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Posts tagged: lisa brown

Special Session Day 2: No budget deal in sight

OLYMPIA — With most legislators still at home, their leaders continued meeting Tuesday with Gov. Chris Gregoire in search of a solution to the state's budget problems

They reached no agreements on a key sticking point. Gregoire told them to set those disagreements aside and come up with at least $200 million that members of both parties, in both houses, might accept.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said the goal before the next meeting — as yet unscheduled — is to find that money through some source of revenue, “something that's not spending cuts.”

The hangup right now is what the two parties want to say is an available resource in the General Fund budget to spend on state programs.  Democrats want to delay a payment of some $330 million to the state's school districts by a few days, shifting it from the end of June to the beginning of July 2013 which means it happens in the state's next fiscal biennium. Because the schools would get it in their same fiscal year — the calendars are different — they argue it's merely an accounting shift with no real consequence.

Republicans, however, say that's bad budgeting, and even worse accounting that shifts the debt into the next biennium. They want to skip a payment to some state pension plans, then make several reforms to the way pensions are structured. They admit skipping a pension payment isn't a good practice, but contend the long-term savings are worth the $150 million that would leave in the budget.

Democrats say that plan isn't actuarially sound, and the savings might not be all that Republicans estimate them to be.

Once they decide on the amount to spend, budget writers will start working on how to divide that among programs. A budget written by Senate Republicans differs from one passed by House Democrats on a wide range of education, college and social programs and those will still have to be negotiated.

“It could potentially result in more cuts,” Brown said. “That's what moving to the middle's all about.”

A dam good bill with some teeth in it

OLYMPIA — Beavers making a nuisance of themselves in Western Washington could be relocated to Eastern Washington areas that need their help in damming streams, but the furry critters from Eastern Washington couldn't be shipped west under a bill approved Wednesday by the Senate.

Seems there's already too many of the tree-chomping mammals west of the Cascades.

The proposal, described by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, as a “cute, furry little bill,” allows the Department of Fish and Wildlife to set up a system in which a landowner who wants to improve groundwater or downstream flows can request beavers being captured elsewhere and removed from land where they are creating a nuisance. It also provided several legislators some much-needed work on their joke delivery.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 46: Will they finish on time

OLYMPIA — With two weeks left in the 2012 session, and the Senate's budget proposal still about four days away from being released, some legislators are expressing doubt that they will leave town on time.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Thursday, however, she thought finishing work without the need of a special session was doable. . “That's the plan. . .

House Democrats and House Republicans have each released budgets, which have no visible support from members of the opposing parties.

Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has been working with Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on that panel, on a different operating budget that might garner bipartisan support.

“I can't speak to the number of (Republican) votes,” Brown, a Spokane Democrat, said.

The Senate operating budget will be released Tuesday, leaving just 10 days to wrap up everything.

Along with the changes to the beleaguered operating budget, the Legislature must also pass a Capital construction budget (sometimes known as the Jobs package), and a revised transportation budget. There's legislation on medical insurance exchanges to meet federal health care reforms which Gov. Chris Gregoire wants but Republicans insist aren't necessary. 

There are some proposals for government reforms, a proposal for a constitutional amendment on balanced budgets.  And there's a question of a tax increase. Gregoire proposed a temporary sales tax increase, which Republicans in both chambers oppose. The House Democrats' budget doesn't have a state tax increase in it, but offers plenty of chances for local taxes to go up, though. The Senate budget will balance without a tax increase, but there may be a proposal to ask voters to approve some sort of increase.

“We have not completely ruled that out,” Brown said.

So with all that on the table, can the Legislature really finish on time? Yes it could, Brown said: “There will still be controversies before we're done. Everybody's talking. When you need to get worried is when they're not talking.”

Fund ed first, House Republicans say

OLYMPIA – House Republicans, who say they are fed up with the slow pace of budgeting process in a session where that was supposed to be the main thing the Legislature tackled, argued Thursday for a new approach.

The state should set aside what it wants to spend on K-12 education first, then figure out what’s left for other state programs. They call it “Fund Education First” and say it’s in line with both the state Constitution’s declaration that education in the state's public schools is the state’s “paramount duty” and a recent state Supreme Court ruling that the Legislature must do more to meet that duty.

