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Sunday Spin: Initiatives as tactics

OLYMPIA – Initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman and his detractors squared off recently in the Capitol, where the ingenuity of their latest ideas was overshadowed by doubts about their earnestness.

Eyman signaled he has relatively little confidence the state Supreme Court will look kindly on the constitutionality of this year’s proposal to force supermajority tax votes in the Legislature. He filed yet another ballot measure to force lawmakers’ hands.

Under the new proposal filed by Eyman et al Wednesday, if legislators won’t send voters a constitutional amendment to require two-thirds majorities for all new taxes, any new taxes without said supermajority will have to be passed again on an annual basis. Or something like that.

The latest supermajority scheme might be worthy of serious study and in-depth legal analysis were it not for one key point. Initiatives to the Legislature are traditionally filed in the summer, because the signatures must be submitted by New Year’s Eve, just before lawmakers are returning to Olympia.

With less than six weeks to gather nearly 250,000 signatures, the initiative had dismal prospects, even before Eyman conceded it’s really just a stalking horse. He won’t gather signatures and plans to submit it again in January as an initiative to the people, at which time he’ll have about five months to collect the needed names.

But this iteration, he said, allows the campaign to begin raising money right away, which he did with a steady stream of donation-seeking e-mails to his many fans.

Anyone who thinks that’s an over-the-top gambit for someone under state investigation for funny finances in a previous campaign doesn’t really know Eyman, who is nothing if not an aficionado of audacity.

Which explains why he and his main partners, Spokane City Council Mike Fagan and Fagan’s father Jack wandered down a Capitol Building hallway from the Secretary of State’s office, where initiatives are filed, to the governor’s office for a formal unveiling to the news media. They brought with them ice cream, a reference to a comment they said Jay Inslee made about the tendency of voters to approve things that sound good, just as they are likely to accept a free bowl of ice cream.

This is a standard jab some people make at initiatives that fail to lay out costs or consequences, but it’s debatable. Washington probably has enough vegans and animal rights activists opposed in principle to ice cream, and when the lactose intolerant are added in, a free ice cream initiative might fail. But I digress.

While Eyman and Co. extolled the virtues of their initiative, and denounced Inslee in his office lobby, the governor’s chief spokesman David Postman came out to tell Eyman to turn down the volume because work was going on in adjoining spaces. That grew into a series of verbal parries and thrusts, although hardly the ballistic rant Eyman has claimed, the video posted online reveals. But Postman seemed to have forgotten what he learned in his previous job as a political reporter in Olympia, that no one comes out ahead in such confrontations with Eyman.

Sure enough, by week’s end Eyman was touting the video of their back-and-forth on his latest fund-seeking e-mail with “You’re gonna love watching this!” in the subject line.

Meanwhile, in an effort to out-Eyman Eyman, a progressive group filed an initiative that could make it harder for him – for that matter, anyone – to pass ballot measures in low-turnout years. The Northwest Progressive Institute’s proposal, which also has no chance of making the signature deadline, would require at least 50 percent of all registered voters to cast ballots in the election or a ballot measure would not pass, regardless of the number of yes votes received. 

This is a response to this year’s passage of Eyman’s I-1366, which has about 51.5 percent of voters marking yes, but somewhere south of 40 percent of voters even bothering to turn in their ballots. That means “a small fraction of the state’s electorate can impose laws on everybody else in an election with poor turnout,” the institute’s Andrew Villeneuve said. It is not “true democracy.”

Actually, it is, as long as people had the chance to vote, but just didn’t. Progressives should be careful what they ask for, because some initiatives they might propose in an off-year election, when turnout is often below 50 percent, could fall victim to such a rule. Plus some Eyman initiatives pass handily in even-year elections when turnout generally meets that threshold.

They made a comparison to the Legislature, where the standard is the majority of the number of legislators, not a majority of those present. In that case, the rule would be passage with yes votes equal to 50 percent of registered voters, not a demand for turnout.

It also would require an initiative that calls for a supermajority on any matter to pass by that same supermajority. While somewhat logical as a defensive position, this has the same problem that they accuse Eyman’s proposals of having, that a minority of voters could thwart the will of the minority..

Progressives irked by Eyman seem to be wedded to the adage of fighting fire with fire. If this past summer of wildfire has taught us anything, it would be there are usually better tactics to employ.

War of words over Syrian refugees

OLYMPIA – A war of words between state officials over whether Washington should accept Syrian refugees developed in the state Capitol Friday, even though the decision is largely out of their hands.

Gov. Jay Inslee told legislators they should bone up on the extensive security checks refugees must go through, which he said are nothing like those that allegedly allowed one of the Paris terrorists to slip into Europe through Greece. State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, suggested Inslee should be impeached.

Inslee responded to a group of state senators who wrote him earlier in the week to “pause” and take time assure the people the refugees would be screened “to ensure that the bloodshed of Paris will not happen in the concert halls and cafes of our cities and towns.” The governor laid out the multistep screening process that American refugees must pass.

“I have never made any such statements,” he wrote. “Governors play no role in the process.”

Supporters and opponents of accepting refugees staged competing demonstations, with speeches and signs outside the Capitol Building. The Seattle Times reported Shea told opponents of the resettlement that lawmakers next session should impeach Inslee if the governor didn’t change his stance on refugees.

GOP lawmakers want ‘pause’ on Syrian refugees

OLYMPIA — Washington shouldn't accept Syrian refugees until the federal government can convince the state its safe, a group of 14 Republican state senators told Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday. 

On Tuesday Inslee said he talked with federal officials and was confident that they had strong safeguards in place to screen refugees. A day later, the lawmakers wrote a letter saying the state should wait

"Until we learn of the steps the president is taking to guarantee none of the refugees is a would-be terrorist, we urge you to  notify the federal government that Washington must pause before it will take Syrian refugees," said the group, which includes Spokane-area Sens. Mike Padden, of Spokane Valley, and Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville. "We, like you, consider Washington state to be welcoming and gracious, especially to those who come here, legally, from war-torn regions. But not at the expense of the safety of the citizens of the state."

The public no longer has confidence the federal government can vet refugees and keep terrorists from coming into the country, they said. "Tough questions need to be asked."

Although Inslee has said Washington will continue with a tradition that dates back 40 years of welcoming refugees from war-torn areas, many other governors have said they won't allow Syrian refugees in their states. Legal experts say,  however, that states have no say in the matter because immigration is under federal jurisdiction. Federal officials have estimated the country will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, but that it might take up to a year to before they are screened and ready for resettlement.

