April 9, 2013 at 1:26 PM
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee plans to meet with lawmakers Tuesday afternoon to discuss strengthening Washington state’s drunken-driving laws in the aftermath of recent tragedies, according to several invitees.
The 1 p.m. meeting comes hours after the state’s Impaired Driving Working Group gathered in the Capitol to brainstorm a variety of ideas, from making DUI a felony on the third offense — it currently is on the fifth — to requiring cars impounded during DUI arrests automatically be outfitted with ignition interlock devices.
Some were also considering proposals like establishing random sobriety checkpoints and lifetime driving bans after a certain number of DUI convictions.
The biggest obstacle to many of the ideas is budgetary.
Making DUI a felony on the third offense, for example, would likely force the state to build a new prison at the cost of some $200 million, according to state House Public Safety Committee Chairman Roger Goodman.
But at the heated Capitol meeting, the nearly 50 attendees were in no mood to talk financials.
“What about people’s lives?” asked Karen Minahan, a 65-year-old Redmond woman lost her right leg to a drunken driver in 1997. “There are things that are bigger than money.”
Goodman, who chairs the working group, said he is committed to reducing drunken driving. But it has to be done in a realistic way, he said.
“We have to reduce the problem,” Goodman told the attendees. “We can’t fantasize about eliminating the problem.”
The Senate Law & Justice Committee has scheduled a Thursday morning hearing on the “the driving under the influence act of 2013.”
Lawmakers haven’t yet figured out what that bill will contain, Goodman said. But much may be determined this afternoon, he said.
April 5, 2013 at 2:02 PM
OLYMPIA — The governor’s budget office sent the Senate a lengthy list of concerns about the spending plan it rolled out on Wednesday, questioning cuts to social services as well as how much money the proposal assumes will be saved by making government more efficient.
The Republican-led Senate is expected to vote on the budget Friday afternoon.
Among the concerns cited by the state Office of Financial Management:
- Cuts to the Working Connections Child Care program. OFM maintains the move would cut off subsidized childcare to 1,612 families per month over the next two years based on projected growth in caseloads.
- A proposal to reduce and, in some cases, eliminate cash assistance for the elderly and disabled. OFM notes the Senate budget says the people affected would be eligible for housing assistance but that their budget also cuts funding for that program, “which means more people will be served with fewer resources.”
- The Senate budget provides less funding than needed to keep the state park system running at current levels, which would “likely result in 10 to 20 temporary or permanent park closures.”
- How much the Senate budget relies on “presumed savings and under-expenditures.” Specifically, OFM notes the Senate budget counts on saving $157 million by making state government more efficient and also expects to get another $120 million in left over money from agencies that don’t spend everything they’re allowed to in the budget. “This degree of speculation creates a serious risk that budget reductions will translate into real cuts to agency services,” OFM wrote.
March 28, 2013 at 10:05 AM
Gov. Jay Inslee will meet with reporters at 11 a.m. Thursday to discuss how he intends to close the state’s budget shortfall — projected at up to $1.3 billion — and boost education spending as ordered by the state Supreme Court.
Watch the governor’s presentation live on TVW, and come back to seattletimes.com for details and anaylsis from Olympia reporter Andrew Garber as the event gets started.
The GOP-led majority in the Senate will issue its budget in the coming days, followed by House Democrats. The legislative session is to run through the end of April.
March 27, 2013 at 4:17 PM
OLYMPIA — Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, had an interesting take Wednesday on Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate change bill that passed the Legislature this week.
“It’s not really a climate change bill anymore, it’s really a cost-benefit analysis of environmental actions bill,” said Ericksen, chairman of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.
Ericksen was referring to Senate Bill 5802, a measure requested by Inslee. The governor’s office says the legislation is aimed at developing ways to reduce state greenhouse-gas emissions and meet targets set by the Legislature in 2008. It creates a work group that’s supposed to come up with recommendations by the end of the year.
Inslee has made climate change one of his top priorities and argued the state should become a leader in finding ways to deal with the problems associated with warming.