“This is not a gimmick. It’s a workable solution,” said Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would make that change in budgeting.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Oil barrel fee not likely, key Democrats say

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to place a $1.50 per barrel fee on oil refined in Washington state appears close to dead. Two key Senate Democrats said as much today in separate settings.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee which would decide how to spend the money the proposed fee would raise, told a breakfast gathering of the state Good Roads and Transportation Association she believes, like most Republicans, that it's really a tax, not a fee. The difference is more than just semantics. A fee can be passed by the Legislature on a majority vote, which Democrats have in both  houses; a tax needs a two-thirds majority, which they don't have.

The final decision on fee v. tax would rest with Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who presides over the Senate, but Haugen said she thinks he'd rule it a tax, too.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said this afternoon the proposal is “not getting any momentum” in the Senate Democratic Caucus. Translation: don't bother putting a mirror under its nostrils, this idea isn't breathing.

Med School tied to “Jobs” package

OLYMPIA – Some $35 million to finish the Riverpoint medical school building may flow into Spokane as the top priority for the area’s business community finds itself on a list of projects to address one of the Legislature’s top priorities.
Jobs.
Or the project may find itself in the middle of a debate over the role of government in creating jobs. . .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.
  

Brown on MLK march: How far we have to go

OLYMPIA — For the first time in two decades, Sen. Lisa Brown said she won't be in the Capitol Monday on Martin Luther King Day.
Although it's a state holiday, the Legislature is always in session and traditionally works on that day. Next Monday, however, Brown said she'll be in Spokane to march with others in the community one year after the attempted bombing of that annual event.
Last year's parade was rerouted by police after a bomb was found in a suspicious backpack along the route by three temporary workers. Kevin Harpham, who espoused white supremacist views, later pleaded guilty to planting the bomb.
But that march continued last year and will be repeated Monday, Brown said, “sending a strong message that violence has no place in our community or any community.”
In a speech on the Senate floor explaining why she won't be present on Monday, Brown quoted King who once said that people who march “must make the pledge that we always march ahead. We cannot turn back”
 In her office of Senate majority leader, she has a painting by a Spokane artist which features the street layout of Washington, D.C., from the Lincoln Memorial, where King made his “I Have a Dream” speech to the White House.
The title “16,582 Days to a Symphony of Brotherhood,” commemorates the number of days between the speech and the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American president. Brown urged people to stop by her office to see painting to contemplate how far the nation has come. And on the one-year anniversary of the attempted bombing they might want to contemplate something else, she said.
“How far we still have to go… to where our differences our settled through dialogue and debate, and not with violence.”
  

Senate Democrats coalescing on reforms

OLYMPIA — Senate Democratic leaders think they've narrowed a stack of possible reforms that some member wants to a smaller list they may be able to pass.

The reforms would save at least $50 million in this budget cycle, and as much as $300 million over the next three years as they slowly take hold in government. That's not enough to fill a projected gap of more than $1 billion in the state's General Fund budget over the next 18 months, Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said.

But without tangible reforms, voters are going to be “extremely skeptical” support any request for a tax increase, Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said.

Some of the ideas are on lists offered by Republicans, such as streamlined permitting for businesses and restructuring state government to make it cheaper and more efficient., although it won't be possible to tell if the details are compatible until the bills are introduced.

Some have come close to passing in previous sessions, such as cracking down on Medicaid fraud and abuse, only to founder on disputes over details.

They expect to introduce reform bills in the next week or so. Budget hearings will also begin in the Ways and Means Committee, with the idea of having a budget “ready or almost ready” when the next state revenue forecast is released in mid February. Plans are to pass a budget by early March and not go into overtime with a special session.

“This does not get any easier by hanging around,” Brown said.

3rd Lege District “town hall” call on Wednesday

Residents of Spokane's 3rd Legislative District might be getting a call around 6 p.m. Wednesday inviting them to participate in a tele-town hall.

A what? you might say.

It's like a town hall meeting, only on the telephone.

Sen. Lisa Brown and Reps. Timm Ormsby and Andy Billig will all be on the other end. Or more accurately, another ends. In a tele-town hall, there are lots of ends because hundreds of people can be on the line.

Participants can ask their questions, and listen to the questions of others and the answers from the three Democratic legislators. If you want to participate but don't get a call, you can dial toll-free at 1-877-229-8493. You'll have to enter an ID code when requested, of 18646.