Chris Vance, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in next year's election, said Obama should "halt the flow of Syrian refugees into the United States" until he can assure state officials terrorists won't use the program to enter the country. 

Washington storms prompt emergency declaration

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency throughout Washington, activating the National Guard and mobilizing state resources to help respond to a series of storms.

In a declaration signed late Wednesday afternoon, Inslee authorized state agencies to provide resources to cities and counties that ask for help responding and recovering from the event. The Military Department’s Emergency Management Division was activated and ordered to coordinate assistance. The National Guard was ordered “to perform such duties as directed”.

The emergency declaration notes that storms from Nov. 13 through Wednesday have produced flooding, eroded slopes and stream banks, uprooted trees and produced landslides. They have resulted in three deaths, as well as injuries, power outages, road and rail closures and cancellations to ferries and airlines.

Some of the landslides and flooding were made worse by last summer’s wildfires that burned large areas of forests and open land. The storm damage and its effects are “a public disaster that affects life, health, property or the public peace,” the declaration says.


Refugee screening strong enough to protect nation — Inslee

Federal screening procedures for Syrian refugees are strong enough to protect the country, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday after a briefing from the Obama administration.

Inslee was part of a conference call between federal immigration officials and governors, some of whom have said they would try to block any Syrian refugees coming into their state in the wake of last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Some members of Congress also are calling for a halt to allowing Syrian refugees into the country.

Inslee said Monday Washington would welcome them as it has refugees from other countries over the last 40 years.

“Setting aside some hateful and divisive comments from certain corners, governors have a legitimate right and need to assure their citizens are safe,” Inslee said in a prepared statement. The federal process for screening refugees is the highest security for anyone coming to the United States, he said, using biographic and biometric information, background checks and fingerprints, and law enforcement databases.

The State Department gives priority to high-risk, vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly and torture victims, Inslee said. About half of all Syrian refugees are children.

Inslee says yes to Syrian refugees, Otter says no

OLYMPIA – Washington will continue to accept refugees from Syria and other Middle East countries, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday morning.

But Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said he will do everything he can to stop refugees from coming to his state until the federal government comes up with a better system to vet them.

Saying he believes the U.S. State Department has a “robust system” to evaluate refugees and decide where to place them, Inslee said Washington will not refuse placements.

“Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or what religion they practice,” Inslee said in a prepared statement that mentioned Republican Gov. Dan Evans led efforts to welcome Southeast Asian refugees to the state in the 1970s.

Otter said he sent a letter to President Obama saying he understood refugee resettlement is primarily under the control of the federal governnment, but that Congress and the administration should work with the states and review the process.

In the meantime, Otter said he would “use any legal means available to me to protect the citizens I serve.”

In the wake of terrorist attacks attributed to ISIS in Paris, governors in Alabama, Arkinsas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi and Texas, and the state Assembly of Wisconsin also announced plans to try blocking Syrian refugees from coming to their state. Legal experts questioned, however, whether they had any authority to override the federal government on this issue.

Inslee was among governors taking a different stance and saying Washington would accept Syrian refugees if the federal government decides to send them to the state.

“I stand firmly with President Obama who said this morning ‘We do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism,’” he said.

Since 1975, Washington has received more than 130,000 refugees from more than 70 countries, Sarah Peterson, the state refugee coordinator, said. That included 2,921 in 2015, mostly from Iraq, Ukraine, Somalia, the Congo and Myanmar; 25 of them were from Syria. No estimates for the number of Syrian refugees that could be coming to Washington have been announced, she added.

Idaho, too, has a long history of welcoming refugees. Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, told Idaho Reports the state has resettled 35 refugees in the last six months, 20 of them children.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t sell fetal tissue, Washington attorney general says

OLYMPIA – Planned Parenthood clinics in Washington do not sell fetal tissue and do not perform partial-birth abortions, conservative lawmakers were told Monday.

Responding to requests from 38 state representatives and 13 state senators, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he assigned two of his attorneys to investigate their concerned about the organization after national reports of “trafficking in human body parts.” That review found no evidence to support claims that the organization sells fetal tissue or performs illegal partial-birth abortions, and Ferguson called such unfounded allegations troubling.

“They seek to discredit the organization and divert resources away from patient services, making it more difficult for Washington women to exercise their constitutional rights,” he wrote in letters to the lawmakers.

One of the leaders of the House members who called for the investigation, Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, said he was glad that Ferguson acted on the request for an investigation and that “it appears none of this is going in in Washington.” But he said it was the attorney general, not lawmakers, who was politicizing the issue.

“He decided to go political with it, wading into the entire abortion issue,” MacEwen said, insisting that representatives made clear in their letter it was not about abortion.

That letter said: “Regardless of personal views of legalized abortion, a civilized society cannot tolerate unethical medical practices such as the harvesting of human organs for monetary gain.”

In a memo attached to letters sent to lawmakers, the investigating attorneys said only one Planned Parenthood facility in Washington does take fetal tissue samples. It has an agreement with the University of Washington School of Medicine's Birth Defects Research Laboratory, which uses the tissue for research into the prevention of heart damage, macular degeneration and birth defects, Feguson said. Planned Parenthood donates the tissue, the laboratory provides shipping materials but no reimbursement to the organization.

Women who decide to have an abortion after two visits to Planned Parenthood sign a consent form for that procedure, and only then are they asked whether they want to donate the fetal tissue. If so, they sign a second consent form, the memo says. The abortion procedure isn't changed if the fetal tissue is to be donated – a requirement by the National Institutes of Health, which provides federal money to the laboratory.

Partial birth abortions, are illegal under state and federal law, the memo adds. “There has been no information presented to indicate that partial-birth abortions have been performed at any Planned Parenthood health center in Washington,” the attorneys said.

The lawmakers were responding to allegations that surfaced in videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. The attorneys said the center has released many videos, but all appear to be edited and none were recorded in Washington, the attorneys said. If they had, that would be illegal because state law requires consent before recording a conversation.

“None of the videos or transcripts publicized by the Center for Medical Progress contain any description of a procedure that would meet the federal definition of a partial-birth abortion,” the attorneys said.

Gov. Jay Inslee – who, like Ferguson is a Democrat who supports abortion rights – criticized lawmakers who had requested the investigation. All but one of the legislators is a Republican.

“The effort by some state legislators to baselessly discredit Planned Parenthood was part of a national effort to restrict access to legal medical services for millions of women,” Inslee said in a prepared statement.

But MacEwen defended the request: “It was a serious enough issue for us to look into it.” He doubted anything will come up on the topic in the short 2016 legislative session, but it may surface in 2017 when the two-year state budget it written.

