Monthly Archives: August 2010

Reader call-out: What is the state of unions today?


It’s been a high-profile year so far for unions here. First was the SEIU’s struggle with Kitsap Mental Health Services. Continuing now is UFCW Local 21’s bitter struggle with grocery stores. And today, Coca-Cola workers returned to their Bremerton distribution center after being told they’d lose their jobs if the strike continued.

I’m working on a story about the State of Unions Today … and Tomorrow.

How do you think unions are faring today? Are they needed much more now where rising health costs, layoffs and outsourcing are commonplace?

Or are they throwbacks to another era and unrealistic in today’s economy?

Blog here, or contact me. These are all for attribution in my coming story.

Thank you.

Rachel Pritchett, reporter
(360) 475-3783

Kids fly free at the airport Saturday

This from the Port of Bremerton

KIDS FLY FREE at the Bremerton Airport on Saturday, Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. As a part of the Blackberry Festival, kids (ages 8 to 17) who register will get a FREE short flight with an experienced pilot as part of the Young Eagles program.

If you know a kid in this age range, bring them out for a flight. It could start a lifelong love of aviation for them.

Adults will also have plenty to enjoy. There is a Car Show featuring antique cars and top fuel dragsters. Pilots from throughout the region are also bringing unique and interesting aircraft for you to enjoy. There will be music and games. And, in the spirit of the festival, the Airport Diner is serving blackberry pie and a special brunch.

There is plenty of parking at the airport. A shuttle bus will also run to and from the downtown Bremerton Waterfront, where you can join in the Blackberry Festival fun downtown.

Tuesday stocks rise on surprise jump in consumer strength

Dow at 10,018, up 9 points this morning.

NEW YORK (AP) — A surprise jump in consumer confidence gave stocks a modest lift, but gains were kept in check as investors remain cautious about the strength of the economy.
A report Tuesday showed confidence climbed more than expected in August. That gave traders a reprieve from a string of reports throughout the month that indicated economic growth continues to slow. A report earlier in the day indicated manufacturing activity slowed in the Midwest in August.
“Market pessimism in the very near-term has hit a nadir,” said John Brady, a senior vice president at MF Global. The small rise in confidence took the edge off the downbeat mood, Brady said. However, he cautioned any gains might be short lived because traders are hesitant to make big moves before Friday’s key monthly employment report. The unemployment rate likely inched higher in August as employers avoid major hiring

Does the IRS owe you money?

By Rachel Pritchett

The Internal Revenue Service says it may have money waiting for you.

That caught my eye, but it’s only for taxpayers whose income was below the limit that required them to file a tax return.

If a taxpayer didn’t file in past years for that reason, the IRS suggests they go ahead and file now to claim any refund that might be waiting. Even though they didn’t file a tax return because they had too little income, they may have had taxes withheld from their wages. Others may be in line for a refund even if they didn’t have any tax withheld under the Earned Income Tax Credit program, according to the IRS.

So here’s what you do:

File a return for those years, if it’s no later than three years from the due dates. Current and past tax forms are on the Forms and Publications page of or by calling (800) 829-3676. Information on the Earned Income Tax Credit is also available on There’s no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund, the IRS promises.

Good luck.

Stocks drop as investors enter week cautiously

Dow down 69 points at 10,081.

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks fell Monday after further signs of slowing growth added to caution ahead of the government’s crucial jobs report later in the week.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 50 points in afternoon trading. Broader indexes also dropped. With investors concerned about the health of the economy, money again flowed into the bond market, sending interest rates lower.
A report Monday showed personal income rose less than expected in July, adding to the string of data that points toward a slowdown in growth during the second half of the year.
“The personal income report did little to ease the nervousness about the trajectory of the economy,” said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments. The report did show spending was up in July, but without consistent growth in income, any increase in spending is likely temporary, Gayle said.

Bernanke Comments Put Stocks Above 10,000 Mark at Friday’s Close

Market closed at 10,150, on a 129-point gain for the day.

