Wednesday, February 27, 2013
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — State reconsidering build-in-state rule for ferries — Frustrated with the high cost of building state ferries, lawmakers may impose stricter control on contracts and possibly end a requirement to build vessels only in Washington. A bill drafted by Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) responds to a recent state audit that found the ban on building ferries outside the state and lax oversight make it more expensive to build vessels in Washington than elsewhere.
► From AP — Bill aims to cut cost of ferry construction
ALSO at The Stand — Buy Washington! Create jobs here, including building ferries — The higher ferry-construction costs have more to do with paying a premium for “rush jobs” than the Build in Washington and apprenticeship standards. We paid a premium price to expedite construction of the Steel Electric replacements. Why? Because our state is trying to run its transportation system on the cheap without investing in the infrastructure to maintain it.
► At PubliCola — Bipartisanship at last. At least for tax breaks. –The Washington Budget & Policy Center have quantified all the tax breaks that legislators are proposing this session: $410 million worth on everything from a machinery and equipment sales tax exemption sponsored by a Republican to a solar energy tax exemption sponsored by a Democrat. The flurry of tax breaks comes as the Legislature is trying to close a $900 million to $1.3 billion budget shortfall, plus looking for an additional $1.4 billion this biennium for K-12 funding to meet a Washington State Supreme Court mandate.
► In today’s Seattle Times — State admits costly mistakes on 520 bridge — Millions of dollars must be spent to fix pontoons being built for a new Highway 520 bridge, the state said Tuesday, after inspections on Lake Washington revealed that the pontoons’ worst cracks grew over the winter. The new costs, yet to be determined, will reach the tens of millions of dollars, and the bill will go mostly to the public rather than contractors — because the most severe cracking was triggered by the state’s own design errors.
► At PubliCola — Be careful what you wish for (by Brendan Williams) — When Republicans took over the Senate with the assistance of Sens. Rodney Tom (D-48) and longtime de facto Republican Tim Sheldon (D-35), editorial boards turned handsprings. But consider the unrequited hopes editorial boards are left with. They face a Senate that will not take up their professed passion for education reform, and that will refuse to adequately fund education, too. In retrospect, editorial boards may come to conclude a Democratic Senate wasn’t so bad after all.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Pension plan change raises perplexing questions (editorial) — Washington’s public employee benefit plans are among the best-administered in the United States. With the exception of two plans closed to new employees in 1977, assets exceed projected obligations. So state and local employees are understandably perplexed by legislation that would fundamentally change a system that works for them, and the state.
ALSO at the Stand — Sen. Tom’s pension bill ‘a gratuitous attack’
► In today’s Washington Post — Austerity kills government jobs as cuts to budgets loom — The federal government, the nation’s largest consumer and investor, is cutting back at a pace exceeded in the last half-century only by the military demobilizations after the Vietnam War and the cold war. Federal, state and local governments now employ 500,000 fewer workers than they did on the eve of the recession in 2007, the longest and deepest decline in total government employment since the aftermath of World War II. And the turn toward austerity is set to accelerate on Friday if the mandatory federal spending cuts known as sequestration start to take effect as scheduled. Total government spending continues to increase, but those broader figures include benefit programs like Social Security.
► In today’s Washington Post — Republicans are losing the spending argument — For the past several years, congressional Republicans have focused relentlessly on a single message: Washington — led by President Obama — is spending too much money, and it needs to stop. But according to new Washington Post-ABC News polling, that laser-like focus isn’t helping Republicans win the argument over federal spending — with 67% of those tested disapproving of the “way Republicans in Congress are handling federal spending.”
► In today’s Washington Post — A political DUI (by David Ignatius) — We have a political system that is the equivalent of a drunk driver. The primary culprits are the House Republicans. They are so intoxicated with their own ideology that they are ready to drive the nation’s car off the road. I don’t know if the sequestration that’s set to begin Friday will produce a little crisis or a big one; the sad fact is that the Republicans don’t know, either, yet they’re still willing to put the country at risk to make a political point.
► In The Hill — Senate Republicans divided on own sequester replacement plan — The measure would require that $85 billion in spending be cut, but gives President Obama more flexibility in manage the spending reductions than given by the sequester, which requires across-the-board cuts to nearly every part of every agency.
► In today’s Washington Post — Obama to meet with congressional leaders on ways to avoid sequester impact — President Obama will meet with congressional leaders Friday at the White House to discuss a way to avoid the fallout of deep spending cuts after they have technically begun.
► From AP — Voter ID laws hang in balance as Supreme Court considers Voting Rights Act — On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears arguments over whether a key part of the Voting Rights Act — a cornerstone of the civil rights movement — is unfairly targeting Southern states for systematic racial bias that no longer exists. The court’s decision on the law, which helped dismantle decades of discriminatory voting restrictions in the South, could hand a victory to the recent conservative-led movement to tighten identification requirements and limit early voting hours at the ballot box. A wave of such laws swept 30 states over the past few years.
► At Politico — The repeal Obamacare chorus quiets — Washington’s repeal-Obamacare crowd is feeling a little lonely these days, abandoned by an increasing number of Republicans who have bowed to the political reality that the law isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
► In The Hill — Poll: 4 in 10 Americans think ‘illegals’ are covered under Obamacare — One in three Democrats and more than half of Republicans incorrectly believe that President Obama’s healthcare law provides benefits to illegal immigrants.
► At AFL-CIO Now — CWA, AT&T reach tentative agreements — CWA has reached two new tentative agreements with AT&T divisions with some 40,000 CWA members. Details of a tentative four-year agreement are being sent to CWA members who work for AT&T Mobility in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The workers are customer service representatives, technicians and retail store workers.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.