YAKIMA, Wash. – A group of workers met with Gov. Jay Inslee here today to tell him about the challenges of living on minimum wage and their feeling that Washington’s economic recovery is leaving them behind.
“We’re working and working and we can barely make it,” Paula Zambrano told Inslee. Zambrano works at a fruit company in Yakima.
Inslee and the workers met for an informal brown bag discussion at the Opportunities Industrialization Center, a nonprofit that provides job training, education and social services to the area’s underemployed and unemployed.
The governor outlined proposals to make Washington’s economy work for everyone. That includes raising the minimum wage and requiring paid sick and safe leave for workers, as passed by the state House of Representatives Tuesday. The governor also highlighted the Working Families tax rebate that would be funded under his budget proposal.
The Working Families tax rebate helps working families throughout Washington who find it difficult to make ends meet. The program creates an additional tax credit for families, based on the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which has been highly successful in providing relief to working families and moving those families out of poverty and into the middle class.
If funded by the Legislature, the Working Families tax rebate would provide a rebate to more than 500,000 families throughout Washington with an average benefit of $223.
In Yakima, 22 percent of households would be eligible for the program, with an average rebate of $234. It’s estimated that the rebates would infuse $3 million in the local community.
The Working Families tax rebate would help make Washington’s tax system, now the nation’s most regressive, a little fairer.
Inslee has also proposed a capital gains tax that would be applied only to the wealthiest Washingtonians, who represent less than 1 percent of state taxpayers.
“Our state’s tax system relies on those with the least ability to pay to keep our revenue flowing. It relies on many of you,’’ Inslee said.
While the conversation focused on Central Washington, Inslee pointed out to the group that many around the state are struggling.
The Working Families tax credit was passed by the Legislature in 2008 but has never been funded. Inslee proposes funding it through proceeds from his proposed Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, which would create a charge on carbon emitted by the state’s largest polluters.
Steve Mitchell, executive director of the Opportunities Industrialization Center, said that while the amount of the rebate may not sound like a lot, “it means the world to a family who has to feed their children or make a payment for medical care.”
Mitchell said raising the minimum wage wouldn’t address all the challenges of providing for a family, “including rent they pay, cost of transportation to and from work, child care, paying bills or most importantly, putting food on the table. But it would enable those families to better deal with all the issues they face.”
Inslee’s meeting with workers was part of a day-long visit to Central Washington. He also toured a licensed family home child care facility and convened an early learning roundtable at Excel High School in Yakima. This afternoon he is scheduled to meet with Central Washington University students in Ellensburg for an informal discussion about the state’s higher education system and keeping college affordable.