Halloween at the Gov’s mansion: Caped Crusader and sidekick

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and wife Trudi are going to be Batman and Robin for Halloween. 

Not all day, of course. But it's traditional for the governor and spouse to dress up and give out candy at the mansion, so they'll be the Caped Crusader and his energetic side-kick for about an hour and a half Saturday evening for the long line of kids expected to stop by.

It's a popular stop for Olympia treat seekers because the gov gives out full-sized chocolate bars. They're from Sasquatch Chocolate in Renton, paid for out of the events fund, a private account from money received from events hosted at the residents.

Don't even think about tricks. The Washington State Patrol is always on duty at the mansion.

No state funds are used for candy, costumes or decorations, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.

Which incarnation of Batman is an open question, considering the character dates back to the 1940s in comic books and has gone through many metamorphoses, particularly as it moved into television and movies.

There's the campy Adam West Batman with Burt Ward as the Boy Wonder from 1960s TV. Or the George Clooney Batman with Chris O'Donnell as Robin from the 1997 movie? Both have stylistic problems for someone dressing up in 2015.

There's also the Michael Keaton Batman, the Christian Bale Batman or the Ben Affleck Batman, but they are Robinless.

The governor's office isn't sure which era the costumes come from. 

Oct. 30 is National Weatherization Day

You may think that Oct. 30 is Halloween Eve, or All Hallows' Eve Eve, but you would be wrong.

It is officially National Weatherization Day, so proclaimed by folks who do weatherization projects. They picked the last day of National Energy Awareness Month (bet you didn't know it had a whole month), which apparently got its official okey-dokey from the U.S. Department of Energy.

But to make the observance really official in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a proclamation earlier this month declaring the 30th Weatherization Day. Spin Control admits we missed this rather momentous signing earlier this month, but the Department of Commerce was kind enough to send out a press release about weatherization programs designed to cut down on asthma in low income children, and include a copy of the official proclamation, so we would know this isn't some made-up observance.

Got a question for Inslee? A chance to ask it Nov. 10

If you have a question you're just dying to ask Gov. Jay Inslee (and you can keep it clean enough for live prime time television), you could get your chance on Nov. 10.

That's the day Seattle's KCTS 9 will host a one-hour "Ask the Governor" broadcast starting at 7 p.m., which will be shown live around the state, including on KSPS-TV in Spokane.

Inslee and moderator Enrique Cerna will be at the University of Washington campus, and will be taking questions from the audience as well as from the Internet.

The station will be taking questions in advance on an online form, which you can access by clicking here. You can write it out, or up load a link to a YouTube video version of the question.  

Before or during the broadcast, you could tweet a question using #askthe gov and @KCTS9. Or go to the KCTS9 Facebook page and add a question in the comments for the Ask The Governor post. 

Obviously, the station is going to get many more questions that it will have time to ask. To improve your chances, it might help to keep them short, to the point and specific. 

Some counties — but not all — approved for wildfire disaster payments

OLYMPIA – The federal government will reimburse some, but maybe not all, local governments and tribes for a portion of their costs fighting this summer’s record wildfires.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office announced late Tuesday the Obama adminstration has approved part of the state’s request for a major disaster declaration for the wildfires in Central and Eastern Washington. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it will cover 75 percent of cost of fighting the fires and repairing damaged infrastructure in eight counties and for the Colville Confederated Tribes. It has not yet agreed to cover those public assistance costs for four other counties and the Kalispel, Yakama and Spokane tribes.

It is still considering whether to provide individual assistance to families and busineeses that sustained losses. The fires destroyed 146 homes and damaged another 476, with nearly two-thirds uninsured or underinsured, state officials said.

Karina Shagren of the state Military Department, which handlers emergency management, said there’s no estimate yet on the amount of federal reimbursement. But with fire fighting costs alone at more than $100 million, the eventual reimbursement will be in the tens of millions of dollars, she said.

“A dollar figure is going to be tough,” Shagren said. “Sometimes it takes years, even decades, to close out a disaster account.”

Approved for public assistance were Chelan, Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Whatcom and Yakima counties. Not approved were Asotin, Columbia, Douglas and Garfield counties, although some of those counties and tribes previously may have received federal grants to cover 75 percent of fire costs, Shagren said.

The state could also submit more information on losses for those counties and tribes, which could lead to approval of public assistance aid for them. “Nothing has been denied yet,” she said.

Sunday Spin: Of hot summer, ‘Twilight’ and the gov

OLYMPIA − Let us concede, without objection, this summer was darn hot in Washington state.

The evidence is all around, from scorched earth throughout Eastern and Central Washington to exposed stream beds around the Northwest to the lack of “white stuff” on the Cascades and Olympics. So it is probably not necessary to come up with artificial descriptions of how dry we are.

But that’s what Gov. Jay Inslee did last week, somewhat parenthetically, when asked during a press conference what the future holds for burned out parts of the state, post-wildfire season.

The governor, a strong proponent of doing as much as humanly possible to cut carbon pollution that he and many others say adversely affects the climate, ticked off a series of things connected to the fires and the hot, dry summer:

Loss of cattle grazing areas and timber to fires. Check.

Loss of tourists for the recreation industry to smoky skies. Yep.

Higher bacteria in the shell fish beds from warmer ocean water. Apparently.

High mortality of salmon in the rivers from the heat. OK, but some environmental groups will argue the Snake River dams factor into that.

Then there was this: “The people who filmed the vampire show, ‘Twilight’, the reason they filmed it in Forks is they said they wanted to go to the rainiest city in America. But last week in Forks, they had water restrictions,” he said.

Umm, no. At least for the part about filming ‘Twilight’ in Forks. The town has had water restrictions, and there were even fires burning in the Olympic rain forest this summer, so it is drier than normal there.

The first Twilight movie was filmed primarily in Oregon and British Columbia. A few exteriors were shot in Kalama, Washington, but nothing was actually shot in Forks or La Push, even though the books by Stephenie Meyer are set there. Later movies were shot in B.C. and Europe.

The town of Forks has attempted to turn the books and movies into a tourist industry, but its selection as a setting is purely chance. Any teen girl fan of all things Twilight would know that Meyer said she picked Forks because an atlas listed it as the rainiest place in the United States, and the cloudy, rainy weather meant her vampire characters could avoid the fatal sun’s rays and be out and about more. Meyer, who lives in Arizona, had never actually been to Forks when she wrote the books.

Spin Control is not written by teen Twilight fans. But anyone who sat through debates over extending the state tax preferences for making movies and TV shows in Washington heard the lament that Twilight was not shot in Forks because the state is not competitive in the deals it offers film companies.

