The upcoming special session in Olympia will focus on the state budget – but voters (and our tax dollars!) would get a lot more value out of it if legislators put an equal amount of time and effort into creating quality jobs with lasting value for local communities. And Washington legislators have lots of options for doing just that, as the National Employment Law Project helpfully points out in their latest report:
- In Michigan, improved public transit freed up nearly $350 million in discretionary spending for public transit riders in 2008, yielding $1.46 of economic value for each dollar spent on transit services.
- In California, clean energy standards require as much as 33 percent of energy to come from renewable sources within the next decade, which reduces energy costs and drives job creation in alternative energy industries. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently have similar policies, known as Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
- In 2011, New York became the first state to incorporate living wages into its state Medicaid home care program as part of a comprehensive initiative to modernize the program and improve the jobs while controlling costs through new policies aimed at cracking down on questionable billing of the program by certain providers.
- In Las Vegas, a new “bus rapid transit” (BRT) system is anticipated to create nearly 500 new jobs, shorten commutes and increase job access for more than 60,000 local residents – yielding $31 million in savings from reduced accidents and property damage along new BRT routes.
- In Portland, an initiative to upgrade home energy efficiency using a federal grant is paying median wages of $18.00 per hour, drawing on firms that are 100 percent Oregon-based and nearly 30 percent minority- or women-owned. A similar statewide initiative is now underway to upgrade 6,000 homes over the next three years and create or retain 1,300 jobs.
- In the past several years, states as diverse as Texas, Illinois, New York, Washington, Maryland, New Mexico, and cities and counties such as Miami-Dade County, FL, Denver, CO, Fayetteville, AR, and Seattle, WA have made efforts to fight wage theft, which deprives workers and local economies of millions of dollars on a weekly basis.
- More than 140 cities and one state—Maryland—have adopted living wage standards for businesses performing government contracts. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have set minimum wage rates above the federal level of $7.25 per hour, and 10 states increase their rates annually to keep pace with inflation. [Ed: Washington is one of those 10 states.]
- Currently, 23 states have work-sharing programs, which, according to the Department of Labor, saved 265,000 jobs between 2009 and 2010. [Ed: Washington is one of those 23 states.]