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Eye On Olympia

Morning roundup: Marr on energy, SEIU on dropping lawsuit, Hinkle on trying harder…

Josh Feit, at Publicola, has an excellent story on Sen. Chris Marr’s efforts to modify 2006’s Initiative 937, a voter-approved measure which mandated certain levels of renewable power for utility companies. Marr wants to count some hydro power as renewable — which the original ballot measure didn’t, seeing as how the point was to add more renewables, not get credit for the state’s many decades-old dams — and to lower the mandatory levels. Environmental groups are balking at both ideas, saying they undercut the point of the law.

-Rep. Bill Hinkle argues that a pending Olympia proposal for a tax increase to offset some deep budget cuts is akin to a white flag from lawmakers. Writes Hinkle:

Some legislators in Olympia, whose job it is to work on the critical issues facing our state and citizenry, are about to throw up their hands and quit on trying to solve our $8 billion budget shortfall.  Rather than make difficult decisions, some lawmakers are poised to take the easy way out by sending a tax increase to voters after the legislative session ends.

-A local of the Service Employees International Union, after winning a arbitration ruling for an $8 million rate increase for unionized in-home child care providers (and then going to court to try to force the state to pay it) said this morning that they’re dropping the lawsuit. Instead, they’re calling on state to steer $33 million in federal child care block grants into heading off things like a proposed $10 monthly increase in the rates paid by parents with kids in state-subsidized child care.

“We’re walking away from that” $8 million, said Nancy Gerber, who runs a 12-child in-home child care center in Spokane Valley. “We are saying the money should go to families…This is the right thing to do.”

An arbitrator had awarded SEIU 925 members state rate increases of 1.6 percent in July 2009 and 2 percent the following July. Instead of those increases, members will go back to bargain a new contract based on non-economic changes.

-Speaking of SEIU 925, David Goldstein at Horse’s Ass says its 6,500 University of Washington members voted Tuesday night to voluntarily give up scheduled raises this year and next. Writes Goldstein:

State employee union leaders aren’t stupid, and everybody I’ve spoken to has seemed more than willing to negotiate concessions to help soften the blow of impending budget cuts.  And that’s the way it should work, rather than the governor or legislature simply imposing wage and benefit cuts, unilaterally abrogating contracts that had been negotiated and signed in good faith.


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

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