Value of agricultural production in Washington down slightly in 2016

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, agricultural production in Washington in 2016 had a total value of $10.630 billion (down from $10.719 billion in 2015). The top ten commodities by value were apples, milk, potatoes, cattle and calves, wheat, cherries, hay, hops, grapes, and pears. Together, their value accounted for 71.7 percent of the value of all agricultural production in the state.

Workers’ comp benefit costs are highest in Washington, for the eighth year running

Last week the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) released its annual report on workers’ compensation benefits, coverage, and costs across states. For 2015 (there’s a two-year lag), Washington’s benefit costs were $788.62 per covered worker. This was the highest in the country, followed by California ($751.70) and Alaska ($719.93).

New OSPI analysis of education bill’s tax and funding impacts

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has posted two new spreadsheets showing updated estimates of the impacts of EHB 2242, the education funding bill passed this year. They are both available here.

Workers’ comp rates could decrease next year

The Department of Labor and Industries is proposing that average workers’ compensation rates decrease by 2.5 percent in 2018. If the proposal is adopted in December, it will be the first average rate reduction since 2007. (Rates increased by an average of 0.7 percent in 2017 and 2 percent in 2016.)

An area of agreement between the State and plaintiffs in the McCleary case

On August 30, plaintiffs in the McCleary case submitted their post-budget filing to the Supreme Court, and four amicus briefs were filed by other groups. (I wrote about these filings here.)

New McCleary briefs argue Legislature’s fix doesn't go far enough

On Wednesday the plaintiffs in the McCleary case filed a response to the state’s post-2017 session report to the Court. Four other groups also filed briefs with the Court. None agreed with the state that it is now in compliance with the McCleary decision. 

The rise of bottled water (which is now subject to sales tax)

As part of the 2017–19 operating budget process, the Legislature enacted EHB 2163 to raise revenues by making several tax changes. That includes applying the sales tax to bottled water, which is estimated to increase revenues by $54.6 million in 2017–19.

A technical point about the regionalization factor that increases salary allocations for some school districts

In a Seattle Times column yesterday, Donna Gordon Blankinship asks, “Why can’t school funding be fair?” She argues, “The state needs ample enough funding — as the Washington Constitution requires — so every child has the same opportunity to succeed in life, no matter what ZIP code they live in.”

She uses Yakima as an example:

Red tape, delays contribute to the cost of housing

In a couple of stories yesterday, the Seattle Times writes about a proposal to tax nonresident buyers of Seattle real estate as a way to address the high price of Seattle housing. The Times reports that City Attorney Pete Holmes said such a tax would be illegal.

Will voters keep approving school levies?

Since at least the 1970s, when the state Supreme Court ruled on the precursor to the McCleary case, the use of maintenance and operations (M&O) levies has been limited to enhancements to basic education. In practice, they were sometimes used for basic education purposes, which was part of the problem identified in the McCleary decision. EHB 2242, the education funding bill enacted this year, renames them “enrichment levies” to better reflect their purpose.