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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: Gregoire

Boeing’s latest move: Is that a bead of sweat on the brows of state officials?

Much talk — particularly from Republicans — today about Boeing’s decision to spend $580 million to buy a South Carolina plant that makes parts for the delayed new 787 aircraft.

First out of the gate, at 5:45 a.m. this morning, was the governor’s office, releasing this statement by Gov. Chris Gregoire:

“Yesterday, I spoke with Scott Carson, who informed me of Boeing’s decision to purchase the Vought facility in South Carolina. I recognize that this announcement underscores that Boeing wants to ensure that it manufactures the 787 Dreamliner as efficiently as possible, thus they have made the decision to buy Vought. In my conversation with Scott, he assured that no decision has been made on a potential second line for the 787, and that today’s announcement doesn’t have anything to do with that. Washington state is proud to be home of the world’s best airplane manufacturer and most skilled aerospace workforce.”

State officials are clearly nervous at the prospect of Boeing launching a full-on jet assembly line anywhere outside Washington state. Those same jitters are what prompted then-Gov. Gary Locke to champion a $3 billion package of tax incentives for the company in 2004.

Republicans and business leaders seized on the move as evidence that Washington’s not doing all it can to keep the massive employer (and taxpayer) expanding here. Most pointed to strikes by Boeing workers as a big part of the problem.

“Work stoppages over the past several years have cost Boeing $9 billion in revenue and $2 billion in lost profits — and Washington had the most aerospace work stoppage days of any state in which the company does business,” said state Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.

Hewitt cited a recent aerospace competitiveness report that listed top concerns as labor-management relations and costs like unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and taxes. He blasted Democrats for “a myriad of business-busting bills” in Olympia. And he said that Boeing and other aerospace jobs are 15 percent of the state’s economy.

Business leaders issued their own, similar statements. A sampling:

“Unless things change, Boeing’s future will be outside the Northwest and that will be devastating to the Washington economy…Airlines simply can’t make billion-dollar decisions on new aircraft and then face the prospect of delivery delays because of labor disputes…If Seattle wants to keep Boeing, they better stand up and show it, because there are dozens of other states that will welcome the jobs and the economic activity.”
-John Stanton, chairman of the Washington Roundtable

“Boeing and aerospace are as important to the vitality of this region as the Mariners and the Seahawks. They need to know how much they are valued.”
-Phil Bussey, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce president

“This is our wake-up call.”
-Don Brunell, Association of Washington Business president


Catching up…

Farmers markets and the state of the state treasury have been keeping me busy lately, but here’s some interesting stuff that’s been piling up in the in box:

-Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, who created a stir earlier this month by declaring himself a candidate for county clerk in tiny Wakhiakum County, has pulled out of the race.

“My protest is over,” he wrote recently in a column on the Seattle Weekly’s blog. He said his very-brief candidacy was a stunt to draw attention to what he sees as a grievous wrong about Washington’s new “Top Two” primary elections. Under the new system, which allows people to specify virtually any “party preference,” political parties have no control over who runs under their name. To demonstrate this, Novoselic filed as preferring the non-existent “Grange Party.” Writes Novoselic:

Looking back, perhaps I should have chosen an organization which would have been more willing to protect its trademark? How about the Prefers Starbucks Party? Maybe Microsoft? The best would be the Prefers Walt Disney Party—because claiming Disney would further demonstrate what a Mickey-Mouse system this is.

We undoubtedly haven’t heard the last of the topic from Novoselic, though. He’s the guest speaker at a lecture at the capitol July 2nd. TVW will tape it to play on the public affairs network statewide and on their website.

-Politico’s “lighter side of politics” column has the tale of a bizarre overreaction when Elizabeth Becton, the scheduler/office manager for Congressman Jim McDermott, was addressed as “Liz” in a quick email from someone wanting an appointment with the congressman.

