Category Archives: Governor

‘Don’t Cut’ Not Cutting it with Governor

Brad Shannon at the Olympian writes about Gov. Chris Gregoire’s apparent frustration with legislators saying “Don’t cut this.” There’s a projected need to cut between $1.2 billion and $1.7 from the current budget, starting in January. A report that made specific recommendations has drawn some defensiveness from some legislators. From the story:

“The message to us to not cut anything really is not helpful. We need to be working together and figuring out how to get from where we are to the end,” Gregoire said.

Yet “don’t cut” is mostly the message she’s gotten after a consultant’s report last week recommended closures of some adult prison, juvenile prison and developmentally-disabled care facilities. And some lawmakers are faulting the study.

By the way, governor, don’t cut that new midday ferry run in Bremerton.

Governor Wants More from Feds in 2011

The Seattle Times’ Andrew Garber reports that Gov. Chris Gregoire told reporters that she made the case to President Obama that states are going to need help again in 2011, particularly with Medicare.

Almost everyone (And I only include “almost” because I’m allowing that there may be a contrarian out there somewhere.) agrees that the economic recovery, which may have already begun, will be slow. Gregoire is among them.

That we may already be in recovery, slow as it is, may mean the Legislature won’t have to hold a special session in October. Legislators have said economic projections might make it necessary to readjust the budget, but the last forecast was positive in that it wasn’t worse than expected.

State Rep. Fred Finn, D-Olympia, said Wednesday he ranks the odds as 60-40 against a special session. Part of that is because of the recovery we are rumored to be in. The other part is the logistical nightmare of opening up that conversation again. The session could address anything. “Once you call the Legislature back, it’s kind of hard to control where it goes,” Finn said.

Steves Might Ask for Your Vote in 2012

Back in December when the rumors that U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, might get a cabinet post were beginning to fade, we nonetheless mentioned that one person supposedly interested in replacing him was renowned traveler Rick Steves of Edmonds.

The rumors are back.

This time horsesass.org is speculating that Inslee wants to run for governor in 2012.

Everybody knows that Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01) has long had his eye on the governor’s mansion, and is widely expected to give up his House seat to run for our state’s top office in 2012.

I never got an answer from Steves about the rumors, but horsesass did. Well, it’s from a publicist, so that’s only kind of a response.

This, of course, presumes Gov. Chris Gregoire doesn’t seek another term, which might not be a valid presumption.

Reason to Suspect McKenna

An item on the (Everett) Herald’s political blog lends credence to your speculation that Rob McKenna, Washington attorney general, might favor a run for governor in 2012.

Writes Jerry Cornfield:

Attorney General Rob McKenna did not announce that he is running for governor today.

He did announce the hiring of a guy who could make sure McKenna is prepared for such a campaign.

Before Dino Rossi announced his bid to run in 2008, McKenna stopped by our office for a visit. I asked him if Rossi decided not to run, would he? He said he was running for AG and that wouldn’t change no matter what happened with Rossi.

Cornfield’s blog has more about Randy J. Pepple, hired by McKenna as his chief of staff. Public Disclosure Commission reports show only incumbent Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, is officially preparing for a run at her own job. McKenna has a file for the AG’s office. Both are standard operating procedure. They’ll shift the money elsewhere once they decide, should it need to be shifted.

UPDATED: Rockefeller Bill Fails, Survives Through Executive Order

In an April 27 story about the possibility of a special legislative session, I included discussion by state Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, who was the one legislator who had something specific he hoped would be part of the session:

One locally authored bill that could be heard again is Bainbridge Island Democratic Sen. Phil Rockefeller’s bill, Senate Bill 5735, dealing with greenhouse gases. That bill was scheduled for a floor vote Sunday night, but budget-related bills took precedence. “The clock just ran out,” Rockefeller said.

Since it is a bill the governor wanted, however, there is a good chance it will be one of the few to be considered again.

Rockefeller said he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown about the measure.

“I’ve made my wishes known,” he said. “I believe that bill is important and important to the citizens of our state. We did have the votes for it so I’d like to see it have its day.”

Well, as you know, there was no special session, but Rockefeller got what he wanted anyway when Gov. Chris Gregoire signed an executive order on climate change.

In fact, there’s more in the executive order than there was in the bill that didn’t get a vote. State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, sent an e-mail saying these were the items in the order that were not in the bill:

  • Developing emission benchmarks by industry sector
  • A low-carbon fuel standard
  • Working with cities and counties on adapting to sea-level rise resulting from climate change
  • Working with public agencies on changes in water resources likely to result from climate change
  • Working with public and private entities on potential changes to the vehicle-miles-travelled benchmarks.

