Budget Negotiations to Start Monday

_MG_0217We’re now entering the budget negotiation phase of the session. The Senate and House are in pretty significantly different places. The top level difference is only about a billion dollars, but the underlying differences are much greater than that. We need to come to agreement by Wednesday the 22nd to be able to get the mechanical part of the process completed if we’re to finish on the 26th, the 105th and final day of the regular session.

On Thursday the budget negotiation teams met with the Governor. This meeting happens every year and it’s an opportunity for the Governor to lay out what he expects in a budget. He has a lot of leverage over the process as he can veto individual parts of the budget he doesn’t like or, if he really doesn’t like the product can veto the entire thing, sending us back to work. This doesn’t happen very often, but is definitely part of the process. There are ALWAYS vetoes of individual line items in the budget.

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Final 520 Pontoons to Arrive Thursday!

If you are crazy enough to actually want to track the arrival of pontoons to the new 520 bridge project online – here are the links. These are the last 3 pontoons. In addition, WSDOT is running a photo contest about pontoons. Here’s the link.

The journey from Grays Harbor is nearly complete and we expect the final three SR 520 pontoons to arrive on Lake Washington tomorrow, Thursday, April 9.

Below is a table indicating estimated arrival times for each pontoon and a link to where you can track their location as they arrive on Lake Washington. Please note, actual arrival times may vary due to towing conditions.

Pontoon Estimated time of arrival at

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

3015 NW 54th St.

Tugboat tracking link
Pontoon G 9:30 a.m. Tugboat Mudcat
Pontoon H 12:30 p.m. Tugboat Nancy M
Pontoon F 2 p.m. Tugboat Solana
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Timely Advice from 4th Graders

This week’s gem is particularly timely as we are about to spend the next two weeks debating bills on the floor and arguing about budgets. The advice comes from Linda Myrick’s 4th graders at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.

Advice Card 9

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 8

I think I missed a week. This week’s advice card is also excellent. I’m sad I have to white out the names of the kids due to privacy laws.

Advice Card 8

These cards are from the 4th graders in Linda Myrick’s civics club at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.

 

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Debtors Prisons – Legal Financial Obligations

Just before session started this year I had a chance to attend the Facing Race legislative forum. Hosted by several local and national organizations, it was a chance for me to hear stories and facts about a variety of social justice topics, including Legal Financial Obligations. Some of the repeating themes were how hard it is for indigent people to get out from LFOs after they are released from prison, and how disproportionately people of color are impacted by this system.

LFOs are the fees, fines and costs that people convicted of crimes are charged in addition to their criminal penalties, like jail time. In Washington the average LFO amount is $2,450 and the interest rate on these is 12%. Considering up to 60% of former inmates are still unemployed a year after they get out of jail, requiring them to pay such large fines can put them into a crippling spiral of debt, homelessness, and recidivism.[1]

People who commit crimes should pay for the hurt and damage they caused – hence our criminal justice and prison system. The goal here is to provide a deterrent and take people who are likely to commit new crimes out of circulation. Once they get out of prison, society has a huge interest in encouraging them to get jobs, find housing, support themselves and their children, and in general become contributing citizens. A person with unpayable LFOs can’t achieve any of these things.

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 7

I am really enjoying these posts from Linda Myrick’s 4th graders at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue. This particular piece needs broad circulation, and I will be sending it to all the members of the House. We have three more days of floor debate this week and the advice is very topical.

Advice Card 7

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Fiscal Cutoff

apps committee in actionState legislatures typically meet for a relatively short period of time each year and consequently are very deadline driven. Congress works on things until they are ready to be brought forward, but in most states (including Washington) the dates are relentless and serve to help the body focus on what is likely to get done this session and what is not.

Friday, Feb. 27 was our first fiscal cutoff – the date by which all bills that spend money have to pass out of a fiscal committee or they die. Like deaths in bad movies, sometimes dead bills come back to life and wander around like zombies, but most of the bills that didn’t pass out of the Appropriations committee are dead for real. The one big exception is bills that either raise money or cause a deep structural revision in how we fund things. These are Necessary to Implement the Budget, or NTIB. This is a coveted status as it means you are exempt from cutoff dates.

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 6

Really, really good advice from the 4th graders in Linda Myrick’s class at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue.

Advice Card 6

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Advice from 4th Graders – Week 5

Again, fabulous advice for State Legislators from Linda Myrick’s 4th grade class at Somerset Elementary in Bellevue. Advice Card 5

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Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Pricing Model, Part 2

Last week’s newsletter on Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Action Pricing Model got a lot of comments – about three times the normal amount. Thanks for reading it! The bill has arrived in the Appropriations committee and we will spend some time looking at it before taking action, so I have time to work through all the details.

Readers of my newsletter and blog brought up a few concerns that I felt I should respond to. Here are my responses to the most common ones.

Why should we act – China, India, etc. are far larger than us and aren’t acting…

There are two ways to respond to this concern. First, I can quote Mahatma Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  This may be unsatisfying to some readers. :-)

Second, I can point to how much of the world’s economy (and carbon emitters) will soon be covered by some kind of carbon pricing scheme, including China. The following graphic from Sightline shows the expansion of carbon pricing strategies, including planned rollouts over the next few years. We would not be acting alone. For more detail read the Sightline article.

Sightline: All the World’s Carbon Pricing Systems in One Animated Map

Cap and Trade or Carbon Tax? Why one over the other? Continue reading

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