Monday, June 10, 2013
► In Sunday’s Olympian — Legislature divided over policy bills — As Senate Republicans and House Democrats continue their staredown over a state budget deal in the last days of a special session that ends Tuesday, the Republican-led majority controlling the Senate still is holding out for changes to the state-run workers’ compensation system — or other reforms — before agreeing to raise taxes. Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry (R-Moses Lake) contended Saturday that without further reforms, employers face hundreds of millions of dollars in premium-rate hikes to rebuild workers’ comp system reserves. “If we see inaction by the Legislature this year, it is a guaranteed tax on employers,” Holmquist Newbry said.
ALSO today at The Stand — Phantom tax hikes threaten state shutdown — But by any objective measure, the workers’ compensation system’s financial situation is far from urgent and simply does not support the dire warnings of tax increases much less a continuing political standoff that threatens a Washington, D.C.-style government shutdown in Washington State.
► In Sunday’s Olympian — Senate passes new budget plan — With just days left in an overtime legislative session, the state Senate on Saturday approved a budget plan similar to a proposal the chamber passed earlier this year during the regular session, but made some concessions on revenue if certain reform bills are passed.
► Today from AP — Senate proposes public vote on policy shifts — The Washington Senate proposed Sunday to have statewide votes on policies that would alter how lawmakers manage the budget and how school principals manage their teachers.
► At PubliCola — Budget breakdown: What’s on the table in Olympia — The Democrats blinked first in the face of a Republican refusal to raise taxes and scaled back their budget proposal this week: They’ve dropped B&O surcharge extension, losing an estimated $500 million in new revenue and scaled back a proposal to close 15 tax breaks — down to seven, losing about $250 million in new revenue. The bottom line? They’re taking in $790 million less in revenue.
► In Sunday’s News Tribune — Schools get priority over state bridges — The Legislature has to find more money for schools, and there’s growing agreement to do it by dipping into a fund that is supposed to be used to finance water, sewer and street projects.
► In the Spokesman-Review — Budget negotiations follow silly policy (by Jim Camden) — Among the bromides passed off as great wisdom during this special session of the Legislature is that budget negotiators should not — nay, absolutely must not, and therefore do not — negotiate a budget in the media.
► At PubliCola — Transportation funding: It gets worse (by Brendan Williams) — The economic and public safety necessity of improving transportation funding was highlighted by the collapse of an I-5 bridge section into the Skagit River. Yet it is, at best, unclear that a Republican Senate will even allow transportation funding to move forward. At least a few Clark County Republicans appear to hope the vital I-5 crossing between Oregon and Washington collapses into the Columbia River.
► In today’s Columbian — I-5 reopens at Salmon Creek — The Interstate 5 overpass project at Salmon Creek was scheduled to take 54 hours but was done in 25. The state DOT said that the contractor, Spokane-based Max J. Kuney, was able to get a quick start on the project by staging several of the huge girders that were being placed over the freeway on-site.
EDITOR’S NOTE — It’s nice to see the hard-working folks at DOT and its contractors getting positive press for being ahead of schedule, which they most often are, rather than just getting coverage when things go wrong.
► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — ILWU vice president cited for May 7 incident — A local longshore leader was the boater the Coast Guard cited for getting too close to a grain ship during a protest near Kalama in May, though it’s still unclear what his fine or punishment would be if he was found of wrongdoing.
► In the (Aberdeen) Daily World — Still no movement on Harbor Paper — It’s been more than three months since the owners of Harbor Paper announced a temporary closure to restructure management, and still many Grays Harbor residents aren’t sure if or when the mill will resume operation. And those who do know about the company’s operations are keeping mum.
► In today’s NY Times — What’s next for Social Security? (editorial) — In the deficit-obsessed, anti-tax world of Washington D.C., closing the shortfall in Social Security has come to mean broadly cutting benefits. That would be a mistake. The focus on benefit cuts also conveniently ignores the fact that benefits are already shrinking. Under current law, Social Security benefits will replace 31% of the typical retiree’s preretirement earnings in 2030, compared with 42% as recently as 2004.
► From AP — American auto industry about to go on hiring spree — The auto industry is about to go on a hiring spree as car makers and parts suppliers race to find engineers, technicians and factory workers to build the next generation of vehicles.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Good thing we didn’t listen to Mitt.
► From Bloomberg — Top Democrats ready to oppose views to pass immigration — Sens. Richard Durbin and Charles Schumer, with long records of supporting labor unions, gay rights and gun restrictions, are ready to vote against these constituencies to win passage of an immigration law. The second- and third-ranking Democrats in the chamber helped craft the bipartisan immigration bill the Senate will consider this week. They warn that attempts to amend the legislation for unions, gay-rights activists and gun control advocates could scuttle the most significant revision of U.S. immigration policy in a generation.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Democrats willing to vote against labor’s interests?! Not exactly “man bites dog.”
► In today’s NY Times — Senate digs in for long battle on immigrants — After seven months of steadily building momentum, the push for a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system enters its most crucial phase this week in the Senate, where Republicans remain divided over how much to cooperate with President Obama as they try to repair their party’s standing among Hispanic voters.
► In today’s NY Times — The big shrug (by Paul Krugman) — For more than three years some of us have fought the policy elite’s damaging obsession with budget deficits, an obsession that led governments to cut investment when they should have been raising it, to destroy jobs when job creation should have been their priority. That fight seems largely won — in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the sudden intellectual collapse of austerity economics as a policy doctrine.
But while insiders no longer seem determined to worry about the wrong things, that’s not enough; they also need to start worrying about the right things — namely, the plight of the jobless and the immense continuing waste from a depressed economy. And that’s not happening. Instead, policy makers both here and in Europe seem gripped by a combination of complacency and fatalism, a sense that nothing need be done and nothing can be done. Call it the big shrug.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.