Dec 18, 2021
Today on the show, fellow political consultant Heather Weiner joins Crystal to preview the players in the upcoming state legislative session - who’s stepping down, who’s getting appointed, who’s moving up in leadership positions - as well as a peek at next year’s elections with announcements that several incumbents are resigning (and one who changed their mind). They discuss Inslee’s supplemental budget announcement, an opportunity to address our upside-down tax system with a Wealth tax, and the need to fix the now-delayed WA Cares long-term care benefit system. Plus a reminder to get your booster!
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Find the host, Crystal on Twitter at @finchfrii, and find Heather at @hlweiner.
“Historic vote: County Council appoints Lovick and Donaghy to state legislature” by Mario Lotmore from Lynnwood Times: https://lynnwoodtimes.com/2021/12/16/44th-legislative-district-211216/
“Yasmin Trudeau appointed to represent 27th LD in Senate” by Aaron Kunkler from Washington State Wire: https://washingtonstatewire.com/yasmin-trudeau-appointed-represent-27th-ld-in-senate/
“State Rep. Vicki Kraft announces run for 3rd Congressional District” by Lauren Ellenbecker from The Columbian: https://www.columbian.com/news/2021/dec/01/state-rep-vicki-kraft-announces-run-for-3rd-congressional-district/
“Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers changes course, plans to continue in politics” by Troy Brynelson from Oregon Public Broadcasting: https://www.opb.org/article/2021/12/14/washington-state-sen-ann-rivers-changes-course-plans-to-continue-in-politics/
“Marko Liias chosen to chair the Washington State Senate’s Transportation Committee” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate: https://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog/2021/12/marko-liias-chosen-to-chair-the-washington-state-senates-transportation-committee.html
“Inslee’s 2022 budget highlights poverty, climate, salmon recovery and transportation investments” from the Governor’s Office: https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee%E2%80%99s-2022-budget-highlights-poverty-climate-salmon-recovery-and-transportation
“Q&A: Rep. Noel Frame on her Washington State Wealth Tax” by Michael Goldberg from Washington State Wire: https://washingtonstatewire.com/qa-rep-noel-frame-on-a-wealth-tax-for-washington-state/
DuckTales theme song: https://youtu.be/p1I2HqXIMRo
WA Cares Fund: https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/
“I didn’t think I would ever need WA Cares: I was wrong” by Dani Rice in The Spokesman Review: https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/dec/14/i-didnt-think-i-would-ever-need-wa-cares-i-was-wro/
“Inslee, Washington state Democrats discuss delaying WA Cares long-term care payroll tax” by Joseph O’Sullivan from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/inslee-washington-state-democrats-discuss-delaying-wa-cares-long-term-care-payroll-tax/
“As scientists race to gauge omicron threat, here’s what’s known and what isn’t” by Emily Anthes from The New York Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/as-scientists-race-to-gauge-omicron-threat-heres-whats-known-and-what-isnt/
Seattle & King County Public Health - COVID-19 Vaccine - Getting vaccinated in King County: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/vaccine/distribution.aspx
Washington State’s Vaccine Locator: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. 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. Welcome back to the program friend of the show and today's co-host, political consultant and urban farmer, Heather Weiner.
[00:00:51] Heather Weiner: Crystal Fincher, I'm so glad to see you! Good morning and so happy to be here, or afternoon depending...
[00:00:57] Crystal Fincher: So happy. Yeah, I mean, people hear this in the afternoon. It's early in the morning - it's quite early in the morning. I'm always fighting morning voice on these things, but I'm delighted to see you and have you back on the program. Welcome, welcome.
[00:01:10] Heather Weiner: I'm so glad to be here, and what a year it's been, and what a year it's going to be. I'm really excited about what we're going to talk about today. About Leg Session - what's happening next, who's retiring, who's getting moved up. We've got a lot of great things to talk about today.