A spokeswoman said the three legislators decided to do a town hall meeting by phone because scheduling a session in Spokane early the session can be difficult. They may do one in person later.

For 6th District residents, however, can ask their state senator questions the old fashioned, face-to-face way on Saturday. Sen. Mike Baumgartner is holding two standard town hall meetings.

The first will be at 8 a.m. at the Multipurpose Room, PUB 101, on EWU Cheney campus. (It's hosted by the Associated Students of Eastern Washington University, who apparently don't plan to party late into the night Friday to be up bright and early for the town hall meeting…or maybe they just won't go to bed until after the meeting is over.)

Another meeitng is at 10:30 a.m. at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Browne's Addition, 2316 West 1st Ave.

No time for ‘social issues’ in 2012 Legislature?

OLYMPIA — Republicans pushed back Thursday against Gov. Chris Gregoire's call for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the upcoming legislative session.

But Gregoire made clear she would stick to her guns on the issue.

One of the main candidates to replace Gregoire said the Legislature shouldn't make the decision on its own. Instead, state Attorney General Rob McKenna said, it should send any proposal it passes to the ballot and give voters the final say.

At panel discussion for the top Democratic and Republican leaders sponsored by the Associated Press Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla argued that a short, 60-day session with a major budget hole is not the place for “social reform” that could roil the legislators: We should leave social issues off the agenda,” Hewitt said.

He also questioned whether one of the proponents of same-sex marriage legislation, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, will have time to devote to that bill while serving as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Murray, who is openly gay, is “vested in this personally”, Hewitt said. “I really don't want his attention taken away” from the budget.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis questioned how Democrats could devote time to hearings on same-sex marriage legislation when they won't set aside time for hearings on GOP reform proposals: “Apparently we have time to hear certain bills but not other bills.”

Democratic leaders said it's an issue the Legislature should take up this session. “This is the right time to move forward with marriage equality,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said.

In a separate session, Gregoire agreed that fixing the budget is “priority one.” But there's time to debate her proposal on same-sex marriage, too, she insisted: “What will history say when we say 'Sorry, but we had a budget to pass so we continued to discriminate.' In tough times, we stand up to the challenge.”

And legislators can find time to do more than just the budget, she added. “I multi-task; they multi-task. It can be discussed thoughtfully and deliberately.”

In a later interview, McKenna said that while same-sex marriage may be an important issue for some legislators and Gregoire, he didn't know if a short session with a deep budget problem is the best time to address it.

“This is an issue for the voters to decide. I hope if they do pass it, they send it to the voters,” McKenna said. Such a requirement might mean the legislative maneuvering and debate over such a contentious issue will take less time, because voters would have the final say, he added.

McLaughlin considering bid against Brown

The proposed new boundaries for Spokane's 3rd Legislative District could be helpful for a potential bid by Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.

The proposed district (map here) still would strongly favor Democrats, but it also would add some Republican-leaning precincts.

McLaughlin said last week that she will decide in the next few months if she will challenge Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. She said that she and her husband have ruled out a run for state House because she would have to focus too much on reelection efforts with only two-year terms.

Republicans have looked to McLaughlin to run for Legislature at least since 2009, when she won reelection resoundingly over neighborhood leader Karen Kearney. She captured 67 percent of the vote, in a district that voted for Barack Obama a year earlier. She also has become extremely interested in Legislative politics with her involvement in the Washington Association of Cities. (She is president of the group this year.)

McLaughlin has proven that she can win big in a council district that leans slightly Democratic. But can she win in a Legislative district that's the most Democratic in Eastern Washington?

Spec Sess Day12: Brown says they’ll find a partial solution

OLYMPIA — Legislators will try to fill some of the looming budget gap next week, but won't come close to the $2 billion in cuts Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed last month.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said she expects a budget proposal to be introduced Monday that will address a “substantial piece” of the projected shortfall. She declined to list a specific number, but hinted the amount could be between $100 million and $500 million.

It will be an amount that a majority of legislators in both chambers can agree on, she said. Further cuts and government reforms will come up in the regular session, due to start Jan. 9, she said: “We'll still have a long way to go.”

The Legislature won't vote on Gregoire's request for a temporary half-cent sales tax in the special session. The governor had asked for that by the end of the session to put the proposal before voters in March, and buy back some of the $2 billion in cuts she was asking legislators to approve in the emergency 30-day session.