Inslee apparently confused the raison d’etre for the book setting with film production.

State flags going to half staff for Roseburg

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee ordered flags at state offices lowered to half staff to honor the victims of the mass shooting in Roseberg, Oregon.

In an order issued late Friday afternoon, Inslee's office said he was issuing the directive along with the White House, which issued a similar one for federal buildings. "Other government entities, citizens and businesses are encouraged to join in this recognition," the directive says. 

Flags at state buildings will stay lowered until close of business or sunset on Tuesday. 

No decision on Spokane Tribe casino, Inslee says

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee hasn't made a decision yet on a request by the Spokane Tribe to open a casino near Airway Heights. And he can't predict when he will.

Asked at a press conference Thursday about a time line for the pending decision, Inslee would only say: "When we make that decision, and at the right time. I can't give you a specific date."

It was similar to previous answers to questions on a decision on the tribe's request to include a casino in plans for a hotel and shopping mall on land it owns near Fairchild Air Force Base. After a long study, the U.S. Department of Interior ruled on June 15 that the plans for the complex with the casino are in the best interests of the tribe. 

But the casino still needs an approval from Inslee. Under federal law, he has a year from the date of the department's announcement, and could request an additional six months. The end of that full 18-month period would carry the decision beyond the 2016 election, in which Inslee will be seeking his second term.

In his 2012 campaign, Inslee received the maximum amount of contributions — $3,600 — from the Spokane Tribe, and from the Kalispel Tribe, which operate their own casino near Airway Heights and oppose the Spokane Tribe proposal.

Inslee: Look for ways to cut gun violence

OLYMPIA — Calling mass shootings like the one in Roseburg, Oregon, a “national scourge,” Gov. Jay Inslee said he would look for ways to reduce gun violence.

Whether that will include proposing tough gun-control laws in the 2016 legislative session, however, remains to be seen.

“I want to look for any possible way to reduce gun violence,” Inslee said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “I don’t have a specific proposal at this point.”

In the past, Inslee has supported bans on military-style semi-automatic rifles, which he and others call assault weapons, and tightening background checks for firearms sold at gun shows. Washington voters have already expanded background checks for many sales outside of retail stores, but gun control proposals have fared poorly in the Legislature.

“We should not be shy because these things may be controversial,” he said.

McMorris Rodgers, Newhouse to Inslee: Happy to talk trade

OLYMPIA — U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse apparently decided to cool things down rather than fan the flames in their correspondence with Gov. Jay Inslee over trade and carbon reduction.

After Inslee sent a pointed reply this week to their Aug. 26 letter, both congress members' offices responded with a measured "let's talk" statement. Inslee equated them to "climate deniers" for their opposition to some of his efforts to cut carbon pollution and challenged them to work for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank if they were serious about boosting foreign trade.

"We received the Governor’s letter, and the Congresswoman looks forward to finding time soon to discuss these issues and many others important to Washington State," McMorris Rodgers' office said in an e-mail when asked for a response to Inslee's missive.

“Congressman Newhouse has taken every opportunity to advocate for free trade, and he looks forward to working with Governor Inslee on all issues that will increase trade access for the state of Washington," the Yakima Republican's office said in an e-mail.

Whether that will equate to a push for the Ex-Im Bank's reauthorization remains to be seen.



Inslee calls McMorris Rodgers, Newhouse ‘climate deniers’

OLYMPIA — Eastern Washington's Republican members of Congress should stop being "climate deniers" and work harder to reauthorize a key financing mechanism for international trade that helps the state, Gov. Jay Inslee said today.
The Democratic governor shot back at Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse, who two weeks ago wrote to Inslee that his efforts to reduce carbon pollution "do not align with pro-growth policies." The letter from the two House members came as Inslee was preparing to leave for a trade mission to South Korea and Japan, and said they appreciated his efforts to boost trade.
That prompted Inslee to write back, and bring up an issue that has Washington Republicans in a bind between their most conservative colleagues in their caucus and trade-dependent businesses in the state: the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which helps fund some foreign trade deals.
"I was disappointed but not surprised to see you echo climate deniers in arguing against action on carbon pollution," Inslee wrote in a letter dated today. "But I was surprised to see you express support for increasing international commerce as a priority, given that your party now controls both chambers of Congress and yet your House Republican caucus is blocking reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank." 
Inslee has long been an advocate of increased government measures to reduce carbon emissions, and proposed a carbon tax as an alternative to an increase in the gasoline tax to help pay for new transportation projects. That proposal didn't pass either house in the Legislature and the final transportation package carried language that said the state couldn't enact any new rules on carbon pollution without legislative approval. Inslee later asked the Department of Ecology to explore rules that would be within existing laws.
Increased carbon pollution is contributing to a wide range of environmental problems, Inslee contends, from higher acid levels in the oceans to warmer, drier weather patterns.  Washington has already made great strides in reducing pollution, the two representatives wrote, and new requirements could have high costs but low returns.
In his letter, Inslee doesn't detail his well-known views on carbon pollution's contribution to global climate change. Instead he focuses on the point of agreement between them, that increased foreign trade is a key source of jobs in Washington, then jabs them over delays in reauthorizing the bank. The sale of two Boeing jets has been delayed because financing isn't available through the bank, he wrote.
"The Ex-Im Bank provides support to hundreds of Washington businesses and tens of thousands of Washington jobs… including in both of your districts," he wrote. "On behalf of your state, I urge you to focus your energies on removing the road blocks that your caucus has needlessly placed in the way of the continued growth of Washington exports." 


Ross Hunter to leave House for Early Learning post

OLYMPIA — Ross Hunter, the House Democrats' chief budget writer, is leaving the Legislature to take charge of the state Department of Early Learning.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced by press release this morning that Hunter, a 13-year legislative veteran from Medina, will replace Bette Hyde, who led the department for six years.

Hunter will start in the $150,000 a year job next Tuesday. He takes over at a time when the state is placing a major emphasis, and increased money, into early learning programs. He said he views the "opportunity to improve outcomes for hundreds of thousands of at-risk children (as) incredibly compelling."

His departure could set off a scramble among senior Democrats for the job of House Appropriations Committee chairman, a powerful position that has major influence on how the state spends billions of dollars in its operating budget.  The chairman of the Finance Committee, which sets taxes, may also be leaving. Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, has announced plans to seek a Senate seat if its current occupant, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, wins a seat on the King County Council in November. 

