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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: Gregoire

Lisa Brown: a moral responsibility to head off cuts to kids…

In the hubbub around Gov. Gregoire’s budget proposal today, one of the dissenters was from a lawmaker close to Gregoire: Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.

Brown was unhappy that Gregoire’s budget assumes about $1 billion from the feds, calling the assumption a “glaring flaw” that the budget juggling look easier than it actually will be.

Brown said that while she, too, is hopeful that Congress and the Obama administration will help states, she doesn’t feel comfortable building that hope into a budget.

Gregoire said the assumption is based on her conversations with Obama, and that some additional federal money has already started coming to the state. If anything, Gregoire said, the $1 billion is probably underestimating the federal help.

Brown is especially focused on trying to preserve the social safety net. In a blog post recently, she talked about meeting with Spokane-area children’s advocates over breakfast recently. Among them: foster parents, social workers, nurses and teachers.

“Their concerns about the budget gap underscore a central truth about state government,” Brown wrote. “No matter how you add it up, state programs that serve children make up significantly more than half the state budget.”

Protecting those kids, she said, isn’t just an economic or political problem, it’s a moral one.

No raises, sharp cuts in social services and higher education…

Among the cuts: -no cost of living increases for state workers or teachers. -a 24 percent cut to class-size reduction money in schools. -reducing nursing home reimbursement rates, mental health services. -doing away with state payments under the General Assistance-Unemployable program, which provides health care and small checks to people, often homeless people.

Budget cuts, by area…

Cuts, by area: K-12: 5.6 percent Public safety: 6.3 percent Early learning: 6.4 percent Higher education: 7.6 percent Health care and human services: 12.2 percent Natural resources: 12.2 percent

Combing through the stuffed suggestion box for budget-fixing ideas…

In Thursday morning’s paper:

Think back to the last time you renewed your driver’s license. Do you remember the shoes on the person behind the counter?

Of course not. But here’s a little known fact about those shoes: you probably paid for them.

Washington taxpayers provide a $97-a-year “shoe allowance” for the 330 folks working at more than 60 driver licensing offices across the state. You also pick up the tab for the state-logo-bearing shirts, pants, sweaters, jackets and hats worn by those employees, as well as a $27-a-month stipend for dry cleaning.

Now, with Washington’s government facing an unprecedented $5 billion to $6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years, people, including many state employees, are trying to find new ways to save.

Doing away with the clothing allowance was among the nearly 2,000 ideas submitted over the past few weeks to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who today will release a budget proposal expected to include deep spending cuts.

Roundup: Lisa Brown for governor? and bleak news about two state reps and a hardworking blog…

-In a discussion of the significance of an anti-Building-Industry-Association-of-Washington-button at a Democratic fundraiser, writer Josh Feit offhandedly mentions Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Congressman Jay Inslee as gubernatorial candidates in 2012. Writes Feit: “I was talking to a Democratic state Senator about the 2012 governor’s race. We were handicapping state Senator Lisa Brown’s (D-3, Spokane) chances vs. U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee’s chances, in what’s likely to be a bruising primary between the two anticipated candidates. And could either one beat GOP media darling, AG Rob McKenna?” -Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa, is stepping down in January, citing weakness from cancer treatments. Elected in 2006, Hailey was just starting his second session this year when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He spent most of the session at home, trying to keep up with legislative work in between chemotherapy. Hailey. 63, last week wrote to Gov. Chris Gregoire, saying “My health is such that I cannot represent the interests of my constituents in the fashion they deserve.” It’s increasingly difficult, the third-generation farmer and rancher said, to summon the physical strength to keep up with the demands of being a lawmaker. He said the treatment has been “tough but tolerable” and said he’s determined to beat the disease. “He leaves office with the same class and dignity in which he served,” said Rep. Joe Schmick, who also represents the mostly-Palouse 9th district. “I would ask that people keep Steve and his family in their thoughts and prayers.” -Politicker.wa has stopped updating its posts since last week and is apparently shutting down after a promising run as a one-stop, all-politics website. Olympian political editor Brad Shannon wrote: “Blogger Bryan Bissell at just posted an item today, titled Goodbye, and Good Luck, saying he has lost his job. The Tacoma native said parent company pulled the plug. The online news service was serving 20 states but is down to five, and the cuts came as a surprise, Bissell told me.” That farewell post has since disappeared from Politickerwa’s website. -Longtime Eastern Washington state Rep. Bill Grant, D-Walla Walla, has been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. In an announcement to fellow lawmakers, Grant said that a lung biopsy in Seattle revealed the cancer and that he’d returned home to discuss treatment options. Note: We’re still working some of the kinks out of this new blogging platform, which is why the links in the above post aren’t showing up properly. Working on this…Also, I have no idea why Brown’s name is lower-cased in the tags. No slight intended. RR

State officials put their foot down on any more holiday displays at the capitol…

There will be no Festivus pole at the state Capitol this year, no banner reading “Lion of David,” and certainly no poem claiming that Santa Claus will send us all to hell. So sayeth Washington state officials, who after two contentious weeks have imposed a moratorium on any further holiday displays inside the state Capitol. “It was more than we anticipated,” said Steve Valandra, a spokesman for the state department of General Administration. The handful of displays that are already there, he said, can stay. Prodded by requests and a lawsuit, the state in the past few years has allowed holiday displays inside the echoing marble Capitol, which has long featured an evergreen “Holiday Tree” in the rotunda every December. There was a menorah-lighting by Orthodox rabbis, a Nativity scene from an Olympia real estate agent, and then, this year, a sign from a Wisconsin atheist group declaring that there are no gods and that religion is just myths and superstition. That fired up Christians, who promptly added signs critical of atheism and last Sunday held a demonstration on the Capitol steps. One demonstrator assembled a Nativity scene on the spot out of balloons. Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly highlighted the controversy nightly, blasting Gov. Chris Gregoire for allowing the atheist sign. Early one morning, someone stole the sign. State troopers later recovered it. “It certainly stirred people up,” Valandra said of the publicity. “The phone calls, the e-mails, it all started the day after.” Since then, one group after another has sought permission to add displays. A Catholic nun living in a Mexican prison asked to put up a sign wishing atheists well. Someone else wanted to put up a display for the Japanese holiday Bodhi Day, celebrating the enlightenment of the Buddha. An Olympia man wanted to celebrate Festivus. A group from Kansas City sought to honor the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And a gay-hating Kansas group sought to erect its sign proclaiming that the recession is evidence of God’s wrath and that Santa is a child molester. All of which is a bit much, General Administration officials decided, for a small nook now roped off and guarded by a state trooper on the third floor of the Capitol. “We were just anticipating even more, and the area we designated just can’t accommodate them anymore,” Valandra said. If people try to add displays without a permit, he said, troopers will ask them to remove them. Valandra said the department will try to figure out how to handle things next year. So far, he said, nobody’s suggested banning displays entirely. “Everything went fine last year,” he said.

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

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