Becton’s emailed responses — all seven of them — to this perceived slight start with an icy “Who is Liz?” and quickly move on to browbeating the woman:

“If I wanted you to call me by any other name, I would have offered that to you…Now, please do not ever call me by a nickname again…Sounds like you got played by someone who KNOWS I hate that name and that it’s a fast way to TICK me off. Who told you that I go by that name? They are not your friend.”

The executive assistant trying to set up the appointment apologized. Over and over. Six times, in fact. Becton was not mollified.

“In the future, you should be VERY careful about such things…Quit apologizing and never call me anything but Elizabeth again. Also, make sure you correct anyone who attempts to call me by any other name but Elizabeth. Are we clear on this?”

etc. etc. The story has generated hundreds of comments on Politico’s website, many suggesting a very different nickname for Becton. But I think the first one sums it up best:

“Settle down Liz. You sound like a sack full of crazy.”

-The Olympian’s Brad Shannon points out that the governor’s guidance on more budget cuts also calls for a hiring preference for state employees. From Gregoire’s memo:

If agencies need to hire, I want to reiterate my direction that agencies should not hire from outside state government until efforts to consider qualified candidates from among those affected by layoffs are exhausted. We cannot underestimate the value of trained and experienced state employees.

Multiple hat tips: Dave Ammons.

Governor signing everything-but-marriage bill into law Monday in Seattle…

From the governor’s office:

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday will take action on three bills which expand rights to domestic partners:
 
Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 1445, relating to domestic partners under the Washington State Patrol retirement system.
 
Engrossed House Bill No. 1616, relating to the state pension benefits of certain domestic partners.
 
Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill No. 5688, relating to further expanding the rights and responsibilities of state registered domestic partners.
 
 
10:30 a.m.        Gov. Gregoire to take action on HB 1445, HB 1616 and SB 5688
                        Montlake Community Center, Multipurpose Room
1618 E Calhoun St
Seattle

SB 5688 gives domestic partners, including same-sex couples, most of the rights and responsibilities of spouses under state law. (Federal law doesn’t recognize domestic partners.) It  has prompted a referendum attempt by church groups and others who say that is virtually the same thing as same-sex marriage. The Faith and Freedom Network and others have filed Referendum 71, which would ask voters in November if they want to veto the new law.

A delay for “everything but marriage” opponents, as the signature clock ticks…

Opponents of the state’s new “everything but marriage” law for same-sex domestic partners rushed to Olympia last week to file Referendum 71. The clock is ticking, and they only have until July 25th to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures. Assuming a cushion of about 25 percent for duplicate signatures, Mickey Mouses, people not registered to vote, etc., they’ll probably need about 150,000.

Today, however, Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office has said that the ballot title and summary won’t be issued until Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the bill into law. Since Gregoire doesn’t plan to sign the bill until Monday, that means another week lost before Referendum 71 filers can start printing up petitions.

(It also means, however, that the Refendum 71 folks won’t face the risk of spending thousands of dollars printing up petitions, only to see them all rendered moot if Gregoire vetoes some section of the bill.)

“We have begun our work in drafting a title and summary for this measure, but the bill in question has not yet been enacted, as it has not been approved by the Governor as required by the constitution,” deputy solicitor general Jim Pharris wrote today to Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state’s chief elections officer.

Gregoire can also veto parts of the bill. If she does that, Referendum 71 organizers would have to re-file the measure.

The “Spokane Moms” remain in the game…

Last year, local young mothers went to bat in Olympia to win more state dollars for school libraries. They proved to be savvy grassroots lobbyists, and succeeded against pretty long odds.

Now, the same group is trying to put some meat on skeletal bills aimed at revamping school funding. After a year of work, a small group of advocates and lawmakers had proposed sweeping changes in how teachers are paid and evaluated and what the state pays for.

But some groups — notably the state teachers’ union — balked at the overhaul. And some lawmakers argue that a recession with a $9 billion state deficit isn’t the time to commit the state to billions of dollars in new spending.

“There is no money now,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said yesterday when asked about the plan. Yes, she said, the state needs to change what it considers basic education (and thus pays for), but she said there’s no sense in doing it now while the state’s still trying to dig its way out of a budget hole.