By request, here is a copy (Download PDF) of the executive order. I don’t know if we made it available elsewhere, but in case we didn’t I thought I’d provide it.

UPDATED: I’ve been getting e-mails from the Washington Policy Center for months and the first two times I’m referencing the organization are yesterday and today. Moments after I posted this entry, I received an e-mail from WPC for a blog entry calling into question whether the governor’s executive has any force in law. From the blog:

In 1991 the Attorney General’s office issued an opinion, AGO 1991 No. 12, regarding the use of Executive Order that, in part, concluded:

“The legislative authority of the State of Washington is vested in the Legislature.  In absence of a statute or constitutional provision that serves as a source of authority authorizing the Governor to act, the Governor cannot create obligations, responsibilities, conditions or processes having the force and effect of law by the issuance of an executive order.”

In light of the AGO from 1991, perhaps the Legislature,  which chose not to implement similar policies during the past legislative session, will want to ask the current Attorney General to review Executive Order 09-05 to ensure that the Governor has not exceeded her legal authority.

Blogger Puts Inslee Name Out for 2012

A Washington Education Association blogger who attended a conference Bainbridge Island Congressman Jay Inslee spoke at puts his name on a list of two as potential governor candidates in 2012. The other name is fellow Democrat Lisa Brown, Senate majority leader.

The blogger writes, “That speaks to our capacity.” I’m not sure what that means.

Any other suggestions three years away?

Governor to Sign Domestic Partner Bills

We offered earlier that the next step in what could be a November ballot initiative is the governor’s decision on whether to sign the legislation.

On Friday her office sent a press release headlined that she will “sign” three bills dealing with domestic partnerships.

One bill essentially gives registered domestic partners everything but the right to call their partnership “marriage.” The other two deal with retirement issues for partners.

Following is a portion of the governor’s press release.
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Governor Needs a Speechwriter — Stat!

Joe Turner from the (Tacoma) News Tribune is not applying, so there is one less competitor for the job.

Jake, if you’re applying you might want to tone down the “corporate welfare” stuff, though your testimony at the speedway hearings proved to be quoteworthy.

To anyone else who might apply, please do not ask me to delete any posts from your past. It’s on your permanent record.

Turner points out that the governor needs to get an exemption from the hiring freeze to advertise the job.

Legislature Could Go Back Early After All

In Sunday’s story local legislators expressed approval for there being no special session, but at the end there was this from state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch:

Sheldon also said upcoming budget forecasts could influence the governor to call the Legislature back. If projected revenues further threaten the state’s two-year end balance of about $755 million, the governor could call lawmakers back before next year.

Tuesday’s (Tacoma) News Tribune has the governor speculating on that possibility, and on the idea that one-time money used this time around made the session easier and that it could be a lot tougher in two years.

“I don’t know if we can get through to next January,” Gregoire told The News Tribune editorial board on Monday.

She pointed out the most recent monthly revenue collections for April were down $41 million over projected forecasts of $1 billion. That compares with a $50 million drop in the previous month.

“Though small, it is telling for the June forecast,” she said. “We anticipate the June forecast will be down and we have no reason to believe the September forecast won’t be down.”

The Legislature has a day in September when they’ll all go back to Olympia, so it could be scheduled around then, assuming it does happen sooner than January.

Gregoire Named as High Court Possibility.

The New York Times included Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire in a collection of names of people who could replace David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.

She’s saying she’s not looking for that job.

If Gregoire is named it means Dino Rossi becomes governor, because he came in second place in the November election. Just kidding. I’m a month late for that joke.

No word yet if Vegas has come up with any odds on the pick.

On Ferries, We’ve Had this Conversation Before

When did all this happen?

They traveled from eight counties but carried one message: “Save our ferries.”

Several legislators from ferry-using districts told the crowd that they won’t vote for a transportation budget that doesn’t take care of the ferries. It’s the other legislators who need to be convinced.

“If you want our vote, keep the boats afloat,” the group chanted.

The ferries are part of the state highway system, a governor’s representative said, but they’re also more than that. “A ferry with Mount Rainier in the background is the icon of this great state of Washington,” he said.

State ferries are part of the highway system, according to the 18th amendment of the state constitution, but the state isn’t carving a chunk out of existing state roads like it plans to do to the ferries, supporters claim.

“Keep the promise,” rose a chant that became a rally theme.

A 26th District state senator led the event’s most resounding chant: “It’s our road, it’s our road, it’s our road.”

“We’re not going to solve transportation problems on the back of ferry users,” said Mary Margaret Haugen, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. “”I don’t believe you should pay twice as much and be cut also. A lot of people think ferries are a luxury. We know they’re not.””