David Postman, a spokesman for Inslee, said the climate bill’s language speaks for itself: “The purpose of the work group is to recommend a state program of actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that if implemented would ensure achievement of the state’s emissions targets.”
Ericksen has said he has doubts that climate change is occurring. His panel stripped language out of Inslee’s bill that talked about problems associated with climate change.
And on Tuesday, his committee hosted a global warming skeptic who testified for more than an hour that the country was being misled, noting at one point: “CO2 cannot possibly cause global warming. The reason is because there is so little of it. It is a trace gas … If you double nothing you still have nothing.”
At a news conference Wednesday, Ericksen said he was excited about the governor’s legislation because “we’re going to be taking a look at issues we haven’t looked at before legislatively. What’s the actual cost of these environmental programs on manufacturing, on agriculture … all are required to be examined.”
Ericksen added, “I think it will actually lead us to the point of asking the question: Is going back and trying to obtain these (carbon) standards the most cost effective way to improve the environment?”
March 25, 2013 at 1:34 PM
OLYMPIA — The state House passed legislation Monday aimed at developing ways to reduce state greenhouse-gas emissions, and meet targets set by the Legislature in 2008.
The measure already passed the Senate and now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who had requested the legislation. It’s the first bill requested by Inslee to clear the Legislature.
Senate Bill 5802 creates a work group that’s supposed to come up with recommendations by the end of the year.
The measure passed the House 61-32 and now goes to the governor.
Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, argued in favor of the measure, saying, “Our constituents are seeing the effects of climate change in their daily lives — extreme weather, a rise in temperatures and the economic costs that result. They are hungry for leadership and solutions and I’m confident our state can lead the way.”
Rep. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, voted no, saying that climate change requires an international solution. “If Washington state decides to lead the way and is going to take steps down this path (it) would only disproportionately impact our state and our economy,” he said.
Inslee and his staff actively lobbied for the legislation and the governor testified at committee hearings in the House and Senate. The measure that passed the Senate removed language talking about problems associated with climate change.
Inslee had wanted to retain the language talking about problems associated with climate change, but in the end decided to accept its removal in order to get the bill through both chambers.
March 20, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Budget writers got a rare dose of good news Wednesday. The latest tax-revenue projections show a net plus to the state’s bottom line.
A revenue forecast released Wednesday projects the state will take in $59 million more than expected in the current fiscal year and $19 million less over the next two years. Bottom line: Budget writers have an extra $40 million to work with.
Many legislators had privately expected a significant drop in projected revenue in part because of the automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, that kicked in earlier this month, and the expiration of federal payroll tax cuts.
While the situation is better than expected, the Legislature still has a big problem –- an overall budget shortfall of up to $1.3 billion and a state Supreme Court mandate to increase education funding. Estimates peg the cost of meeting the Supreme Court ruling at anywhere from an additional $500 million to $1.7 billion over the next two years.
The mid-session revenue forecast typically kicks off the serious negotiations to balance the state budget. The GOP-led majority in the Senate is expected to produce a budget proposal first, followed by the House. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee also is expected to weigh in with a proposal, but has not set a date.
March 13, 2013 at 3:10 PM
OLYMPIA — The Republican-controlled state Senate on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at developing ways to reduce state greenhouse-gas emissions, and meet targets set by the Legislature in 2008.
Senate Bill 5802 passed by a vote of 37 to 12. The legislation, requested by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, creates a work group that’s supposed to come up with recommendations by the end of the year.
A similar bill was introduced in the House, but Democratic leaders are expected to work with the version that passed the Senate.
Inslee and his staff actively lobbied for the bill and the governor testified at committee hearings in the House and Senate. The measure that passed the Senate removed language talking about problems associated with climate change.
“I really want to take the religion out of carbon and I want to take a good hard look at how we can most effectively meet those goals” set in 2008, said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, speaking in favor of the bill. Ericksen is chairman of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.
Inslee had wanted to retain the language talking about problems associated with climate change, but his staff said its removal was not a deal killer. It’s not clear if there will be a push to put that section back into the bill in the House.
