Monday, June 17, 2013
► Saturday from AP — State legislators edge closer to final deal — Washington lawmakers edged closer to a final budget deal Friday, aided by an agreement on fixing the state’s estate tax, the prospect of an unexpected revenue boost and fresh signs of compromise. Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (R→D→R) said Senate leaders have largely backed away from two education policy bills that they had sought, but are still pushing for changes in the state’s workers’ compensation system and another education bill.
ALSO at The Stand — Why workers’ comp? What’s the emergency? — The financial condition of the state workers’ compensation system has improved with the economy. Lawmakers who warn of looming “tax increases” on employers have bad, outdated information. In fact, there is no reason to believe workers’ comp rates will go up in 2014, just as they didn’t go up in 2013 or 2012. So why is the contentious SB 5127 so urgent that it’s worth threatening education funding and a state government shutdown?
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Olympia freeze showing signs of thaw (by Jim Camden) — Senate leaders may give up on some policy bills but are holding firm on changes to the workers’ compensation system, which could be the biggest stumbling block to a budget deal. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) said Friday those changes don’t have a direct connection to the budget and there’s no agreement in the House to take them up. With the new fiscal year, and a possible fiscal cliff, looming on July 1, the Legislature needs to focus only on the budget and the bills needed to make it work, and workers’ comp has no such tie-in, he said.
► In Sunday’s News Tribune — State lawmakers: Miles to go before they sleep (editorial) — The Senate and House absolutely must agree on three things: an operating budget, a construction budget and a transportation package that would pay for critical highway projects around the state — including the completion of state Route 167 between Puyallup and the Port of Tacoma. A couple of measures being pressed by the Senate aren’t worth fighting over. One is a move to “fix” compensation for injured workers.
► In today’s Olympian — Budget impasse has state employees fretting — Pam Olekas, a records clerk at Olympic Corrections Center in Forks, remembers getting paychecks in the form of IOUs as a California prison system employee when that state went without a budget more than two decades ago. She’s hoping a similar fate doesn’t befall her fellow Washington state employees, many of whom could be furloughed if lawmakers fail to reach a budget deal in the next two weeks.
ALSO at WFSE.org — What we know — or don’t know — about a potential state government shutdown
► From AP — First special session tally: 30 days, 0 bills, $77,000 — The Legislature’s first overtime session this year was the most unproductive gathering of lawmakers in state history. That doesn’t mean it didn’t cost taxpayers.
► In today’s Columbian — School superintendent urges legislators to pass budget — If state legislators don’t pass an operating budget within the next week, their failure to do so will cost Vancouver Public Schools an estimated $78,000, the equivalent of one full-time teacher, said Steven Webb, the district’s superintendent.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — New Skagit River bridge still ‘functionally obsolete’ — Millions of tax dollars are being spent to temporarily fix then permanently repair an I-5 bridge that collapsed into the Skagit River. But when the work’s all done, Washington will be left with exactly what it had before: A functionally obsolete, fracture-critical 58-year-old bridge that could come crashing down the next time it gets smacked hard enough in the right place.
ALSO at The Stand — Coalition: Pass state transportation budget… now! — A strong coalition of labor, business, environmental and local government interests have come together to urge the 2013 Legislature to pass a transportation package that makes a significant investment in Washington’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.
► In the Columbian — Sen. Patty Murray targets opponents of CRC — Pointing out the recent collapse of the I-5 Skagit River bridge, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Friday that opponents of the Columbia River Crossing project need to stop and think about what could happen if officials fail to replace the I-5 Bridge over the Columbia River.
► Today’s Fun Fakt™! — The county in Washington State with the highest percentage of same-sex marriages — where fully HALF of all marriages in the first three months of the year were same-sex couples — was Lincoln County! Way to go, Odessa and Davenport!
► In today’s Seattle Times — Everett may be left out of Boeing’s 787-10 plans — Boeing’s biggest news of the Paris Air Show is likely to be the launch of the 787-10, the third and largest model of the Dreamliner, which is expected Monday. But Washington state could be out of luck when it comes to building the jet, interviews in Paris suggested Sunday. Final assembly of the 787-10 may be exclusively in North Charleston, S.C., where two-thirds of the fuselage is also fabricated and assembled.
EDITOR’S NOTE — But it’s not because of Washington’s “business climate” or some other such nonsense. Sources say it’s because of logistical constraints. The new South Carolina plant is big enough to fit four of the 787-10s nose-to-tail, which isn’t true in the two 787 assembly bays in Everett. Of course, that won’t stop some politicians and business lobbyists from claiming workers’ comp rates (or another competitiveness issue du jour) is the blame.