[00:01:24] Crystal Fincher: We do have a lot of great things to talk about, so let's dive in. I mean, to your point, there's a lot of turnover. We have folks who were just appointed. We have Senator John Lovick in the 44th. We have new Representative Brandy Donaghy in the 44th. We also have Senator Yasmin Trudeau in the 27th. A number of appointments - I think people would generally be surprised about how frequently we actually do appoint legislators, who then go on to run for - to retain their seat after that.
[00:02:00] Heather Weiner: This is why people - this is the only real benefit of being a PCO within the Democrat - I mean, not real benefit, there's lots of benefits to being a PCO. But one of the great benefits of being a PCO is being able to appoint someone to fill an open seat. And that's what they did in LD44 - is they appointed John Lovick from Representative to Senator to fill Steve Hobbs' position. And then they nominated someone to fill his position. And the Snohomish County Council actually went against what the PCOs recommended and appointed Brandy Donaghy - who by the way is fantastic - she's a US Navy vet, she's a woman of color, she's amazing. But I've only seen this happen a couple of times where County Council will go against the recommendations of the PCOs and the legislative district. I think the last time I saw this happen was down in SeaTac when Mia Gregerson was appointed over the recommendations of the LD - and she's been great by the way.
[00:03:11] Crystal Fincher: She has been great and -
[00:03:13] Heather Weiner: Super interesting.
[00:03:13] Crystal Fincher: - that was in my legislative district, the 33rd. I remember -
[00:03:17] Heather Weiner: Oh, so you remember that?
[00:03:17] Crystal Fincher: Very well, yes, and was happy to support Mia in that meeting - and certainly was a contentious time in the 33rd legislative district. But PCOs, or Precinct Committee Officers - to your point - that is one of the most consequential and impactful duties that they have. In Seattle LDs, you frequently have 100+ active PCOs. In a number of the suburbs, you're talking about 30 people who are getting together to decide, just by a majority vote, who is going to be the next legislator when there is a vacancy. That's a very important role to play.
I've been involved in efforts to recruit and increase the number of PCOs, and how representative those PCOs are of their communities - and this is one of the biggest benefits that I consistently talk about is - Hey, you actually get to choose. We talk about all these elections and how important it is, but wow, sometimes you are one of 35 people who gets to choose who your next Representative or Senator is going to be, and there are plenty of close votes in those situations. PCOs pick three people to send to the County Council, and the County Council gets to pick one of those three. And to your point - usually, they pick the number one choice, but they don't have to and sometimes they don't.
[00:04:45] Heather Weiner: They don't have to. Sometimes they don't.
[00:04:47] Crystal Fincher: And now the 44th has a legislative delegation that is 100% Black.
[00:04:52] Heather Weiner: Which is fantastic. And we have a new person of color in our mostly white State Senate, which is also fantastic.
[00:05:02] Crystal Fincher: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:05:03] Heather Weiner: I mean, all of it is great. But it's very interesting to watch - again, I have not seen this happen very often. And I think it's a great - I don't know, it's a lot of internal politics going on - but again to your point, 90% of this is showing up, so if you're a PCO and you happen to show up for that meeting, you're one of 30 votes that is setting somebody into a seat that they may hold for decades.
[00:05:29] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. That they may hold for decades. And these days, I mean, we're talking about the turnover of one to two Senators. A vote composition change of one to two within the Democratic delegation makes the difference between progressive revenue or not - or that can impact policy just by switching one, two votes, one, two changes - particularly in the Senate. These are very, very consequential - and certainly we'll be talking about these new appointments, these new legislators - as we head further into the session -
[00:06:07] Heather Weiner: Well, welcome.
[00:06:07] Crystal Fincher: - which starts on January 10th.
[00:06:09] Heather Weiner: Yeah, welcome.
[00:06:09] Crystal Fincher: So yeah - I'm excited.
[00:06:10] Heather Weiner: Welcome Senator Trudeau, welcome Senator Lovick, welcome Representative Donaghy - you'll be hearing from us. And then -
[00:06:16] Crystal Fincher: Yes, absolutely.
[00:06:17] Heather Weiner: And then there's a bunch of people who are also retiring from the Senate. I mean, from the Legislature, right? Kirby just announced yesterday that he's not running.