“I don’t believe you move forward now with putting something on the books when you don’t have any money to pay for it,” she said.

Undeterred, Spokane’s Lisa Layera Brunkan and Susan McBurney have gotten thousands of signatures in an online petition.

“With 2 million parents in the state, we can do this!!!” they wrote in a recent e-mail to supporters.

Labor council to Democratic leaders: Revive dead bill and vote…

The state labor council is not going quietly, when it comes to a key union prioritiy this year: a bill that would have banned companies from requiring workers to attend meetings to discuss unionization, religion or charitable giving.

The governor and the top two Democratic lawmakers declared the bill dead and called police last week after seeing an email to some lawmakers from a labor council staffer. The note urged union leaders to tell lawmakers that they’d get “not another dime from labor” until the governor signed the bill into law. The state patrol subsequently said the email wasn’t a crime.

Fast forward to today. The labor council is now calling on Gov. Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp to revive the dead bill and bring it up for a vote.

From the labor council’s long message, (which I pasted at the “continue reading” link below):

It no longer passes the straight-face test to blame what was clearly an internal email among labor leaders — one that had inadvertently been forwarded, not to you, but to a handful of legislators who already supported the bill — for denying a vote on the Worker Privacy Act.

It is time to take a principled stand.  All we ask is for a fair vote.  If it fails, so be it.  Our elected representatives are adults.  They can explain why they voted “yes” or why they voted “no.”

At this point, maintaining what is already being criticized as a political effort to “shield” legislators from taking a tough vote only exacerbates the embarrassment to the institution of the State Legislature.

It is time for a moment of truth.

Making sure sex offenders live where they say they do…

After six months of knocking on doors, police across the state say they’ve verified the addresses of more than 13,000 of the state’s 18,000 registered sex offenders.

They’ve also arrested more than 200 for lying about where they lived.

At Gov. Chris Gregoire’s request, the state last year set aside $5 million to pay for sheriffs deputies and police officers to make sure that sex offenders living in communities are where they say they are. The highest-risk ones, Level 3s, are checked every three months. The lowest risk, Level 1s, are checked annually. The plan is to have everyone checked by June.

“In the past, Level 1 offenders were typically sent a letter to verify their address.” said Mike Harum, Chelan County Sheriff. “Today we actually make face to face contact with those individuals to make sure they’re living where they’re supposed to be.”

Harum said his county got $100,000, which was enough to hire a deputy to check on sex offenders full-time. A dozen, he said, have been arrested.

For the state, “this is kind of putting your money where your mouth is,” said Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball.

Governor appoints Eastern Washington Republican to head state Department of Agriculture…

Gov. Chris Gregoire this morning appointed state Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, as director of the state Department of Agriculture.

“As a farmer and state legislator, Dan brings a wealth of experience to the Department of Agriculture and understands the important role agriculture plays in our state’s economy, culture and our future,” Gregore said in a statement announcing the appointment.

Newhouse, elected to the House in 2002 and the son of longtime lawmaker Irv Newhouse, said he’s excited “to bring a farmer’s perspective to this agency, as well as a diverse point of view to the governor’s cabinet.”

Newhouse’s marching orders: expand international markets and work with state environmental officials “to identify new water sources for Eastern Washington communities, farmers and fish.”

Newhouse will assume the post on Feb. 18th, at a salary of $122,478 a year.

 

Lisa Brown: Amid pressure to cut the budget quicker, Brown says wait for next week’s federal and state figures…

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, writing on her blog, says that the federal stimulus bill “is not a state bailout bill.”

The money it includes for state “is just not big enough to make up for the deep dive our state revenues have taken” she writes. And the Senate version had less than originally proposed for both state budgets and building/renovating schools. Writes Brown:

The tax cuts in the bill are popular and everyone could use a little extra cash, but from an economic stimulus perspective, direct infrastructure investment would create more jobs and more flexible allocations to states would save more jobs.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Brown’s Republican colleagues have both said that they’re frustrated by Democratic legislative leaders’ slow pace enacting cuts. Brown has said that she didn’t want to cut people off of health care or aid, for example, only to find out later that federal help or changing economic news rendered those cuts unecessary.

