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Eye On Olympia

Archive for December 2005

Budget II: WSU’s lab is back…

The biggest local item in Gov. Gregoire’s budget plan is $63 million for a new life sciences research building in Pullman.

This is by far the largest item in the governor’s construction budget for this year. And it’s an easy one, since WSU — which tried unsuccesfully to win legislative approval for the same building last year — is offering to pay for it.

How: WSU wants state permission to tap some of the interest from its $350 million Permanent Fund. This is money from timber sales, microwave tower leases, rangeland leases, etc. from the university’s roughly 152,000 acres. The interest is periodically drawn off, usually for things like minor repairs and maintenance.

But WSU, which badly wants the lab complex, is offering to use some of that money to pay for construction bonds to build the center.

“It’s kind of an elegant solution, I think,” says WSU’s Larry Ganders.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, gives the building good odds this year.

“I think it’s very likely to survive,” he said.

Local view…

The Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative preview — various lawmakers talking about what to expect this year — is slated to air on TVW’s cable broadcast Friday at 9 p.m. and Saturday at 5 a.m. and again at 1 p.m.

Sun Volt, Jane’s Addiction, Eminem…Oh, and the Republican stance on medical liability reform…

Senate Republicans are now issuing their own podcasts:

Among the topics: Sen. Bob Morton, R-Orient, on the state GOP’s energy proposals; Sen. Brad Benson, R-Spokane, on transportation issues, and Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, on Republicans’ farm agenda.

House Democrats also put podcasts on their caucus website:, but seem to be having some technical problems.

Johnson won’t run again in 2006…

State Sen. Stephen Johnson said Wednesday that he won’t seek re-election when his term expires at the end of next year.

Johnson, an attorney who’s been a lawmaker for 11 years, said he wants to “explore other options” in the legal field.

“I’ve come to the decision that it is time to seek a new challenge,” he said.

Johnson is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate judiciary committee and was deputy GOP leader in the Senate in 2001 and 2002.

Time and money…

Gov. Christine Gregoire’s been trying for weeks to tamp down expectations among groups seeking a slice of the $1.2 billion in reserves that the state now has.

“We must save now, in order to manage if money gets tight,” she says.

She says there are some new costs that the state must pay: maintaining mandatory government programs ($86 million), covering costs for higher enrollment in schools and social service programs ($49 million), voter-approved raises for teachers ($34 million), court costs ($30 million) and so forth.

But a glance at the governor’s schedule for next week also suggests a few other spots she wants to boost spending. (Her budget proposal’s slated for release Dec. 20.)

In a series of “targeted investment events” throughout the state, Gregoire will highlight early childhood programs, energy assistance and the need to help students pass the state’s WASL test, which by 2008 will be a high school graduation requirement.

Stay tuned…

Checks and balances…

Ten million bucks. That’s the minimum price tag for most U.S. Senate seats, according to a new report from a University of Washington political research team.

Among other things, the researchers concluded that “it is no longer possible, in any state, to mount a credible quest for a Senate seat with a war chest of less than $3 million.”

Increasingly, Senate candidates must buy television ad time — the largest and fastest-growing element of campaign spending, according to UW assistant professor of communications Philip Howard.

In a medium-sized state like Washington in 2006, aspiring senators will have to raise at least $13 million, Howard’s group concluded.

And take note, state GOP: the researchers calculated that ousting an incumbent costs almost twice as much as staying in office.

The report and accompanying spreadsheets by students Teresa Causin and Mychelle Miller are online here .

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

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