March 13, 2013 at 11:23 AM
OLYMPIA — The governor’s office has indicated for awhile it’s leaning toward closing certain tax breaks to meet a state Supreme Court demand to pump more money into education.
But Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee made his strongest case yet this session on TVW Wednesday morning.
“We clearly need to make significant investments that have been ordered by the state Supreme Court. We will make a proposal on how to make a downpayment on that this year. We’ll be proposing closing some tax loopholes to make a downpayment in that regard instead of general tax increases on people,” Inslee said. “We think it’s better to have fairness in our tax system.”
When the TVW interviewer suggested that wasn’t what he said when he ran for office, Inslee strongly disagreed.
“It’s exactly what I said during the election on about 100 occasions from day one,” he said. “I was very clear that the way we should move forward to fund our schools and improve our education is rather than from general new taxes we ought to in fact close some of these illicit, unwarranted, obsolete, unfair corporate loopholes that are putting the burden on regular consumers and people going to work rather than corporations that ought to be picking up their fair share.”
Inslee did talk repeatedly during the campaign about scrutinizing special business tax breaks but was vague about which exemptions he might target. He did not mention specifics on Wednesday.
The governor’s office is expected to come out with a budget proposal later this month, around the time that the GOP-led Senate comes out with its plan for closing a roughly $1 billion — and possibly larger – shortfall, as well as meet Supreme Court demands for education funding.
State lawmakers have often talked about getting rid of tax breaks to raise money, but have never succeeded.
I wrote last year about a tax break the Legislature approved more than 70 years ago that provided a property-tax exemption for out-of state-municipalities that own airports in neighboring Washington. No such thing exists anymore.
A state review panel in 2009 recommended it be eliminated. Yet that tax exemption still exists, along with several others the panel suggested ending, including millions of dollars in tax breaks on certain interstate-commerce activities, and a special property-tax exemption for nonprofit orphanages.
Theoretically, eliminating tax breaks should be easier this year because it no longer takes a two-thirds vote in the state House and Senate to increase taxes, or eliminate tax breaks. The state Supreme Court earlier this month overturned a law requiring supermajority votes to increase taxes, ruling it unconstitutional.
Even so, anybody who benefits from current tax breaks can be expected to show up in force if the lawmakers try to get rid of them. That’s why those efforts have stalled in the past.
March 5, 2013 at 11:54 AM
OLYMPIA — Testifying before a state House committee, Gov. Jay Inslee insisted Tuesday that the state is poised to lead the fight against climate change and urged lawmakers to help him move quickly on the issue.
Speaking to the House Environment Committee, Inslee advocated for a measure to hire an outside group to advise him on how to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while increasing the share of energy created in Washington state.
The group’s report, due in October, would evaluate how other states and countries are addressing climate change.
Inslee said that increased emissions of greenhouse gases threaten to wreak havoc ranging from more and stronger wildfires to diminished oyster cultivation. A revised version of the bill passed out of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee last week.
February 28, 2013 at 1:13 PM
The chairman of the Republican National Committee said today that a red state/blue state analysis of national politics is a “road to nowhere” for the party’s future.
Reince Priebus, in Seattle to listen to party activists and spread his message of growth and renewal, said that no state is permanently blue and the Republicans should not cede any to the Democrats, as they did in the 2012 election by concentrating just on eight swing states.
Had GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney not written off Washington state, Priebus said, Rob McKenna would be governor today.
“Local candidates suffer when the national camp doesn’t come into a state to compete,” Priebus said. “Rob was rowing alone.” McKenna, a moderate, lost to Jay Inslee by about three percentage points in November.
McKenna stood with Priebus for a brief news conference following what the chairman described as a spirited conversation with state GOP leaders about how the party could improve. Priebus, 40, has been touring the country over the past few weeks, including meetings with black leaders in Atlanta and Hispanic and Asian-American leaders in Los Angeles.
President Obama beat Romney in just about every demographic except white males. Priebus said the GOP has to become more open and inclusive of new members. It also has to build permanent outreach and get-out-the-vote operations and not just mount campaigns in the six months before an election.
“We are in a world of permanent politics,” Priebus said.
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