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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: increase

Unemployment checks: adding $45 a week is on fast track through the capitol…

With unemployment levels nationwide at the highest rates since 1992, Washington’s House of Representatives on Friday voted to temporarily boost benefits for jobless workers by $45 a week.

“An extra 45 bucks can mean a meal’s on the table for the kids,” said Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla.

The House overwhelmingly approved the plan, 91 to 2. All local lawmakers voted for it, except Rep. John Driscoll, one of four House members excused from the Friday session.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said she expects the Senate to approve the same plan next week. Gov. Gregoire is expected to quickly sign it into law.

“Our understanding is that if we’re able to get this to the governor’s desk by Feb. 16th, that the benefit increase could start in May for unemployed workers,” Brown said. It would last through Jan. 3, 2010.

National unemployment stands at 7.6 percent, up nearly half a percent from last month. Washington’s jobless rate last month was 7.1 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Spokane, it was 7.4 percent.

“Behind all these numbers are real people, and they need help,” Chopp, D-Seattle, told reporters Friday at the capitol.

Current unemployment insurance benefits in Washington range from $129 a week to $541. The state pays those benefits for up to 26 weeks; federal emergency aid can extend payments for up 

Anti-smoking advocates call for a $1-a-pack tax hike on cigarettes…

The American Heart Association, cancer society, and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids are calling for $1-a-pack tax hike on cigarettes, saying that less smoking saves the state a lot of money on health costs.

“It’s not about revenue, it’s about health savings,” state Sen. Rodney Tom said in a press release minutes ago. Tom, D-Medina, today introduced Senate Bill 5626.

“The societal cost of a pack of cigarettes is over $15,” he said. “So we’re subsidizing smoking.”

Washington already charges a fifth-highest-in-the-nation cigarette tax of $20.25 a carton, plus sales tax. This would add $10 per carton to that.

Tom’s bill would steer the additional money into anti-tobacco programs, the state’s general fund, a water quality fund, a violence-reduction and drug-enforcement account, a fund for schools, and anything left over would go to the state’s health services account.

Proponents say the changes would mean nearly $100 million a year in new taxes and would reduce smoking.

 

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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