[00:06:27] Crystal Fincher: Mm-hmm [affirmative], and that's in the 27th legislative district.
[00:06:29] Heather Weiner: Also in the 27th, which is -
[00:06:31] Crystal Fincher: South Tacoma, Lakewood, Spanaway. Certainly a big opportunity for people to run there - I know a lot of people were looking at Sharlett [Mena], who ran last time, be going "Hey! Are you still interested?"
[00:06:45] Heather Weiner: mm-hmm [
[00:06:45] Crystal Fincher: affirmative].
So that'll be interesting to follow and see who is interested in running for that open seat. Certainly David Frockt has announced that he's not running for re-election. Representative Javier Valdez has announced his intention to run for that seat, so he's running there leaving his seat open. And so Melissa Taylor is running for his seat, and she's got $50,000 in the bank and a number of endorsements. I'm working with her, full disclosure - but very excited about that race. And she is an absolute force to be reckoned with and has done so much work in the community that - I'm excited.
We also have Vicki Kraft down in the 17th legislative district, down in southwestern Washington who - that has been a purple district, with her winning by one to two percentage points in her last few races. She has announced that she's running for Congress against Jaime Herrera Beutler, leaving that seat open.
[00:07:52] Heather Weiner: So she basically - she is primarying -
[00:07:54] Crystal Fincher: mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:07:56] Heather Weiner: A Republican.
[00:07:57] Crystal Fincher: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:07:57] Heather Weiner: She's a very conservative Republican, who is primarying a conservative Republican, in my view. I think that's really interesting - it could actually end up flipping the seat, because if Kraft wins that primary, it really opens it up for a more moderate Democrat to take the seat. Because Kraft is much more aligned with the Trump right-wing of the Republican party.
[00:08:19] Crystal Fincher: I mean, she is - the disgraced former Representative Matt Shea, literally an extremist - Vicki Kraft introduced legislation to jail women and their doctors for having abortions or providing abortion services, denied coronavirus was a thing, denied climate change was a thing - really, really troubling - just the most extreme that there is. And so that's going to be really interesting - both to see how that Congressional race plays out, because there were a few challengers to Jaime Herrera Beutler from her right. And to see what opportunities that leaves for Democrats in that legislative district.
[00:09:10] Heather Weiner: Super interesting.
[00:09:11] Crystal Fincher: And I think it might get a little bit more slightly - we'll have to see what the district looks like post-redistricting, and get beyond these challenges to the redistricting maps that currently exist - but it's going to be real interesting to see how that shapes up. Lots of change, lots of turnover, lots of opportunity.
[00:09:35] Heather Weiner: But Crystal, what do you think it means that Ann Rivers just took back her resignation? So here's what she says - she said she was stepping down because she had a new job and that was going to take up most of her time in Longview. Now, all of a sudden she takes back - she goes "Oh, actually, I think I'll have enough time." What? Don't you think, I mean, let me just go ahead and project on here - did they take a look at the poll and realize that that seat would flip if it was open? And that as someone who's held the seat since 2010, as an incumbent, she's going to keep it? What happened? What really happened there? I don't think her job description changed.
[00:10:12] Crystal Fincher: Her job description definitely didn't change. I don't know what the polling shows in that district. I mean, certainly in many areas across the state things have become less beneficial for Republicans, but I also think that also given some - I mean, Republicans can't be feeling great within the state - nationally is a different story. But within the state, they aren't feeling that great - and so, some certainly are going to be departing. I'm wondering if she saw opportunities for increased power just within her caucus.
[00:10:50] Heather Weiner: Yeah, maybe somebody traded something to her.
[00:10:52] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.
[00:10:52] Heather Weiner: Well, she has three more years, right? She doesn't have to run.
[00:10:55] Crystal Fincher: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:10:55] Heather Weiner: She has three more years there, which also helps save the state Republican caucus quite a bit of money. I think - super interesting - I didn't know you could take back your resignation. It's not like you're breaking up with somebody and then say "Oh, I had a good sleep and I changed my mind."