Two key numbers will come next week, Brown writes. On Monday, President Obama’s slated to sign the final version of the stimulus bill. And on Thursday (Brown says Tuesday in the blog post), the state’s economic weather forecasters will deliver an unusual early “preliminary forecast” of state revenues.

Brown’s clearly not expecting good news, writing that those two numbers will give lawmakers critical information “about how much larger our budget-writing challenge is than the one facing the governor just two months ago.” She writes:

“That’s when our conversation with the public about a positive direction forward will begin in earnest.”

What’s that mean? Turning to the public and asking for support of at least some additional taxes in order to support critical programs. Unlike Gregoire, who pledged — and delivered — a no-new-taxes budget proposal, Brown has for months been hinting that the solution the state’s deep budget woes is likely to include some tax increases. That, after all, is what’s happened in Olympia in every other economic downturn for the past 40 years.

And Brown is convinced that voters, if shown the need, will support paying more. In late 2002, for example, Washingtonians supported a 9-cent gas tax increase and vehicle sales tax hike in order to raise billions of dollars for transportation projects across the state. They voted to make it easier for schools to raise property taxes. Locally, voters in Spokane have increased their own taxes to pay for mental health treatment, and in Central Puget Sound, as recently as December, they’ve done the same thing for rail and transportation projects.

Brown is largely sticking to a course of action she laid out more than two months ago at a legislative forum hosted by Greater Spokane Inc., a local business group.  In this clip, watch how she responds to budget criticism from Rep. Bill Hinkle, a Republican from Cle Elum.

(Tech note: This works in Internet Explorer and Safari; I haven’t gotten it to work in Firefox. Also, to replay this clip, hit refresh on your browser first.)

Roundup: Nafziger, Davis, Roach…

Ouch: Senate Democratic chief of staff Rich Nafziger, on his personal blog, blasts Gov. Chris Gregoire for continuing to favor budget cuts over a tax increase. Nafziger, tongue firmly in cheek, names Gregoire the recipient of his new weekly Herbert Hoover award. (Vast 1930s’ tent cities of the impoverished homeless, you’ll recall from your Great Depression history, were known as “Hoovervilles.”)

“It is clearly in the Hoover tradition to cut programs to the needy who spend all their money and cut jobs for public employees who join the ranks of the unemployed and curtail spending. Obviously this is better than taxing businesses or individuals who sit on their money, or oil companies who earn enormous profits…” writes Nafziger. (UPDATE: The post has disappeared from the blog.)

But wait, there’s more: Also drawing fire from Nafziger: lobbyists with bloated egos:

“Last week, lobbyists in Olympia were horrified that that the head of a major regulator(y) agency was not able to testify at a committee hearing. Despite his eminence and importance, the poor guy was forced to wait up to an hour and stomped out of the room in anger…” he wrote.

“The fact of the matter that the public hearing process in Olympia could be improved. Citizens are unable to take time off of work to come down make their opinions. Meanwhile, lobbyist earning 7 figure incomes clutter the hearing dockets and roam the halls. This is broken.”

It’s absolutely true that the hearing process favors the pros. I’ve sat in many hearings, listening to politicians, lobbyists and state agency staffers testifying at length, only to have regular-Joe citizens subsequently be told they’ll get only two minutes. (This comes complete with a humiliating little system of warning signs or red lights.) These are often citizens who have never testified before. Many have driven long distances and taken the day off from work. Some carry photos of family members or little hand-written speeches they’ve labored over. And they end up being told — always with a quick apology — to please keep it short.