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks posted big gains after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank was ready to step in if the U.S. economy showed further signs of weakening.
Traders were also encouraged by a downward revision in second-quarter economic growth Friday that wasn’t as bad as economists had expected. The Dow Jones industrial average and other indexes all gained more than 1 percent.
Bernanke said in a speech at the Fed’s annual conference that while the economic recovery remains tentative, the central bank remains ready to take extra steps to stimulate the economy if necessary, such as buying more debt securities in order to keep interest rates low. He said he still expects the economy to grow next year.
“It could have been worse, and because it wasn’t, that was good news,” said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist for RidgeWorth Investments, based in Richmond, Va. “Clearly the bar is being lowered for what constitutes good news these days.”
The upturn was a respite from a mainly dismal month on the stock market, which has been falling steadily since its recent high reached on Aug. 9 on a series of poor indicators on the economy. A deep slump in home sales last month was the latest sign that the economy was weakening.
The market stumbled briefly in midmorning after Intel Corp. lowered its revenue estimate. There, too, the news wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Intel’s shares edged higher after resuming trading since the company’s new forecast wasn’t as bad as the worst estimates circulating among analysts.
In economic news, the Commerce Department reported that gross domestic product grew at a 1.6 percent rate in the April-to-June period. That’s still way down from its earlier estimate of 2.4 percent but not as bad as the 1.4 percent expected by economists.
“These are terrible numbers,” Kim Caughey, equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, said. “But they weren’t frighteningly horrible.”
Yields on Treasurys, which help set interest rates on loans like mortgages, rose sharply as their prices fell. That could put upward pressure on mortgage rates, which are still at historic lows.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 164.84, or 1.7 percent, to close at 10,150.65. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 17.37, or 1.7 percent, to 1,064.59 and the Nasdaq composite index rose 34.94, or 1.6 percent, to 2,153.63.
Rising stocks outnumbered falling ones six to one on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.1 million shares.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.64 percent, well above the 2.50 percent it was trading at late Thursday.
A heated-up bidding war between Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. also helped to lift shares. The big computer makers are battling to control the data-storage company 3Par Inc. HP fired the latest salvo early Friday, raising its bid for 3Par to $1.88 billion, topping Dell’s latest offer by 11 percent.
3Par shares gained $6.43 to $32.46, above HP’s latest offer of $30 per share and a sign that investors are hopeful for another counteroffer from Dell. Dell’s initial bid for 3Par last week was $18 per share.
Intel was up 19 cents at $18.37.
European shares also moved higher after the better-than-expected figures on U.S. economic growth came out. European shares also got a lift after the Britain raised its estimate of second-quarter economic growth to 1.2 percent from 1.1 percent.
In London, the FTSE-100 index rose 0.9 percent, while the DAX 0.7 percent and the CAC-40 in Paris rose 0.9 percent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed up 1 percent.

Little-Known Program Helps Middle- to Upper-Income Kitsap Residents Buy Homes

By Rachel Pritchett

The famous $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers is long gone, but there are homebuyer incentive programs floating around that continue to offer huge tax breaks.
If only people knew about them.
Consider the obscure Mortgage Credit Certificate Program of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
Aimed at middle- and even upper-income prospective homebuyers, it offers a tax credit equal to 20 percent of the yearly interest paid or accrued on a mortgage. That’s year after year for the life of the loan.
Certainly nothing to sniff at.
Only two homebuyers in Kitsap County used the program in the last year, and only another two applications are in the works.
Here’s how it works:
Say you take on a $200,000 mortgage and pay $10,000 a year in interest. That’s a $2,000-a-year credit at the front end of the loan, when most interest is paid.
And yes, homeowners can still deduct home mortgage interest on their taxes. The amounts will be less, but the tax credit still puts them in a better spot.
“It’s a huge benefit,” said Dee Taylor, the director of the Housing Finance Commission’s home-ownership division. She has intimate knowledge of the program’s details, since she wrote them.
In Kitsap County, qualifying buyers can’t earn more than $90,000, which includes many of us middle- and even upper-income people.
The home price can’t be more than $335,000 in Kitsap. You can get plenty of home for that here. After all, the median home sales price is only $265,000 in Kitsap.
Watch out, these numbers can change. Check for updates.
New and used homes, and even manufactured homes, qualify. Rentals don’t.
If there is a downside to this little-trumpeted program, it’s that homebuyers have to live in the homes they purchase. That’s to prevent abuse like flipping that used to be so popular.
Plus, it costs homebuyers $650 to sign on.
And, there’s the possibility of homeowners having to pay the government “recapture fees” if the homes are sold within 10 years at appreciated prices and the homeowners’ incomes have increased substantially. Uncle Sam wants to share in your good fortune. Those recapture fees aren’t required the vast majority of time, Taylor said.
The program has been offered on and off in Washington since the mid-1980s. It’s on a first-come-first-served basis.
Not a lot of lenders participate, and for the life me I can’t figure out why.
If I’ve gotten your interest, here are the lenders with a local presence who are signed up: Bank of America, Eagle Home Mortgage, Golf Savings Bank, Guild Mortgage Co., PrimeLending and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
If your favorite lender isn’t one of these, insist they sign on by contacting the finance commission. Taylor said the commission is looking for more lenders to participate.
Hey, even for us middle-income people, getting into a home is tough. This makes it a little easier.
“It’s to help people to be able to purchase a home,” Taylor said.
This item first appeared on reporter Rachel Pritchett’s blog, Kitsap Business and Economy. For more, go to

Thursday stocks mixed

Dow now at 10,051, down eight points.

NEW YORK (AP) — Major stock indexes turned mixed Thursday as a drop in new claims for unemployment benefits wasn’t enough to resolve worries about the economy.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 9 points in midday trading after getting an early 45-point lift from the weekly unemployment report. Broader indexes also fluctuated.
The early boost from the positive jobless claims report turned out to be fleeting as investors returned their focus to nagging problems in the economy.
The market’s attention is already turning to a speech early Friday by Ben Bernanke to see if the Federal Reserve chairman sheds any light on the conundrum that stock investors are currently wrestling with: How weak is the U.S. economy and will it slide back into recession?
Investors want to “see if the pulse of the Fed is beating at a fast rate with anxiety over the economy,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners Inc.
The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped to 473,000 last week, after jumping above 500,000 for the first time since November a week earlier. Economists were expecting a more modest drop to 490,000, according to Thomson Reuters.