“I thought that was an overly ambitious assignment from the start,” Brown said.

On Thursday, Gregoire also publically scaled back her expectations, saying she'd be happy with a “significant downpayment” on budget cuts and didn't expect passage of the sales tax proposal.

“I don't see any revenue measures in the special session,” Brown said. Legislators first want to consider reforms and set priorities on programs. Some of the governor's proposed cuts would save money initially by ending programs, but cost money in the long run. One such example is a proposal to make cuts to “critical access hospitals” in rural areas, which actually cost the hospitals double because the facilities would lose federal money as well as state money, she said.

Legislators are also not inclined to eliminate the Basic Health program or the Disability Lifeline, Brown said, or to make cuts in Corrections Programs, as Gregoire has proposed.

Brown: Senate Dems don’t favor “all-cuts” budget

OLYMPIA — Most Senate Democrats oppose a plan that closes the state's $1.4  billion budget gap solely with cuts, but there's no agreement at this point on where to find more tax revenue, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Monday.

“It's going to take a little while to figure this out,”  Brown, D-Spokane, said meeting with her caucus. “Some level of reduction is inevitable.”

They haven't yet discussed Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to raise the state sales tax by one-half cent per $1 for three years.

Democratic leaders of different committees are meeting with Republican counterparts to try to find cuts to which both sides can agree, she said. Gregoire submitted one such spending plan, which calls for nearly $2 billion in cuts, with a separate bill to ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase that would raise nearly $500 million that would be directed to restore some cuts to public schools, state colleges, long-term care and public safety programs.

Brown said she couldn't speculate on whether there would be agreement with the governor that her proposal would contain the proper amount, time or programs to be restored.

Spec Sess Day 1: Legislature convenes

OLYMPIA — With protesters outside on the Capitol steps and more expected later today, the Legislature started its special session shortly after noon with limited pomp and circumstance. The Legislature is generally without its army of teen-aged pages for this emergency budget session. The pages often form a color guard to bring the U.S. and state flags into the chamber. The Senate improvised today by having Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, as the flag bearers. (above) Once flags were firmly in place, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s official call was read for the emergency session to address the projected budget shortfall, and other matters as legislators see fit. The Senate also had a few housekeeping details to attend, including the swearing-in of two recently appointed members. There will be another such ceremony on Tuesday for Mike Padden, who won the Nov. 8 election in Spokane’s 4th District, but doesn’t take office until the election results are certified Tuesday afternoon.

Lisa Brown staying put

OLYMPIA — State Sen. Lisa Brown is dropping any plans to run for statewide office in 2012

Democrat Brown, the Senate majority leader from Spokane, has been rumored for two possible statewide posts on next year's ballot, lieutenant governor and state auditor.

The auditor's seat is open with long-time incumbent Brian Sonntag deciding last month he wouldn't seek re-election. The lieutenant governor's seat isn't, with incumbent Brad Owen showing no sign of giving up the job of presiding over the Senate and standing in when a governor leaves the state.

Brown said Monday she'll be concentrating on leading the Senate Democrats during the upcoming special session that starts Nov. 28, and the regular session that starts in January.  Although that would still leave some time to put together a campaign in March or April, “I'm not planning on running for statewide office in 2012,” she said.

Her current term is up next year, so she'll have to seek re-election to the Senate in 2012. While that's a relatively safe seat right now, there's no telling what Spokane's legislative seats will look like after the Redistricting Commission gets finished with redrawing the lines.

Legislative pay cut: Some say yes, some say no

OLYMPIA – About half of the 15 members of the Spokane-area legislative delegation have volunteered for the same level of pay cuts the imposed on state workers. That’s a level slightly better than legislators statewide.

Many who have done it, like Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, say it’s a personal decision.

“As a businessman, the buck starts and stops with me,” said Parker, who owns a chain of coffee shops. “It’s the same with us as legislators.”

Parker’s seatmate in Spokane’s 6th District, Republican John Ahern, said he doesn’t plan to ask for a pay cut, but he is donating 3 percent or more to charities, ranging from his church and the Boy Scouts to organizations that oppose abortion like Teen-Aid.