-Richard Davis: Writes in the Puget Sound Business Journal that instead of keeping jobs, the churn of lawmaking in Olympia “seems designed to stimulate business departures.” Business is unhappy with a proposed ban on calling mandatory workplace meetings to oppose unionization, for example, and proposals to tap the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund to improve benefits. Writes Davis:

And with manufacturing layoffs piling up like pizza boxes after the Super Bowl party, lawmakers are considering job-threatening climate change regulations. They call this stimulus?

-Pam Roach’s advice: In the wake of economic advisor Robert Reich’s congressional testimony that the federal infrastructure dollars should not simply go to professionals or to white male construction workers, state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, has these words of warning for those workers:

The plan is the same. Pay off all debt including the house. Put away an emergency fund. Plant fruit trees. Plant a garden. Store a three month supply of food for your family. Learn to do with less.


 

More details…

Here’s the list of boards and commissions slated for elimination or reconsideration.

In a press conference, Gregoire talked about needing to “de-layer state government” and make it more nimble and relevant to Washingtonians’ needs.

The 154 boards and commissions she’s ending (or recommending that lawmakers do) are part of a massive network of advisory groups that “were created over decades of the best of intentions,” she said. But too often, she said, there’s little to show for the effort except “lot of paper and per diem payments.”

She also said she plans to introduce legislation to revamp the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, which Gregoire said has morphed into a catch-all agency when no one can figure out where to put a particular mission or function. She wants to split off those duties and return CTED to its core mission as a (renamed) state Department of Commerce. It’s mission: bringing and keeping businesses and attracting family-wage jobs.

She’s also looking at moving the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s enforcement jobs to the State Patrol.

“We need to re-tool how we serve Washingtonians,” Gregoire said. “We need to reboot.”

For too long, government has been afraid to rock the boat too much, she said.

“It’s past time for us to do exactly that: mess with the status quo,” she said.

Gregoire also said that future reforms might include a call for combining emergency response efforts, particularly in rural Eastern Washington.

“Do we really need 25 separate call centers for 9-1-1?” she said. “I’m not sure that we do.”

Some things were clearly too important to do away with, she said, such as the commissions that regulate doctors, dentists and other health professionals. But she said many of the groups were formed to consider a particular problem, and then were never disbanded.

“Some of these boards and commissions report to no one,” Gregoire said. “To no one. And no one knows what they do. That out to be a red flag right there.”

Gregoire: time to pare back, consolidate, streamline government…

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has repeatedly vowed to “blow past the bureaucracy,” today proposed blowing parts of it away.

Gregoire wants to eliminating 154 of the state’s 470 boards and advisory commissions. Among those on the chopping block:

• Interagency Task Force on Milfoil Control,

• Acupuncture Ad Hoc Consulting Group,

• Migratory Waterfowl Art Commission,

• Oversight Committee on Moral Guidance,

• and, something called the Board of Registration for the Onsite Advisory Committee.

Gregoire also wants to consolidate several state agencies, including merging the state’s health coverage agency with its system for retirees. The state archaeology department would become part of State Parks.

“All Washington employers public and private will emerge from this recession forever changed, Gregoire said in a written statement. “And so will state government.”

Locally, Gregoire is pushing ahead with her call to merge the historical societies that oversee the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture with the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. Officials at both institutions question whether the merger would save the expected $500,000 a year. Dennis Hession, the MAC’s interim CEO, has warned that local donations might drop.

With nearly half of car license tabs being now renewed online, Gregoire wants to close some offices but expand online services. The state Department of Licensing, for example, plans to soon let you renew your driver’s license, apply for a personalized license plate, or schedule a driving test online.

The plan also calls, however, for gradually closing more than two dozen driver-licensing offices around the state. Part-time offices in Newport, Republic, Chelan and Coulee Dam, for example, would be closed in the summer of 2009. The state would instead have a licensing van that travels to smaller communities on a regular schedule.

She wants more online courses through community and technical colleges, for example. She also wants to make it easier to use credit- and debit cards to pay state fees.

Gregoire said more changes are coming.

“What we’re launching today is significant,” she said, “but it is also just the beginning. This is not about short-term thinking it is about changing the way we do business for the long term.”

Who’s that in the jury box?