Democratic precinct committee officers in suburban King County's 48th District will nominate three possible replacements for Hunter, and the County Council will select a replacement who will serve in the 2016 regular session, and any special session that might be called later this year. The process would be the same for Kohl-Welles with 36th District precinct officers should she win and Carlyle is the senior representative in that Seattle district.

McMorris Rodgers to Inslee: Boosting trade is good, carbon reduction plans bad

OLYMPIA – Republican members of Congress from Eastern Washington think it’s great their Democratic governor is helping to boost foreign trade, but they want him to back off on carbon reduction plans and any efforts that could block new coal terminals.

A spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said their opposition to his efforts to cut carbon pollution isn’t surprising, but they are wrong in implying Inslee has made up his mind on proposals to build new seaports to ship coal to Asia after it has been hauled across the state by rail.

“He hasn’t indicated a position on those, but he has asked for a thorough review,” David Postman said Wednesday.

The letter from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse begins by commending Inslee for a “recognition that international trade is vital to the economic health of our state” and calls for strengthened trade ties, particularly to the Pacific Rim. Dated Wednesday, it comes on the eve of Inslee’s nine-day trade mission to South Korea and Japan but doesn’t specifically mention the trip, which starts Friday.

The letter quickly pivots, however, to criticism of other activities.

“We are very concerned that certain proposals and policies promoted by your administration do not align with pro-growth trade policies,” the representatives write.

Efforts to reduce carbon pollution from energy sources are unnecessary because the state already gets much of its power from low-emission energy like hydroelectric dams. Carbon reduction regulations would be expensive for businesses, commuters and utilities and would “place our job creators at an increased disadvantage compared to both foreign competitors and other states,” they wrote.

“Their opposition to action on carbon is pretty much the standard you hear from industry,” Postman said.

Inslee signed a transportation package with new taxes that would reduce money to mass transit if his administration were to develop new rules on carbon reduction. He has instructed the Ecology Department to explore reduction strategies within current laws. He has also said he will keep asking legislators of both parties to support carbon reduction.

 McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse wrote they also were concerned with “potential impediments” to proposed export terminals near Bellingham and Longview, which have been proposed to increase shipments of coal across the Pacific to China and other Asian countries. They cite support for the terminals from farm and business groups and labor unions, although they don’t mention the projects are opposed by environmental groups, some tribes and communities along the rail routes.

The Ecology Department has ordered an extended environmental impact report on the terminals that studies not just the effects on the area surrounding the facilities, which is a standard approach the federal government is taking. The state also wants a report on the impacts of digging it up in Wyoming, transporting it across Washington and other states by train, shipping it to Asia and  the increased greenhouse gases from burning it in those countries. The draft report is due later this year.

The governor but hadn’t read the letter Wednesday afternoon because it was faxed to his office after he had left for Pullman for a memorial tribute to late Washington State University President Elson Floyd. McMorris Rodgers also attended that event.

He will eventually see the letter and could reply with a letter of his own or in conversations with the representatives, Postman said.


Inslee’s office unveils wildfire info website

OLYMPIA — With the constant stream of information about the many wildfires around Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee's office has developed a website that compiles much of the info in one place.

The Washington Wildfire Resources page has a map that lists fires being fought, status updates, shelter locations and more links to federal and state resources.

You can check it out by clicking here. 

Inslee confirms 3 dead in Twisp fire

OLYMPIA — With the loss of three firefighters in the Twisp fire, Gov. Jay Inslee asked Washington residents to keep firefighters in their prayers Wednesday.

Inslee's statement came shortly after the Okanogan County Sheriff's Department announced three firefighters were killed and four were injured in Twisp. 

That city, along with Winthrop, is being evacuated as wildfires continue to burn through central and Eastern Washington, taxing local resources and bringing in help from the U.S. military.

Here's Inslee's full statement:

I was just told that three firefighters died while battling the Twisp fire and four were injured. My heart breaks over the loss of life. I know all Washington joins me and Trudi in sending our prayers to the families of these brave firefighters. They gave their lives to protect others. It was their calling, but the loss for their families is immense and I know the community will come together to support them. We will also keep the injured firefighters in our prayers. The conditions throughout the area remain extremely dangerous and I hope residents and visitors will heed evacuation orders or other emergency directions.”

Which state employees were the highest paid last year?

OLYMPIA – The University of Washington beat Washington State University in last year’s Apple Cup, and Husky head coach Chris Petersen’s team finished with a better record than Mike Leach’s Cougars.

But Leach was still ahead in one category: He topped the list of salaries received by state employees last year, at $2.75 million. Peterson came in second at $2.686 million, according to the latest salary information on all state employees.

Leach and Peterson don’t get their paychecks from taxpayers. Athletic salaries at both universities come from ticket sales and television revenues, but it’s funneled through the state. So the two football coaches, as usual, top the list of state salaries, followed by Husky basketball coach Lorenzo Romar at $1.13 million and WSU coach Ernie Kent at $1.05 million. Their total compensation packages in their contracts also may include things like insurance and pensions which aren't reflected in the state database. 

Scott Woodward, Husky athletic director, was fifth at almost $719,000. The late Elson Floyd, WSU president, was the highest paid non-athletic employee on the list. His $689,000 salary sandwiched him between Woodward and WSU athletic director Bill Moos.

The Top 10 slots are occupied by employees of one of the two research universities, and only one person in the top 100 is not connected to one of the two universities. That’s Gary Bruebaker, the chief investment officer for the state investment board, who comes in at $509,000. Board salaries aren’t paid by taxpayers, either, but from net investment earnings; they’re set based on a survey of other funds, so the state can attract investment professionals.

Many top-paid university employees are researchers whose work is supported by government or industry grants, and don’t come from tax funds or tuition. Like the athletic salaries, that money is channeled through the state and captured in the annual salary list. The grants often provide more to the institution or the state than just the researcher's salary.

Men are far more likely to be in the top salary ranks than women. Of the 36 state employees who make more than $400,000, seven are women, led by Johnese Spisso, a vice president at UW.

The salary figures are for 2014, so this year Spisso might be passed by Ana Marie Cauci, who was UW provost last year but was named interim president after Michael Young resigned in February to take a similar post at Texas A & M. Young made $600,750 last year in base salary; he’ll make a reported $1 million his first year at A&M.

Among the top 100 salaries – that’s just above $312,000 this year –19 went to women.

Among elected officials, the nine members of the state Supreme Court are the highest paid. They’re in a nine-way tie for 1,487th place with salaries of $169,188. That puts them a bit ahead of Gov. Jay Inslee, who makes $166,881, settling him in 1,557th place.