[00:11:12] Crystal Fincher: Well, if you remember Pat Sullivan in the 47th legislative district - did that last -
[00:11:16] Heather Weiner: Well, that's true.
[00:11:18] Crystal Fincher: - cycle.
[00:11:18] Heather Weiner: But he stepped down because he was tired, and then I think he just realized he wasn't really that tired and came back. But here, her excuse was my job is going to take up too much time and then suddenly it's not taking up a lot of time. I don't know.
[00:11:31] Crystal Fincher: Suddenly it's not. Yeah, I -
[00:11:33] Heather Weiner: Seems fishy.
[00:11:34] Crystal Fincher: It is fishy, and also - wow, there are so many people who could take over. Certainly on the Democratic side we have plenty of conversations about - Hey, there should be space for new leaders within the party. Although, on the Republican side, this is a really interesting conversation, especially from folks coming from a left perspective, because a new Republican is probably one who is more extreme than the one who currently exists.
[00:12:06] Heather Weiner: Exactly, which is another reason why they didn't want Ann Rivers to -
[00:12:09] Crystal Fincher: Right.
[00:12:09] Heather Weiner: - right - step down? I mean, she represent - the 10th is a - right? That's where she's from? The 10th is a tough place for Republicans and it's another purple district.
Huh, all right. Well, let's talk about - there's so many things - it's a short session and they're going to try to put a whole bunch of things in there. Leadership has been changing also, as we're talking about elections. What's happening with the Democratic leadership?
[00:12:33] Crystal Fincher: Well, probably the headline leadership change is with the Chair of the Transportation Committee. Steve Hobbs, who had been the Chair and had been certainly a moderate, some would even say conservative Democratic member of the caucus, was appointed to be Secretary of State - which created an opening for, not just for someone taking his seat and Senator Lovick filling that role, but also a new Chair of the Senate Democratic Transportation Committee, which is a very consequential and very powerful position to be holding in the Legislature. Especially at this time, where there are a lot of resource coming in federally - probably the time where they're dealing with some of the biggest budget opportunities that are going to be coming their way, that have come their way - and as we talk about the vision for what our transportation focus should be looking forward. Are we going to focus on expanding highways and doing things that have a track record of not just increasing traffic, but also making our climate crisis worse? Or are we going to focus on really giving people choices about how they're able to navigate through our communities? Whether it's commuting to work, whether it's having an option to bike, whether it's having sidewalks in their neighborhoods so that they and their families can travel safely.
[00:14:06] Heather Weiner: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:14:07] Crystal Fincher: Right now there really is a crisis because there's a lack of choice in how people can get around. We default to making it very comfortable for folks and cars, which is going to continue to be necessary and I don't know that anyone is saying that it's not necessary, but up to a quarter of the people in this state rely, in some degree, on a non-car mode of transportation. Some don't have any choice on their ability to drive, be it because of disability or lack of mobility or just how their community is situated, and so what kinds of investments are we putting in that, what kinds of investments are we making in reducing the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions? These are all at stake, and so the new head of the Transportation Committee, Marko Liias, is now holding that seat. That was an appointment that was announced at the State Legislature.
[00:15:06] Heather Weiner: It's great news. That's great news - I mean, Marko is younger.
[00:15:13] Crystal Fincher: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:15:15] Heather Weiner: Definitely more urban focused, and also definitely more transportation and future transit focused, so I think it's great news. And I think that transportation advocates are probably breathing a sigh of relief - and happy -
[00:15:32] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.
[00:15:32] Heather Weiner: - to move forward. Because I mean, bless Steve Hobbs, he's got a lot of great things about him, but one thing was that he was definitely a roadblock to some of the more progressive things that the transit advocates wanted.
[00:15:44] Crystal Fincher: Yes. A roadblock and a road lover. [laughter] A road lover and expanding that - yeah.
[00:15:50] Heather Weiner: All right, there's your quote for Twitter. Well, I'm very excited about that and I'm really excited about what Inslee came out with in his supplemental budget announcement yesterday.
[00:16:01] Crystal Fincher: What did he come out with?