“This way I know exactly where the money is going,” Ahern said. If he took a pay cut, the money would stay in the state’s general fund, and go to state programs or agencies he doesn’t support….

To read the rest of this item, or for a list of the Spokane-area delegation's decisions on a voluntary pay cut, click here to go inside the blog
  

WA Lege Day 89: Senate wasn’t told of Thursday’s ‘lockdown’

OLYMPIA — State senators who left the Capitol for their offices or to grab a bite to eat during a break in floor action Thursday returned to find the building on a lockdown and closed to the public more than an hour after protesters were arrested outside the governor's office.

No one without a magnetic stripe key card that operates the automatic locks was immediately allowed in. That meant lobbyists, any legislator or staff member who'd left an ID card on a desk, and, of course the general public

That didn't sit well with Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane, who said she'd been at a meeting with the governor, General Administration and the State Patrol after the arrests and no one mentioned a lock down.Senate Democrats refused to resume floor action until the doors were unlocked.

Just because some people were disruptive doesn't mean everyone else interested in peacefully exercising their free speech rights should be locked out, Brown said.

The Legislature is heading into the final weeks of the session and Democrats would not be “conducting public business while the proceedings were closed to the public,” she said.

Friday morning Brown said she thinks the lines of communication between the Legislature and the governor's office were improved for anything that might be considered in response to today's protests.

Brown: Senate looking for other way to save MAC

OLYMPIA — Fans of Spokane's Museum of Arts and Culture who were cheered by news the House may tap a special fund to keep the MAC open should be warned: The Senate isn't wild about the idea.

As reported Thursday, the House has a new bill that would take money from a fund set up build a Heritage Center in Olympia to keep open the MAC and the State History Museum in Tacoma. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for 8 a.m. next Thursday in the House State Government Committee.

But Senate Majority Lisa Brown, whose district includes the MAC, said Friday if the bill gets out of the House it could run into trouble in the Senate: “We want to come up with a source of funding. We don't want to go down that road.”

The Senate hopes to find money for the MAC and the Tacoma museum in the general operating fund budget, Brown said.

Status quo on initiative laws

Left in the legislative ash heap last week was a bill to revise rules for initiative campaigns by charging as much as $500 to file a ballot measure and putting stricter rules on people paid to gather signatures.
Like previous attempts to change ballot measure rules, SB 5297 brought out Tim Eyman and other initiative entrepreneurs who understandably don’t want the Legislature messing with a system they’ve figured out. Certain progressive “good-government” groups, eager to clean up abuses they see, provided the opposing view and generated heartfelt if conflicting testimony at the hearings.
Eyman is always quotable, in an “Armageddon is the next stop if we get on this railroad” sort of way. The good government groups warned of dastardly deeds by signature collectors, and usually mentioned a case from Spokane involving the mother-daughter team of Theresa and Mercedes Dedeaux.
The Spokesman-Review detailed the case early last year, when it became a cause célèbre for another bill with another set of restrictions on paid signature gatherers which also ultimately died. This seems a good time for an update…
  

Got something to say to your legislator? Here’s your chance

There's a break in the legislative action this weekend, so several Spokane-area legislators will be back in their home districts to hold town hall meetings.

The break is a result of the Legislature passing a major deadline for voting bills out of one chamber, and not yet reaching a key point in crafting the next biennium's budget, the state economic forecast which comes out March 17. Because of that, neither house is in session this weekend, so it's a good time for legislators to head home for a few days, and Saturday seems like a good day for town hall meetings.

Here's a list of what's scheduled for Saturday.

3rd Legislative District
Sen. Lisa Brown, Reps. Timm Ormsby and Andy Billig.
  10 a.m., Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St.
  2 p.m., Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, 2316 W. 1st Ave.

6th Legislative District
Sen. Mike Baumgartner, Reps. Kevin Parker and John Ahern
  10:30 a.m. Northwood Middle School gymnasium, 13120 N. Pittsburg St.
Parker
  2 p.m., Education themed town hall at Northwood Middle School library, 13120 N. Pittsburg St.
Baumgartner
  5 p.m. town hall at the MAC, 2316 W. 1st Ave.

9th Legislative District
Rep. Susan Fagan

  10:30 a.m., WHMC Public Education Building, 1200 W. Fairview St., Colfax
  2 p.m., Cafe Moro, 100 E. Main St., Pullman

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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