Salaries for state employees are public record, and published online by the state Office of Financial Management every year. For a database of state employee salaries – searchable by name or department – for the last four years, click here.

Inslee puts proposed water quality rules on hold


OLYMPIA – A major rewrite of the state's clean water rules was put on hold Friday as Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the Department of Ecology to “reassess” the plan he proposed last year because some elements did not pass the Legislature.

The department will decide whether to make changes to the proposed rules, which include new standards designed to protect people who eat fish and other seafood that may live in contaminated waters.

The updated clean water rules eventually must be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If the state doesn't update its rules, the EPA could impose its own set of  standards.

“The lack of legislative action is disappointing and forces us to reassess our approach,” Inslee said in a press release announcing the change.

Last year Inslee called for new standards on a series of toxic pollutants that can be found in the state's waterways. Among the proposed rules was a revision of the fish consumption standards, which measure the health risks of eating fish, shellfish or other food from rivers, streams, lakes or bays.

The old standards are based on a diet that involves far less fish than many Native American tribes consume. Inslee proposed increasing the amount of fish the standard assumes a person eats – from roughly one serving a month to one a day – but also dropped the acceptable cancer risk from one case per million to one case per 100,000. If the new formula resulted in a weaker standard, however, the state would keep the current one.

The rules drafted by the Ecology Department deal with “point-source” pollution, which comes from large, identifiable sources like municipal waste treatment plants or manufacturers. Inslee also proposed legislation to deal with “nonpoint-source” pollution, such as chemicals commonly found in household goods, automobile products and paints. It passed the House but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.

The department could decide its point-source rules can stand on their own, or it could propose additional rules. “We expect to decide how we move forward in weeks, not months,” Sandi Peck, a department spokeswoman, said.

The EPA is also developing its own set of updated clean water rules that could be imposed if Washington doesn’t come up with its own, Mark MacIntyre, an EPA spokesman said. The agency expects to have its rules ready by fall, but “but will pause that work to review and act upon a state submittal, should we receive one,” he said.




Elway Poll: Inslee approval down slightly

OLYMPIA — Voters tend to give Gov. Jay Inslee a passing grade, although when asked about his job performance, 55 percent rate it as "only fair or poor." Only 30 percent of voters contacted for a recent survey by The Elway Poll say they'd definitely vote to re-elect him in 2016.

But the news for the GOP isn't so good either. Only 25 percent said they're inclined right now to vote for a Republican for governor in 2016. Some 17 percent want another Democratic choice, and 28 percent are undecided.

Pollster H. Stuart Elway said there hasn't been a big drop in Inslee's approval rating, but rather "a gradual drifting downwards."

Asked to give the governor a letter grade like students get in school, 5 percent gave him an A, 31 percent a B and 35 percent a C. So by that measure he got passing grades from 71 percent of those polled, although 18 percent gave him a D and 9 percent an F.

When pollsters asked a slightly different question, whether a voter would rate his job performance as excellent, good, only fair or poor, 41 percent said excellent or good, compared to 55 percent who said fair or poor. That's virtually identical to the results of a poll in January, and not much different from a poll after his first six months in office, when 40 percent rated him excellent or good and 49 percent fair or poor.

Inslee faces a re-election next year, and Elway said his ratings aren't fatal. "But they are certainly not good and are heading in the wrong direction for him."

They are lower than his predecessor Chris Gregoire in the third summer of her first term, Elway said. Gregoire had 52 percent of respondents rating her as excellent or good and 47 rating her fair or poor in an August 2007 Elway poll.

Of concern for Inslee, as far as his re-election campaign goes, are the results of some subgroupings in the poll: Only 17 percent of independents said at this point they are inclined to vote for him in 2016, and 26 percent of Democrats said they would be inclined to vote for "a different Democrat". 

There is no Democratic challenger on the horizon, Elway noted, so those disaffected Democrats would likely either go for Inslee or not vote. No Democrat in the survey said they'd be likely to vote for a Republican. About 20 percent of independents said they're inclined at this point to vote for a Republican, while 17 percent said they'd be inclined to vote for Inslee. 

The survey contacted 502 registered voters selected at random and divided proportionately in six regions around the state between July 21 and July 23. It has a margin of error of 4.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.


Sunday Spin: 363 bills in 176 days, and other numbers from the 2015 session

OLYMPIA – Although the Legislature left town July 9, the true end of the session came Wednesday when Gov. Jay Inslee signed the last three of the 363 bills lawmakers managed to pass in their record-setting 176-day triple-overtime stint.

That’s an average of just over two bills a day, although averages are among the misleading of numbers. Many days, particularly in the three overtime periods, went without a bill being passed, or even debated, because most legislators weren’t around. Parsed another way, it was about 15 percent of the 2,434 bills they introduced, many of which disappeared into the void without a vote, a hearing or, in some cases, a second thought.

Every bill is important to someone, but some bills were momentous, such as the $38.2 billion operating budget with more money for schools, pre-schoolers and mental health services, a cut in college tuition and, to be parochial, a shot at a new medical school in Spokane. Some will be felt for years to come, like the extra 11.9 cents in gasoline taxes over the next year, as well as the highways, bridges, road maintenance, ferries and transit projects those taxes will help pay for.

A full list of all the bills passed and signed is attached in a spread sheet courtesy of the Secretary of State's office.

(Random thought: When that full 11.9 cents kicks in, will the local gas stations whose pumps end their prices with .9 – as they have for decades – and sell for prices ending in .8? If not, can someone explain what happens to that extra tenth of a cent?)

The last three bills Inslee signed were the transportation “package” with the gas tax increase and other transportation fees, the long list of projects to soak up that money, and the authority for the state to sell bonds to build said projects and repay them with said taxes.

Road projects are among the most popular things a Legislature can approve because they help people get from here to there and pay construction workers a good wage to build them. Signing ceremonies become the legislative equivalent of success having many parents, with opportunities to smile for the cameras and applaud the speeches about the great accomplishment. For the signing, Inslee moved the ceremony from his Olympia conference room to an outdoor platform overlooking Lake Washington on the University of Washington campus.

It is unusual but not unprecedented for a legislator who voted against the bill to show up at such events, just as they do for a ribbon cutting, particularly if it has money for an important project in his or her district. Some people regard that as hypocrisy, but it can be alibied by saying there were a few flaws in the bill but the project is good and the constituents benefit.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, may have set a new standard for chutzpah, however. An hour before the ceremony he issued a press release blasting the gas tax and the project list as a raw deal for his constituents. He said he was heading to Seattle himself to “call out” Inslee on the tax hike and the lack of transportation reforms.