[00:16:02] Heather Weiner: He said, Look, the state is not out of the Covid crisis yet and we need to put more money back into the economy, and we also need to make sure that we are proposing significant funding to address poverty that - which means the child tax credit.
[00:16:21] Crystal Fincher: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:16:21] Heather Weiner: Which means, as you said, investing well over $160 million into more housing and resources, expanding K-12 learning, investing in the green economy - which means more jobs, but also helping to combat climate change, and of course his favorite, which is protecting salmon habitat. He even went out and had a press conference a couple days ago - out by a salmon stream. That - he also is talking about rebuilding the rainy day fund, and of course what's happening is the conservatives are wanting to use an anti-tax message to both attack the governor and to also shore up some of their swing folks in the next coming election. We're going to see a lot of fighting over - do we have the money to do all of these things? Why don't we cut taxes for people instead? Why are we raising taxes? It's going to be a really interesting discussion for the budget geeks out there over the next couple of days.
[00:17:30] Crystal Fincher: And I mean, next couple of days, weeks, months?
[00:17:35] Heather Weiner: Through April.
[00:17:35] Crystal Fincher: Yes, there's going to be a lot to continually talk about. One question I had, looking at a number of these proposals, are two issues in particular - the Wealth Tax, and might be most appropriate to say wealth taxes, and there're some different configurations of those. And then the longterm care payroll tax.
[00:18:00] Heather Weiner: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:18:01] Crystal Fincher: And that looking at a potential delay. What is happening with those?
[00:18:05] Heather Weiner: Well, first on the Wealth Tax, last year, or this year, the Legislature passed a modest tax on extraordinary profits that people, extraordinarily wealthy people, make when they sell their stocks and bonds on the stock market. They passed a small tax on that. That was the first step in fixing our upside down regressive tax system, and also raising half a billion dollars a year for childcare, early learning, and other things that we need to invest in - in education - but that's just the first step.
Our tax code is so regressive, and before we can start cutting sales taxes, cutting property taxes, providing more tax credits to people who are in the lower incomes - we have to make sure that we first know where that money's going to be coming from. And Noel Frame has been pushing for a Wealth Tax, which is on billionaires - people who have so much wealth that they're sitting on - that's sitting in bank accounts, it's sitting in third houses, it's sitting in off-shore accounts. People who are just hoarding this amount of money - it's not circulating through the economy - she is proposing to do a tax on that wealth. It's not an income tax, it's not a sales tax, it's a tax on the wealth that you're just sitting on - and to get it back into the economy, get it back into jobs, invest it back into businesses. Very excited about that - we know that Senator Warren, Senator Sanders have all been pushing on a Wealth Tax in Congress. I think we need to take the bull by the horns and do one here.
[00:19:48] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, and wow, the public support behind this has just been skyrocketing - north of 60%.
[00:19:53] Heather Weiner: Yes, and it is bipartisan. Yeah, it is a bipartisan support. Everybody agrees that the super wealthy need to be paying what they owe in taxes, that we need to stop them from dodging their responsibilities, and get more money into the hands of working people - so that we can pay our bills.
[00:20:14] Crystal Fincher: So we can pay our bills, and I think a lot of it has been - we used to hear a lot of rhetoric of, Well, we can't tax job creators. And then there was the recognition that wow, this money that's being hoarded isn't being used to create jobs. It isn't being used to do anything. These billionaires have so much money that they cannot spend this money. It is literally just sitting there collecting interest in amounts that are more than any of us are seeing in a lifetime.
[00:20:46] Heather Weiner: In a lifetime! In a lifetime! They're collecting more interest in a minute than any of us will be seeing in a lifetime. And what are they wasting it on? They're wasting it on frivolous rocket trips into - 30 second trips into space. I mean, they're not putting it back into the economy. And of course they do - people point to when Bezos, or Gates particularly, fund couple hundred million dollars in philanthropy projects - but those are one offs, and they're things that they control. They control the outcomes of that. The public doesn't control the outcomes of that. They get to choose where the money goes to and who the money goes to. Often that's inequitable, and often it doesn't actually work. And what we need is the public to be controlling that money and deciding where it goes. We are still a democracy, last I checked.
