OLYMPIA — A coalition of labor unions, church groups, social service workers and progressive organizations plan to bring thousands of protesters to the state capital next week for a series of escalating demonstrations against budget cuts.
They'll try to put pressure on state legislators, who are still struggling to write a general operating fund budget for 2011-13, to end some tax exemptions for businesses rather than cutting money for social services, health care and education.
They're calling it a Week of Action, although technically against what they contend is “an immoral budget”.
It will start Tuesday with what organizers say could be a few hundred people from the Olympia area by a group calling itself Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights.
On Wednesday a group calling itself the Alliance for a Just Society will be bringing people from around the state to Olympia to demand adequate funding for education and health care.
As part of the demonstrations, mental health care workers in Western Washington will stage a one-day strike on Thursday, not against their employers but against the state, which provides the bulk of their pay.
“We will come to Olympia to picket the Legislature,” Jonathan Rosenblum of Service Employees International Union 1199 said. Arrangements will be made with employers to provide adequate care for patients with acute medical needs. They'll be joined by home health care workers and some of their clients, and some church groups.
On Friday, the Washington State Labor Council, state employees unions and community activists will stage a demonstration that they say could bring as many as 6,000 to the Capitol for a rallly.
A common thread will be the demand that the Legislature consider closing some tax exemptions — the demonstrators prefer the term loopholes — for businesses. “Our economy was trashed by billionaires and bankers,” Greg Devereaux of the state employees union said. But the Legislature is going balance the budget by cutting programs for the poor and for students, he said.
Some leaders of the upcoming demonstrations suggested a few tax exemptions that should go — breaks for corporate jets or country club dues — but nothing that would come near closing the $5.1 billion gap between projected revenues and the cost of all current programs. Some said they wouldn't touch the state's biggest tax exemption, the lack of a sales tax on food and prescription drugs.
Ending tax exemptions would be difficult this year, legislators of both parties have said, because they are considered a tax increase and an initiative voters passed last November that requires a two-thirds majority for any tax increase.