His strident opposition wasn’t a surprise. Benton voted against all three bills, with a four-minute denunciation of the gas tax and the lack of reforms during the final debate. But it was worth tuning in to TVW to see if he’d be picketing the ceremony in sack-cloth and ashes, carrying a placard inscribed “Woe Is Us!”

Instead he joined the crowd behind the podium as various people spoke in pre-signing exhortations. Among them, Sen. Curtis King, a fellow Republican who helped craft the package, praised Inslee for giving up a long-standing push for a carbon-reduction system and said the package would move the state forward.

“It works for every part of the state,” King said. “We have reforms and from where I sit, they’re substantial.”

The silver-haired senator wasn’t always in the picture frame in the TVW webcast but seemed to be smiling and applauding along with everyone else when he came into view. Asked if there was a confrontation with the governor after the signing, an Inslee staffer said not that she saw: “Just lots of smiling for photos.”

Benton’s animus to the transportation package was not shared by the Washington Climate Collaborative, which praised the bills within minutes of their signing as a way to reduce traffic bottlenecks and pollution.

Just like some compilation of tree-huggers, you might be saying. Except the Climate Collaborative only sounds like a bunch of enviros. It’s really an umbrella group for chambers of commerce and economic development councils, farm and food-processing groups, economic development councils, construction unions and trade groups, oil marketers and the Western States Petroleum Association, many of whom have been fighting Inslee’s carbon-reduction plans for the last three years. So yeah, they’re happy.



Inslee signs bills delaying I-1351, biology test requirements

OLYMPIA — Two issues that forced the Legislature into an extra week of overtime became law today. Gov. Jay Inslee signed bills that delay class-size reductions from fourth grade through high school for four years, and give high school seniors a two-year reprieve on the biology assessment test.

Washington will move forward on shrinking the number of students in kindergarten through third grade, and a third bill signed provides some state money to help districts build some of those classrooms. Shrinking the number of students in the remaining grades will wait until the 2021-23 biennium, at the earliest, under House Bill 2266.

Seniors who were kept from graduating this year because they failed the biology assessment test and the back-up options offered will receive their diplomas in the coming weeks thanks to Senate Bill 6145. Next year's seniors also will be able to graduate if the inability to pass the biology assessment test is the only thing between them and a diploma. After that, the state is expected to change the tests required for graduation, and offer a "bridge to college" course to helps students who fail the tests as sophomores.

Senate Democrats negotiated the change on the biology assessment tests before agreeing to vote for the partial suspension of class-size reductions required by Initiative 1351.

Jim Kowalkowski, superintendent of the Davenport School District, was present for the signing of the bills both were good changes. Although the district has only about 600 students in its K-12 system, it had one student with good grades, who never missed a day of school and struggled with the biology assessment test.

She eventually passed it by two points the second time, "but we could see the stress she went through," he said, adding he believed there were hundreds of similar stories across the state. "I'm all for high standards, but we also have to help students."

Delaying parts of I-1351 made sense because the state has to build the foundation for smaller classes in the upper grades, he added.

The bill that spelled out those delays was one of the last compromises reached in the Legislative session, and almost foundered when minority Democrats in the Senate said they hadn't been consulted about the details of how it would be left out of a budget the Legislature had already passed. If failed to get the needed two-thirds super-majority in its first Senate vote, and the delay in the assessment test was part of the agreement to pass it on a second try.

But while it passed with super-majorities in both chambers, no legislators were on hand for the signing.

Update: Inslee signing operating budget sometime

UPDATE: OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee will sign the $38.2 billion operating budget sometime today, probably this evening, after it passed the Legislature last night.

His office had earlier scheduled the budget signing for 3:30 p.m., but later sent an update saying it had been rescheduled for "later this evening". They had delayed scheduling the formal signing until staff could read through the entire document.

Some legislators are expected to take a break from votes to attend the signing ceremony. But the Legislature has a full plate of bills to digest today, which will be the final day of the session which started back in the second week of January.

It could be a long day that stretches past midnight and into Wednesday. The House must still pass the $16.1 billion transportation budget and both chambers must pass a capital budget which won't be released until sometime late in the afternoon or early evening.

Inslee, Lege leaders say they’re closer on budget deal

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders seemed to concur Friday that they are closing in on an agreement on the 2015-17 state budget, something that has eluded them for 155 days.

But they didn't completely agree on how close, or the components of that agreement.

In a series of press conference, Inslee and leaders of both chambers from both parties said they are optimistic an operating budget could be passed in time to avoid a partial government shutdown. That prospect exists if the state enters its new fiscal year on July 1 without authorizing spending for many programs and salaries.

“There is no reason – zero – why we can't have a budget done in one week,” Inslee said. 

Both sides had moved toward a “middle ground,” he said, although he thought Democrats who control the House have made significant movements in reducing spending and dropping proposals for new taxes, including a capital gains tax on high-income residents. Republicans who control the Senate have moved somewhat less, the governor said, but enough that a “framework” is emerging in which both sides could have “big policy wins” in the final budget.

To do that, Inslee said legislators will have to agree to close some tax exemptions and come up with $300 million or so to close a gap between the levels in the rival spending plans.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, of Covington, said House Democrats have agreed to take the capital gains tax off the table if the Senate Republicans agree to close some tax exemptions or “loopholes.” He wouldn't specify which ones, but added “we have a list of potential loophole closures that we're looking at.”

But Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, wasn't conceding that any exemptions definitely need to be closed. Any gap that exists might be closed by shifting money from other funds or “redeploying resources to higher priority items” – also known as spending cuts.

“There are a lot of ways to move,” Hill said. 

Legislators have not yet agreed to a level of spending for the coming biennium, although they did agree they've moved closer. House Democrats finished the regular session with a budget proposal of about $38.9 billion, while Senate Republicans approved one of about $37.9 billion. After one full special session and 22 days of a second special session, House Democrats say their latest plan is about $38.2 billion, an amount proposed more than a week ago in an effort to break the stalemate; the Senate GOP proposal is just under $38 billion.

House and Senate Democrats said they have moved a lot, while Senate Republicans have moved only a little bit. Senate Republicans said their budget was built on “living within our means” while the House budget required new taxes, so the House needed to move more.

All sides expressed confidence they could settle on a final spending plan and pass it by next Saturday, the final day of the second special session. But shortly after the round-robin press conferences, signs of agreement began to fray on one of the key points of contention in the two plans, college tuition.

Senate Republicans have proposed tuition reductions as high as 25 percent for state universities. House Democrats have proposed a tuition freeze, coupled with more financial aid.