[00:21:36] Crystal Fincher: Particularly because the infrastructure that is funded by the public is what is enabling their wealth. It is not like they had nothing to do with it, but certainly it is not like they had everything to do with it. And that public investments, that subsidies - have not played a great role in their ability to grow and continue to profit in the amounts that they have been, while also creating challenges in communities. Seattle is a perfect example of the impact of massive growth and scale - from primarily Amazon, and that radically shifting the whole composition of our housing market, that completely directly impacting the homelessness and affordability problems that we're seeing. And then to not play a role, and to not pay their fair share in mitigating these issues, has been repeatedly found to be unacceptable.
[00:22:38] Heather Weiner: It's like a cartoon. It's like a cartoon that we used to watch as kids, where there's this greedy duck sitting on top of a huge pile of money and jewels, and just laughing but not being able to do anything with it, right? And pointing at everybody else while they're just working in the mine. I mean, I just made up that cartoon - I don't know if it actually exists - but that's the image that I have in my mind.
[00:22:58] Crystal Fincher: I mean, and now I'm picturing Scrooge McDuck, but -
[00:23:01] Heather Weiner: It's probably Scrooge McDuck - that's probably where I got that image from.
[00:23:04] Crystal Fincher: And also now I have the DuckTales theme song in my head, which -
[00:23:07] Heather Weiner: Well, how's it go?
[00:23:08] Crystal Fincher: It's one of the best theme songs ever created. Look, we do not need me singing -
[00:23:13] Heather Weiner: No, please, will you just sing it for one second?
[00:23:19] Crystal Fincher: <singing> Life is like a hurricane <singing> - what am I even doing? Okay, anyway -
[00:23:25] Heather Weiner: Use that mic for good, Crystal.
[00:23:27] Crystal Fincher: And it is not me singing, let's - let's put a period on that right now.
[00:23:32] Heather Weiner: All right, we have a couple more minutes, but let's talk about this really controversial, but really important, Long-term care - Washington Cares - that this tax. So Inslee is expected to announce today, along with the House and Senate leadership, that they're going to delay implementation of the payroll tax for a year while they figure out how to make some improvements to it. For people who are listening - you're shaking your head, Crystal, I'm not really sure why - are you still, you still got the Duck...
[00:24:04] Crystal Fincher: I'm just thinking about how the hell did I end up attempting to sing on my podcast. Anyway, go ahead, sorry. <laughter> But yes, it's a very important issue.
[00:24:18] Heather Weiner: Yeah, so let's remind people what Long-term care is. Long-term care - I'll give you a story - Dani, actual real woman, she's actually now Ms. Wheelchair USA of 2020 - 30 years old, has a son, goes in for a routine medical appointment, medical procedure - comes out paralyzed. Not expecting, of course, nobody expects to be paralyzed, but comes out paralyzed. She's going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Health insurance does not cover Long-term care, which is help around the house - so that she can pick up things, move, clean. Health insurance doesn't cover it. And Medicare, if she somehow was older, does not cover help around the house - or if you're elderly, if you're seriously injured, if you have long-term Covid - who's going to help make your meals? Who's going to help you get to appointments? Who is going to help you get dressed, go to the bathroom? Medicare and health insurance do not pay for that, so who does pay for it? Well, Medicaid does help with that in-home care, but in order to qualify for Medicaid, you have to sell everything - you have to have no assets.
[00:25:37] Crystal Fincher: Yes.
[00:25:37] Heather Weiner: Zero. You have to spend down.
[00:25:38] Crystal Fincher: You have to live in poverty. Yes.
[00:25:39] Heather Weiner: And at the age of 30, she and her husband don't have any - they're just starting to build a life, so she does not have access to this. WA Cares, the Long-term care payroll tax, would fund help for people like Dani, or people like - people's grandparents, me in 20 years - who need help around the house so that we don't have to go to a nursing home or rehab facility. Everybody pays into it, just like they do for Medicare, just like you do for Social Security - everybody pays a small amount from your paycheck. It goes into this fund, and then it's there when you need it. And 70% of us are going to need some kind of Long-term care at some point in our lives. 70% of us.