“Give us what’s right and not just what’s left,” said a 26th District state rep.

Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido handed petitions with 6,000 to 7,000 signatures to House Co-speaker Frank Chopp.

“I’ve got one basic message,” said Chopp, who was born and raised in Bremerton. “I love the ferries. If we let them go away, it’s shame on all of us.”

The answer is that this happened nine years to the day before an event planned for Wednesday, again in Olympia. Ferry supporters will gather in at the capitol Wednesday to rally for ferries. The state senator mentioned above was Bob Oke, now deceased. The state representative was Pat Lantz, now retired.

Parts of this story are being passed among ferry supporters to emphasize how the same message being delivered in 2009 was the one being chanted in 2000, yet ferries are still threatened to some degree. Back the ferry shortfall was the result of the car tab measure voters, then the Legislature, approved, taking away much of the funding for the ferry system. That’s still an issue, because the Legislature has largely decided to let riders make up much of the funding shortfall. That reached its maximum acceptance by riders, who are now asking the state to lay off a bit. The state’s response is to either keep service the same or reduce it.

Here are some differences from 2000, though. At the time the conversation was happening at a time when the economy was, we all believed, rocking. The dot-com bubble hadn’t quite burst yet, so things were hopping when the Legislature was in session. This time, of course, the economy is generally being painted as ugly.

I don’t see any evidence that Chopp is as passionate now about ferries as he was then. Haugen is not out in front either. With budget forecasts expected to be “horrific,” it’s hard to get as many people fired up to “save our highways.”

This time around, ferry supporters think they have a better strategy than they did nine years ago. Debbi Lester, a Bainbridge Islander who is part of the Plan C group and the Ferry Community Partnership, sent the dated story with the following message.

Let’s make the unexpected happen, let’s actually be capable of learning something from our history repeating itself, and let’s make action happen in Olympia!

We’ve waited 9 long years for Olympia to find solutions. What we’ve learned is to come with solutions in hand, on Wednesday, February 18, 11:30 am on the north steps of the Capital, we will be introducing our long range plan for Washington State Ferries – Plan C – The Citizens’ Plan.

It’s our turn to take the rudder, right this ship and set a true course for Washington State Ferries.

Ed Friedrich’s full story follows the jump.
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Furloughs By Choice for County Employees

Late last year when the county was beginning to negotiate with employees, hoping for some concessions on pay, there was little appetite from employees to give much back. The county had hoped to limit the number of layoffs, but layoffs came.

Now employees are volunteering for unpaid time off, at this point estimated to be saving the county about $250,000. That number is likely to go up, because many employees are not on the official list yet. Larry Keeton, department of community development director is on the list, volunteering to give away two days a month this year, saving the county about $10,800.

Elsewhere in the state ferry employees agreed to forgo their raises. Other state employees are not yet agreeing to that.

In California the furloughs are not by choice and are scheduled to last until midway through 2011.

Rockefeller Proposes Green Jobs Bill

State Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, is sponsoring the Green Jobs and Climate Action bill (It’s a PDF download) in the state Senate.

The bill has cap-and-trade provisions and money to create energy-saving transportation options, green buildings and energy and incentives for people to buy plug-in vehicles.

You can get some details of the bill after the jump from press releases, or by downloading the bill above, or by reading this story from The Olympian. The bill is being done at the request of the governor. State Reps. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, and Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, have their names on the House bill.
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Domestic Partner at Inaugural Ball a First

Just received this announcement from Senate Democrats:

“Tonight at the Governor’s inaugural ball, Senate Democrats will be represented by their Caucus Chair, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.

“Joining him on the walk from the Senate Chamber will be his domestic partner, Michael Shiosaki – the first time in the state that an honored guest is introduced at a gubernatorial inauguration with his or her domestic partner.”

Hey Kitsap, Get Used to Fewer Ferries

More telling than what they said Tuesday, was the body language. In the morning I asked the party leaders from both houses of the Legislature about ferries, but made the mistake of starting the question by naming one of the legislators, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt. I did not address the question specifically to him, but that’s how the legislators heard it, because I mentioned that he had said transportation funding would be difficult. Because I mentioned Hewitt, it apparently left an opening for House Speaker Frank Chopp, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown to remain silent. I did ask that they address ferries specifically in the funding. Hewitt said nothing about ferries. Chopp, Brown and DeBolt remained silent about everything.

In the last session, with two reps from the governor’s office, the ferry question got more attention than some in the audience might have preferred. The message was clear, that it won’t work to not identify the funding if the status quo plan is adopted by the Legislature. It also looked to me that Victor Moore, the governor’s budget director, was clearly uncomfortable with the subject matter, leaving a few of us from Kitsap to conclude that the prospects for ferries is not good.