Gov. Chris Gregoire has delayed the 9:30 a.m. rollout of a series of government reforms because she’s been called for jury duty at the county courthouse.

“No, I am not kidding,” Gregoire spokesman Pearse Edwards wrote in an e-mail announcing the delay.

Governor orders flags flows at half-staff in honor of Colville soldier killed in helicopter crash…

Flags across the state will be flown at half-staff Tuesday, in memory of Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin H. Todd, a soldier and Colville resident who died last week in a helicopter crash in Iraq.


Gregoire: Don’t look for a revenue uptick until December, folks…

I spent a couple of hours yesterday sitting in on meetings between state officials and a large group of business/political/community leaders from Spokane. Among the things that came up:

-Gov. Chris Gregoire said she expects the state’s revenue picture to keep getting worse for a while. The March, June and even September revenue forecasts, she believes, will all be worse.

“The hopes are that it won’t be down in December,” she said.

-If she mentioned a source on this I missed it, but by way of good news, Gregoire also said that Washington is the second best-positioned state to emerge quickly from the recession.

-She said that the likely federal infrastructure money — $535 million — was less than the billions the state had been hoping for.

-And she also repeatedly cautioned that that other federal money will come with a lot of strings, conditions and restrictions attached, rather than just being a big check that state budget writers can use to backfill any cuts.

“They (the feds) have kind of learned the lesson of giving $350 billion to Wall Street with no strings attached,” she said.

-Also, one observation: this is a business-organized trip, but this year, business people were pretty scarce among the 85 Spokane-area folks who made the trip. Far more numerous: local government officials (mayors, city council members) and people with a direct stake in how the state’s budget pie is divvied up (WSU, hospital folks, community organizations, the Armed Forces and Aerospace Museum, SIRTI, the MAC, etc.). In a year of cuts, organizer Rich Hadley said, many were there largely to play defense.

Here’s the print version:

OLYMPIA _ Gov. Chris Gregoire once was asked by a reporter if there was anything she didn’t like about the job.

Yes, she said. She hated getting the news that a child in the state’s care had died.

Four years later, Gregoire says there’s a second thing she doesn’t like: getting notice after notice that companies are about to lay off workers.

“And it comes in a wave, every day,” she said.

Gregoire spoke Thursday to politicians, business leaders and other Spokane-area officials on their annual lobbying trip to Olympia. Some 85 people from the region are spending three days in the capital pushing local priorities and trying to keep Spokane on lawmakers’ radar.

The message from Gregoire and top lawmakers: Things are bleak, but Washington is well- positioned to rebound quickly. And as in the other Washington, Olympia is trying various tactics to kick-start the economy.

“No one knows what to do right now, to be perfectly honest with you,” Gregoire said. “We are in uncharted territory.”

The state’s economy relies 

Governor seeks storm help for businesses…

Gov. Chris Gregoire is asking the federal government to declare a statewide “economic injury disaster” for Washington’s businesses due to the heavy snow storms in December.

The move by the federal Small Business Administration would free up low-interest loans for businesses at a time when credit’s already very tight, the governor said.

Here’s the request.

State’s biggest business group to lawmakers: Step away from the $4 billion unemployment trust fund…

As lawmakers plan to tap the state’s $4 billion unemployment insurance trust fund, the state’s biggest business group is trying to stop the train.

In a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire recently, Association of Washington Business President Don Brunell said nobody knows how bad unemployment is going to get, and that tapping the money for things other than unemployment checks “is a risk not worth taking.”

Democratic legislative leaders say the fund is the healthiest in the nation. They’ve said they’d like to dip into it to boost benefits, perhaps $45 a week. That would cost about $200 million over the next two years. AWB objects to this, spokeswoman Jocelyn McCabe said, for fear of draining the fund faster than it should be in tough times.

Lawmakers have also floated the idea of using another $200 million from the fund to pay for a new tax break for businesses, or of using some of the money for job training. AWB thinks that, too, is a bad idea.