Controversy is - number one, somebody added, I'm not going to name names - somebody added an opt-out provision to it last year or the year before. That then, the Long-term care insurance industry then swooped into Washington state and told everybody that they didn't want to pay a payroll tax, a small payroll tax, that ends when you retire. Instead they want to pay thousands a year into a Long-term care insurance, which is often a scam, and that they have to continue paying and cannot miss one payment for the rest of their lives. So Long-term care insurance companies are in there now - and people got really upset because number one, now they know that they're being taxed. And number two, they can't buy Long-term care insurance because a lot of people have pre-existing conditions and so now they're not being able to buy it. People are upset, there's a lot of confusion - the Democrats and the Republicans are upset about this. So now they're going to delay it and see if they can make some fixes to it, and then restart it in a year - is my understanding. Now, what do you have to say, Crystal? I know, you're not very happy with this program.
[00:27:33] Crystal Fincher: I mean, I'm not very happy with how it ended up. I mean, it is absolutely a fact that we have a problem that has to be addressed. That the longer we do not address it, the more people are going to be needlessly suffering many of the same types of issues that we've been facing with healthcare. The private market has become predatory and is not serving peoples needs - it's not primarily concerned with taking care of people. It is primarily concerned with profit. And we have put safeguards in place for people during retirement - care in our state. We certainly have more healthcare choices, but we still don't have many options for people who find themselves unable to work because of a disability - who are in need of Long-term care, or who are not able to live independently for a variety of reasons. And especially, we're still in the middle of a pandemic - we have a lot of people suffering with long Covid. Disability is a fact of life for an increasing percentage of our population and we have to contend with that, but we make it - we basically tie disability to poverty. To your point - to be covered, someone has to basically have no assets and no income, and as soon as they do they stop qualifying for assistance.
[00:29:04] Heather Weiner: Yup.
[00:29:05] Crystal Fincher: And so what do we do? Are we allowing people to fall back into poverty? As we know and as we -
[00:29:11] Heather Weiner: Forcing them. Forcing them into poverty.
[00:29:14] Crystal Fincher: Yes, forcing them into poverty - and as we've seen, that hurts everyone. That doesn't just hurt the people who are directly involved - that weakens our communities, that affects our economy.
[00:29:24] Heather Weiner: And it actually affects the tax payers, because the tax payers - we as tax payers are responsible through Medicaid. We pay Apple Health, DSHS - we pay for this support. Either we pay for it for others, or we pay for it for ourselves - and that is what we're trying to do - is to shift that from being a Medicaid burden where people have to go into poverty, to where people have access to this.
[00:29:48] Crystal Fincher: Yes.
[00:29:49] Heather Weiner: Now -
[00:29:49] Crystal Fincher: So the need to fix it is there?
[00:29:51] Heather Weiner: Yes.
[00:29:51] Crystal Fincher: The challenge is as soon as they made this an opt-out situation.
[00:29:55] Heather Weiner: Yeah.
[00:29:56] Crystal Fincher: Insurance works because everyone pays in and then it takes care of the people who need it, but it takes everyone paying in in the first place. Otherwise it is untenable for a variety of situations. We went through this whole discussion with Obamacare - we understand how this works, we understand the necessity of it - and there are also a billion court challenges against it that were unsuccessful because this is how this works in society and it is beneficial for us all.
[00:30:28] Heather Weiner: Right. You are 100% right. Everybody has to pay into it or else it doesn't work.
[00:30:33] Crystal Fincher: Yes. And one, the policy choice to make it optional was a poor one, and really set this program up to fail - and all of the messaging against it that is disingenuous. And somehow as if it doesn't matter - and this messaging against it is, to be clear, funded by very conservative forces - big corporate forces who just want to maintain their ability to extract profits from people in healthcare crises. And in its current constitution, it's unworkable. It is a problem.
[00:31:16] Heather Weiner: Yeah.
