OLYMPIA, Wash. - They've been cold, wet and weary, but after five days and 50 miles, participants in "The People's Walk" say if they get Washington state lawmakers' attention, it was worth the effort. Labor groups, students, social justice advocates and others trekked from Auburn to Olympia on foot. Tax Day weekend was chosen because it's when everyone is required to pay their share of taxes.
Jeff Johnson, a walker who is president of the Washington Labor Council, says Auburn was the starting point because it's the headquarters of the international forest products company Weyerhaeuser, a firm he says paid no federal or state taxes in 2010. He adds that the walkers have been warmly received along the route.
"People are really jazzed up about it. Like right now, we're walking through a residential neighborhood; people mowing their lawns or up on the porches are waving, people are honking their horns. It's been very gratifying."
Johnson says he and some others are walking on behalf of individuals who are not physically able to participate, and the group also includes people who are homeless or receive state assistance that could be cut.
"We all know that there are going to be tremendous budget cuts, but that the sacrifice made can't just be from poor and vulnerable people, can't just be from students. The corporations have to step up and do their share. Corporate America had its most profitable year, last year, in recorded history."
He says their goal is to keep lawmakers focused on closing tax loopholes to bring more revenue to the state and prevent further cuts to education and social services. Today they'll be part of an all-faith church service, and then begin a five-day fast to protest what they're calling "immoral" budget choices by the Washington House and Senate.
The group is expected to reach the State Capitol about noon today. The walkers include members of the Washington Federation of State Employees, the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, and Washington CAN.