I return, tanned, rested, and astonished at all the stuff that's happened in the past week. In no particular order:
-The Seattle Times' Andrew Garber has a good overview of where the $8 billion in new spending under Gov. Gregoire went. From the story:
• About half of Gregoire's $8 billion budget increase has gone to education. Public schools got an additional $3 billion, and the state's colleges and universities received close to an extra $1 billion.
• Teachers and state workers have done well. The state's contribution to pay and benefits for teachers is up about 29 percent since 2004, twice the rate of increase during Locke's first term. Funding for state-worker pay and benefits has increased 31 percent.
Interestingly, Garber notes that the 31 percent budget rise during Gregoire's tenure is actually lower than during Republican Gov. John Spellman (36 percent) and during Democratic Gov. Booth Gardner's second term (45 percent).
-Liberal blogger David Goldstein broke the story -- which several newspapers had until then declined to publish -- that state lands commissioner Doug Sutherland touched the back and waist of a young female staffer and made a suggestive comment at a meeting three years ago, making her uncomfortable to the point where she later quit.
Democrats, who are trying to replace the Republican Sutherland with Democrat Peter Goldmark, blasted the incident. Sutherland said it was a misunderstood joke; that the woman had just returned from a contentious meeting and he was joking that she didn't seem to have any arrows in her back. There was no lewd intent, he said.
-Sutherland is also feeling the heat from Times coverage of how his agency, the state Department of Natural Resources, is allegedly being lax in limiting logging on steep mountain slopes. The resulting landslides have inundated homes, clogged rivers and buried roads, according to the series. Sutherland says his crews are doing the best they can to watchdog timber operations, given the manpower and resources DNR has.
-Michelle Obama held a local fundraiser for Gregoire.
-Polling: SurveyUSA had Gregoire leading Republican challenger Dino Rossi 49 percent to 46 percent. Another, by Rossi pollster Moore Information, had the two tied at 45 percent each.