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Sunday Spin: Spokane delegation makes its annual trek west

OLYMPIA – A delegation of more than 80 Spokane-area folks arrived here last week with their annual “agenda” – some might call it a wish list – of things the Legislature could do to make life better for the state in general and the center of the Inland Empire in particular.

This annual trek to the capital sponsored by Greater Spokane, Inc., herds well-briefed leaders of business, political, education and civic groups through the marbled rooms and committee rooms and is the envy of many other cities and counties around Washington. It has prompted the sincerest form of flattery, imitation, from other communities but many legislators still say Spokane’s full-court press lobbying remains the best.

At least that’s what some tell members of the Spokane throng. Others offer recollections of their last visit to the city or Spokane Valley, or some other anecdote to show they are all paisans. . . 

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Prospects poor for highway package, GSI group told

OLYMPIA – Don't get your hopes up for new money to finish the North-South Freeway, a group of business, civic and political leaders from Spokane was told Wednesday.

The chances the Legislature will pass a package of big road projects paid by a gasoline tax are almost non-existent.

Some legislators blamed politics or the lack of support among Republican legislators from the Spokane area. Others blamed problems at the state Transportation Department. Some said a package can't make it out of the Legislature during the current abbreviated session. Others said any package that did would surely wind up on the ballot, where voters would reject it.

Together, they painted a bleak outlook for one of the top items – and by far the most expensive – on the Greater Spokane Inc. 2014 agenda as more than 80 local leaders arrived in Olympia for their annual three-day lobbying session. .  .

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Sunday Spin2: Breathe deep, then hold it

Then there was Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who had the bad sense to be flippant in an e-mail, which in 2013 amounts to spray painting an expletive about one’s boss on a brick wall, and signing one’s name.

Orcutt derided the House Democrats’ recent proposal to come up with some $10 billion for transportation projects through a series of tax and fee increases. A long-time foe of most tax increases, Orcutt allowed as how there was one he could countenance: a proposed $25 fee for new bikes costing more than $500, to be used to help pay for bike lanes and trails.

When the owner of a bike shop wrote to tell Orcutt why that was a dumb idea, he responded essentially that it was time for bike riders to pick up a share of the cost of the roads on which they ride. Then he went a bit further.

“Also, you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike. But if I am not mistaken, a cyclist has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon diozxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.”

His e-mail quickly found its way to the Cascade Bicycle Club’s blog, from whence it made its way around cyberspace. He later apologized, saying he was trying to make the point that biking isn’t a zero-pollution activity, but did it poorly and probably shouldn’t even have gone there.

State budget hole: $900 million

OLYMPIA – Washington faces a $900 million budget hole through 2015, a slightly smaller one for the Legislature to fill than previously thought, thanks to a slowly recovering economy.

Governor-elect Jay Inslee, a Democrat, reiterated Wednesday he plans to do that without a tax increase, a sentiment seconded a few hours later by Republicans on the state's Economic Forecast Council when it received the latest projection of money coming into and going out of the state coffers for the next four years.

The Democrat who heads the House budget committee, however, was skeptical. . .

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(Editor's note: the original headline for this item incorrectly state the shortfall in billions.)

WA chief economist Raha to quit

Arun Raha reads from a list of his Top 10 "Arun-isms".

OLYMPIA — Dr. Arun Raha, the state's chief economist who delivered some the worst financial news in more than a half-century but managed a quip or a laugh to help ease the pain, is stepping down.

"I'm going back to the private sector, and anonymity, hopefully," he said today at a press conference. He's taking a job as director of corporate economics for a company in Ohio.

Raha was appointed to the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council in 2008, and his tenure has been marked by the worst economic downturn in the state since the Great Depression.

"It was a challenge," he said. "Any job I have after this is going to be a piece of cake."

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Revenue outlook a little worse; Budget reserve outlook even more so

OLYMPIA – The state’s most likely revenue outlook for the next two years dropped slightly Wednesday as the state’s chief economist revised his projections down about $183 million because of what he calls a “soft patch” in the recovery.

The state should collect $31.603 billion in its general fund to spend on a wide array of programs, services and salaries, Arun Raha said, or about sixth-tenths of 1 percent less than the revenue projected in March…

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