BONUS EDITOR’S NOTE! — According to the definitive state-by-state rate study, workers’ compensation coverage is more expensive for employers in South Carolina than it is in Washington State.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Delegation to tout state’s place in aerospace in Paris — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen will lead 52 representatives of business, education and economic development from around the state. Washington also will have a 700-square-foot booth in an exhibit hall, where the state’s 100 years of aviation history will be emphasized.
► From AP — Hiring freeze eased at naval shipyard in Bremerton — The shipyard’s commander announced Friday he’s been authorized to immediately hire 256 new workers at the PSNS and Intermediate Maintenance Facility to replace those who have quit or retired since the hiring freeze took effect in January. The shipyard was about to hire 600 employees when the freeze took effect.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Victims’ group faces cuts in budget — There were cuts to the federal grants last year for crime victims support centers, but the state didn’t pass those cuts on to the local centers at the time. Now, the state has told the service centers to brace for cuts, including even fewer federal dollars because of the budget sequestration.
► In the Tri-City Herald– House passes defense bill with Hanford amendments — The U.S. House has passed the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment for establishing a Manhattan Project National Historic Park at Hanford’s B reactor.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Swedish/Edmonds plans $63.5 million expansion — The hospital plans a new two-story, 77,000-square-foot emergency department with a dedicated behavioral health unit and urgent-care center.
► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Weyerhaeuser to buy Longview Timber for $2.65 billion — Weyerhaeuser is buying Longview Timber for $2.65 billion from Brookfield Asset Management.
► In today’s Wenatchee World — Local team takes top honors at Lineman Rodeo — Journeymen linemen from the Chelan County PUD won top overall honors at the ninth annual Andrew York Lineman Rodeo on Saturday.
► In today’s NY Times — Choice of health plans to vary sharply from state to state — When a typical 40-year-old uninsured woman in Maine goes to the new state exchange to buy health insurance this fall, she may have just two companies to choose from: the one that already sells most individual policies in the state, and a complete unknown — a nonprofit start-up. Her counterpart in California, however, will have a much wider variety of choices: 13 insurers are likely to offer plans, including the state’s largest and best-known carriers. Obama administration officials estimate that most Americans will have a choice of at least five carriers when open enrollment begins in October.
EDITOR’S NOTE — In Washington State, nine health insurance issuers have filed with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to provide 57 Qualified Health Plans totaling 229 plan options for individuals and families through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s new online health insurance marketplace.
► In today’s Washington Post — Republicans trying to use Obamacare to derail immigration reform efforts — Conservatives in both chambers of Congress are insisting on measures that would expand the denial of public health benefits to the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants beyond limits set in a comprehensive bill pending in the Senate.
► At AFL-CIO Now — More and more small businesses support paid sick days — Nearly 300 small businesses have joined a campaign to support laws that require employers to give their workers paid sick days. The businesses have endorsed the Businesses for Earned Leave campaign, a partnership of American Sustainable Business Council, the Main Street Alliance and Social Venture Network.
ALSO at The Stand — Tacoma Paid Sick Days campaign kicks off
► At AFL-CIO Now — Louisiana chemical explosion site hadn’t been inspected by OSHA for 20 years — The Geismar, La., petrochemical plant that exploded on Thursday has not been inspected since 1993. The blast at the Williams Companies Inc.’s olefins plant killed one person and injured 73.
► In today’s NY Times — Fight the future (by Paul Krugman) — The whole argument for early action on long-run fiscal issues is surprisingly weak and slippery. As I like to point out, the conventional wisdom on these things seems to be that to avert the danger of future benefit cuts, we must act now to cut future benefits. Because that time is not yet, influential people need to stop using the future as an excuse for inaction. The clear and present danger is mass unemployment, and we should deal with it, now.
► In today’s Washington Post — Great Gatsby economics are no party for middle class (by E.J. Dionne) — “We have reached the point where inequality is hurting the economy,” says Alan Krueger, the outgoing chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “Today, a reduction in inequality would be good for efficiency, economic growth and stability.” Those two sentences should affect everything President Obama does in the economic sphere for the rest of his term.
EDITOR’S NOTE — But don’t hold your breath. Obama’s choice to replace Krueger as his top economic adviser is a guy who heralds Walmart as a “progressive success story.” He joins Obama’s new budget director, the former head of The Walmart Foundation, as key White House players who hail from the wage-and-economy suppressing retailer.
Have a great Monday!
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.