We then went and visited with state Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor. I wouldn’t characterize his demeanor as optimistic for ferry fans, but he seems ready for a fight. “Five-twenty is not going to be a two-lane road. Plan B is the equivalent of a two-lane road,” he said. Plan B, by the way, would cut Bremerton to one boat and eliminate night service there and in Kingston.

Then you read Ed Friedrich’s story on the what a legislative transportation policy group did and it seems the writing is on the wall. They met, said they’ll try to make the coming cut as painless as possible, then disbanded.

Prior to the election we asked the governor what was going to happen with ferries. Specifically we asked if ferry customers would feel better about the system in four years than they do now. I don’t think she tried to predict how customers would feel, but she said the state would run ferries like a business. That sounds a lot like what Jill Satran, the governor’s transportation policy expert, was saying yesterday.

“It’s all a matter of what can we pay to provide,” she said. “We either have to cut routes or skinny down the entire system. We’re looking at the best way to mitigate the impact on riders, and this looks like a possible way to do that.”

You can see the governor’s pre-election conversation about the budget and about ferries by watching the video below.

From the Governor’s Office

This is the final group session from Tuesday’s legislative preview, put on by the Associated Press.

Marty Brown from the governor’s office says the number one priority for this legislative session is to get the Legislature out on time. It doesn’t get cheaper as it goes longer, he said.

By the way, he said bloggers went crazy yesterday, that neither he nor Victor (Moore? That’s what I’ll call him.) (seated next to him) will be Commerce Secretary. As noted elsewhere, the governor is in Iraq.

Victor Moore is the governor’s budget director. Marty Brown is the governor’s legislative director.

Moore said fed money should be fairly “unencumbered.”

Brown said transportation money coming from federal government is a known practice. It’s the capital money for things like schools where the state doesn’t really know what to assume in terms of process.

Question about what happens if feds approve tax cut first, then wait for economic stimulus package. Brown said state can’t count increase until it comes. Gov’s office did speak with feds to come up with budget projections. Can do projects with state money as soon as possible.

Question about whether there are proposed regulatory changes to make it easier. Brown said Obama Administration has made it clear that it’s a use-it-or-lose-it program, that projects have to be ready to go. State is looking to see if there are ways to speed up permitting process.

Viaduct. Governor and Seattle mayor have a meeting next week. “It’s not in Iraq,” Brown said. It’s no less contentious than it was a year ago. Goal is to get proposal early in the session.

Moore said making policy changes in extraordinary times is difficult. It was a scramble to find one-time fixes. One question was about whether the governor would accept keeping some programs if it could be shown less money would be spent. Brown said governor wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand, but it would be interesting to see how someone could arrive at that.

Governor has had one briefing on ferries since latest long-term options were published. Not sure economic stimulus money could be spent on new ferries. Bigger question, Moore and Brown agreed, was long-term structural operations of the ferry system. Perhaps money could be used to speed up boat building, but if money isn’t there to run the system it’s not worth building the new boat.

Revenue collections for December? “Not up,” said Moore. This doesn’t reflect Christmas collections. February will be better read on holiday. “Thirty, forty million dollars a month ends up being real dough,” Moore said.

One more entry to come.

Legislative Preview Sans Governor

Tuesday morning will include the Associated Press’ annual legislative preview in Olympia. It will include comment from party leaders in the House and Senate. Last year, and most years, it included the governor. This year will not. It was supposed to, but then the Associated Press issued this:

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) _ Gov. Chris Gregoire is out of state, but her office won’t say where she is.

Gregoire was set to be the keynote speaker Tuesday at a pre-legislative session forum sponsored by The Associated Press, but her office canceled Monday afternoon. Legislative director Marty Brown will stand in for Gregoire at the forum.

Spokesman Pearse Edwards said that Gregoire will be making an announcement Tuesday morning, and that no further information would be released before then.

Joe Turner at the News Tribune in Tacoma had much to offer on his blog, including this:

One of my sources said he couldn’t tell me where Gov. Chris Gregoire is now, but assured me she would still be my governor in March. “She’s not going to take Bill Richardson’s place as Commerce Secretary. So you can kill that story.”

We had speculated on the cabinet position, but I never thought Commerce was a fit. She had always dismissed the idea of anything in the Attorney General’s office, as had Obama’s people.

In the newsroom we wondered if her cancer was back.

Most likely, in my book, is another thing Turner offered:

Another source speculated that Gregoire has lined up a big chunck of federal money for Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, and she’s going to announce it Tuesday. (And it would have to be a big chunk because that project keeps getting more and more expensive.)