After the Republican press conference, Hill released a statement that Democrats had agreed to reduce tuition. Not true, Sullivan said in response. At the press conference, he said Democrats still have concerns about the effect the tuition reductions proposed by Republicans would have on the state's Guaranteed Education Tuition program, which allows for the purchase of future college course hours at the present rate.

State braces for cuts at largest base

OLYMPIA – State officials are preparing to blunt the effects of losing as many as 11,000 Army jobs – along with the experience and economic benefits that come with them – from a possible reduction at the state’s largest military base.

Gov. Jay Inslee held the first meeting Wednesday of his Subcabinet on Military Downsizing, with representatives of state agencies, business and community groups bracing for an announcement as early as June 23 on reductions at Joint Base Lewis McChord near Tacoma. The state already has some programs to help military members with jobs or education when they leave the armed forces and “we need to ramp that up,” Inslee said.

“Downsizing doesn’t just affect individuals but the whole community,” he said.

Washington ranks sixth among all states for the level of military activity. The Department of Defense employs about 110,000 people between military and civilian workers, and works with about 2,000 contractors, said Brian Bonlender, director of the state Department of Commerce, which is taking the lead to prepare for possible downsizing.

The reductions could be between 6,000 and 11,000 personnel, but there’s no indication yet on the levels or the types of operations that could be affected. “There’s a lot of unknowns,” Bonlender said. “We have to be flexible and responsible for whatever happens next week.”

Many of the soldiers who leave the military as a result of the downsizing will return to their original home states. But as many as 40 percent could decide to stay in Washington to look for work, start businesses or go to school. Keeping talented veterans in the state who have learned valuable skills while in the military is a high priority, Inslee said.

Consultants have drawn up organizational diagrams, complete with flow charts, arrows and boxes, that break down responsibilities for different agencies and community groups to provide employment and education assistance. But Inslee told the group not to think in terms of arrows, boxes and graphs.

“Think in terms of individuals,” he said.

Decision on new casino in Inslee’s lap

Opponents of a proposed Spokane Tribal project that includes a new casino on the West Plains began a full court press Tuesday to convince Gov. Jay Inslee to block the plan, claiming it could threaten the future of the nearby Air Force base.

But Tribal Council Chairman Rudy Peone said such allegations have been raised for years, and have been “put to bed” by a series of studies and reports. Fairchild Air Force Base officials had plenty of opportunities to raise concerns about the project since it was first proposed in 2006, and did not do so when they had a chance in the Environmental Impact Statement.

“You can’t hang your hat on encroachment. That’s fear-mongering,” Peone said.

Inslee must agree with the U.S. Interior Department’s approval, announced Monday after some two years of reviewing that impact statement, for the project to go ahead. Inslee spokesman David Postman said the office was developing a plan for talking to the interested parties but doesn’t yet have a schedule for making a decision.

“I think he’ll be very deliberate, but he’ll be fair,” Peone said.

The governor has expressed concerns about the loss of military units in Washington, and early this month formed what he calls a Subcabinet on Military Downsizing, primarily anticipating reductions at Joint Base Lewis McChord. That group has its first meeting Wednesday but Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said it is expected to be a broad overview and the possible effects of a new casino near Fairchild aren’t likely to come up.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she plans to call Inslee and urge him to reject the project. The Republican congresswoman said she supports the tribe's efforts for economic development but opposes the location because, in her opinion “Fairchild comes first”.

“If we want to keep Fairchild, our responsibility is to look at potential encroachment issues,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Asked about the lack of public opposition from the Air Force to the project, McMorris Rodgers replied: “The Air Force is never going to say you can’t build a particular project.”

Peone said the congresswoman and other opponents should read the documents and reports that have been filed, including a recent study the Air Force did when deciding whether to send the first new air-refueling tankers to Fairchild. Ultimately it decided those planes should be based in Kansas, where they would be closer to the planes they would have to refuel and because the cost of refurbishing McConnell Air Force Base was about $30 million cheaper. That study said the casino and hotel only raised a potential for increased road traffic that could be mitigated.

A high-ranking Pentagon official also told Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn the Air Force would “work collaboratively with the Spokane Tribe as the project moves forward.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, were among a bipartisan group of legislators urging Inslee Tuesday to reject the plan, reiterating a concern in a letter they sent two years ago as the Bureau of Indian Affairs was completing its study of the project. Those legislators take a stronger stance against the project, arguing that allowing the tribe to build a casino so far off its reservation would “open the floodgates” for new tribal gaming facilities in the state.

But Parker said his main concern is the potential impact on Fairchild if Congress decides to authorize another round of base closures. “At the end of the day, what we want to avoid is putting Fairchild back on the list.”

Fairchild has been studied for closure in the past, as far back as the first Base Realignment and Closure Commission hearings in 1993. But in previous rounds of base closures, federal officials always concluded it should stay open based on its strategic value and the federal government’s investments to update infrastructure.

Congress isn’t likely to approve a base closure process in the near future, McMorris Rodgers said, but it could at some point and the Air Force has told Congress it has about 25 percent more bases than it currently needs.

Greater Spokane Inc., which serves as the area’s chamber of commerce and economic development agency, said it was also opposed to the location as “activity that might impair current and future missions on the base” and said the tribe should build its project elsewhere.

“Although alternative locations for this development have been presented to the Spokane Tribe, they have chosen not to pursue them,” the business group said. McMorris Rodgers also said the tribe has turned down other locations for its project.

A spokeswoman for GSI said those offers were made “earlier in the process.” Peone said he knew of no such offer in the last three years while he has been council chairman.

But any such alternative would mean starting the process of buying the land, putting it in trust for the tribe, and beginning the studies and reviews that have so far taken almost a decade for the West Plains site.

As part of its prepared statement, GSI released a map that first surfaced two years ago by some project opponents that show the routes of tankers training for landings and takeoffs at Fairchild, an exercise known as “touch and gos.” Those routes show a racetrack pattern that takes the planes over the area where the project would be built.

That map was prepared by a Fairchild official and used two years ago in public presentations that suggested the project increased the potential for accidents. But neither Fairchild nor Air Mobility Command officials would comment about the map at the time and it was not part of the base’s response to EIS. Instead, it was submitted as part of GSI’s opposition.

A study commissioned by the tribe concluded the bulk of Fairchild training flights would not be over the project and that the resort and casino were not a threat to the base. Peone said he believes the map has been discredited but is being used because it’s visually striking.

“If you repeat something long enough and loud enough, people will believe it,” he said.