According to Brunell, Washington businesses pay the second-highest unemployment rates in America: $637 per worker, compared to a national average of $281. He also points to California, which is trying to borrow money to replenish its dwindling unemployment coffers.

“Other states are in similarly dire circumstances,” Brunell wrote. “We do not want to join them.”

Republicans blame Democrats for ramping up spending, Seattle senator blames Tim Eyman for starving government…

Republicans blame Gov. Chris Gregoire and Democratic lawmakers for the state’s budget mess. Gregoire and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown blame the Bush Administration.

Add another to the mix: state Sen. Adam Kline blames initiative pitchman Tim Eyman. From Kline’s Senate blog:

My last post spoke of the magnitude of our budget shortfall. I’ll talk about why we find ourselves in this terrible situation. A succession of Tim Eyman-inspired tax cutting initiatives made our cities, counties and the state extremely vulnerable to this nation-wide economic downturn.

He cites Eyman’s I-695, which — with a big assist from then-Gov. Gary Locke and state lawmakers — largely did away what Kline says was the state’s only progressive tax: the pay-more-for-an-expensive-car license tab fee. The came property tax limits (I-722 and 747).

Guess what? We’re now taking in so little revenue that we can no longer afford the services that are among the core missions of any government.

Kline writes. Now — courtesy Eyman’s I-960 and a predecessor — lawmakers wanting to increase taxes to keep key government services going have two choices. They can muster a two-thirds vote from state lawmakers — which is unlikely — or they can ask voters statewide to approve the increase. Kline continues:

We would have to go easy because most folks in Washington are experiencing their own budget crises….As the price for my vote to raise taxes, I would insist that we not just raise some existing tax, but literally overhaul our tax structure and aim the tax directly at the discretionary income of wealthy people.  Under our current post-Eyman tax structure, the wealthy escape taxation to a distressing degree.

From “Most Uncomfortable Moments in Interviews, 2009 edition”…

This from Blatherwatch: Apparently a KIRO radio interviewer, in the middle of an inauguration-day chat with the governor, asked her if she’d prepped for the event with a shot of Botox.

Click on the link for the full account.

Gregoire economic stimulus plan: the details:

Trying to kick-start the state’s lagging economy, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday unveiled a $1.2 billion proposal that includes more than $90 million in buildings at Spokane-area colleges, repaving local highways, and $15 million more for the North Spokane Corridor.
“We can quickly create thousands of new jobs this year and next by accelerating nearly $1 billion in public works projects,” the governor said in a written statement. “The plan will create a legacy of roads, schools and green-collar jobs to thrust our state firmly into the 21st century.”
The plan includes $427 million in construction projects that Gregoire says are ready to break ground within the next few months, if lawmakers approve. She also wants to spend another $390 million on ready-to-go transportation projects.
The plan — plus the 1,400 state-funded transportation projects already underway – will mean about 20,000 new jobs over the next two years, the governor said.
About a third of the money — $400 million — would come from Washington’s $4 billion unemployment insurance trust fund, which Gregoire’s office said yesterday could pay 20 months of unemployment checks.
Those checks currently top out at $541 a week; Gregoire wants to add $45 to that. She also wants to tap the unemployment fund to pay for “a temporary, across-the-board tax reduction” for employers.
-Gregoire also wants to:
-expand eligibility for training benefits, a stipend that unemployed people can get while retraining or going to school. As things stand now, the benefits are typically available only to dislocated wokers. Gregoire wants to allow such payments for disabled workers, veterans and low-income people.
-expand the “shared work” program, which pays unemployment benefits to workers whose hours have been reduced, but who are still on the job.
-perhaps make broader changes, including more worker benefits and permanent tax reductions for businesses.
Gregoire’s plan comes as Democrats in Congress are finalizing their own, much-larger economic stimulus plan. The $850 billion federal plan is expected to include $300 billion in tax cuts. Among the proposals: a $3,000 tax credit for businesses that create or preserve jobs.
From Gregoire’s project list: (click on link below)

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

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