[00:31:17] Crystal Fincher: And everyone has acknowledged that. There's a bipartisan acknowledgement that there is a problem. But I hope we also understand that there is an urgency to actually fix this problem and not just to sit there, as we heard so many people attempt to do in the healthcare conversations overall. Hey, everyone loves their insurance - when in fact no one loves dealing with insurance, right? And trying to paint the status quo as somehow okay, and that's why it's okay not to make any changes - when the status quo isn't working for anyone. We're having this conversation because the status quo is so incredibly broken.
[00:31:54] Heather Weiner: And there's so many people who are going to be - we're going to see a 40% increase in 2025, 2026 - in our Medicaid rolls if we do not deal with this, because so many boomers are becoming older and are going to need help. And so that means they're going to be filing for Medicaid for Long-term care, and who's going to be paying for that? We the tax payers are, so this needs to be fixed quickly and not delayed too long, because those people are going to need help.
[00:32:26] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. It has to be fixed. I just hope people see through all of the messaging of - everybody who is against everything just tries to call something a tax when - yes, we collectively pay for things that benefit us all, and it is much more expensive to not handle this in a way that reliably provides Long-term care for those who need it, and to try and place the burden on the individual. We've seen how poorly that has turned out with our healthcare system, we see how poorly it's turning out with the current way we handle Long-term care - and it's just unsustainable. That's the bottom line - what we're doing now is unsustainable.
[00:33:07] Heather Weiner: Yeah.
[00:33:07] Crystal Fincher: So I'm looking forward to a bipartisan fix to provide people with reliable, affordable Long-term care.
[00:33:17] Heather Weiner: Me too. I am too, and I just think about this woman, Dani, who went in for routine surgery and came out paralyzed - and she and her husband have been financially really struggling to figure out how to get her some help.
[00:33:30] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. Absolutely.
[00:33:30] Heather Weiner: And it could happen to you. It could happen to me.
[00:33:31] Crystal Fincher: It can happen. It can and will happen to many, if not most of us, so we better prepare for it. It's coming and we better make it possible for people to prepare for it, and not have it so expensive that it's inaccessible to people, and then we force people into poverty to access any kind of care.
[00:33:55] Heather Weiner: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:33:56] Crystal Fincher: It's bad. We've seen how bad that is in so many different scenarios. Let's not continue to go down this bad path.
On a different subject, I just want to encourage everyone to get boosted, number one. But I also feel like we need to continue to have this conversation about the need for Paid Time Off for employees - especially wage based employees, service employees - to have time to deal with the side effects that are part of vaccinations. This is what happens.
[00:34:28] Heather Weiner: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:34:30] Crystal Fincher: And as we see that we are so reliant on community vaccination and people getting this - that we have to understand that this - people are going to need a day or two to deal with their flu-like symptoms that result from the flu shot, from the Coronavirus booster, from all of these. And that people, when they're forced to make a choice between being able to come in for a shift and pay their rent, and somehow maybe fit in something that's going to make them sick, they're going to say look, my rent is coming whether or not I get boosted. I have to earn this money to pay my rent, to pay my bills. And we need to make sure that there is a way for them to continue to pay their bills and be healthy. And so that there is a responsibility that we all have to not just get boosted ourselves, but also to hold companies in our community responsible and accountable for allowing their employees to have time off to get this and to deal with this.
I am saying this because I personally know a number of people, there have been a number of stories about people who really are looking at the choice between being able to work and earn money versus fitting in a booster shot. And we need to make this not a hard decision for someone. People shouldn't have to chose between their bills or their health.
[00:36:04] Heather Weiner: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
[00:36:07] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. It is a challenge.
[00:36:12] Heather Weiner: Agreed. I'm looking at the time, my love.
[00:36:14] Crystal Fincher: Yup, and we are there. I appreciate everyone listening today to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, December 17th. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance from Shannon Cheng. And our wonderful co-host today is Seattle political consultant extraordinaire, Heather Weiner. You can find Heather on Twitter @hlweiner. That's H-L-W-E-I-N-E-R. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. And now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks & 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. While you're there leave a review, it really helps us out. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced to the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in. We'll talk to you next time.