Act to require zoning for increased density along train and bus lines
- Encourage zoning changes to allow accessory dwelling units and construction of multi-unit buildings.
- Implement inclusionary zoning to require affordable housing units be constructed as part of any large development.
Providing Health Care to Everyone
Health care is one of the basic needs of life. Every wealthy nation has the means to ensure that
all of their citizens have access to affordable health care, but America alone fails to ensure that
everyone actually receives this. It’s a tragedy and a moral outrage. But it’s one we can end
whenever we choose. Washington has the tools to ensure that everyone within its borders can
afford to receive care whenever they need to.
- We need to push Apple Health further and roll out the public option.
- We need to end surprise billing that evades the insurance rules set out to protect
- We need to learn the lesson of the pandemic and rebuild our threadbare public health
- And we need to much better integrate health care into housing services, into the criminal
justice system and into schools and colleges.