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Washington state’s 63rd Legislature

OLYMPIA — The 63rd Washington Legislature opened Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, after a political ‘coup’ was staged in the state Senate. On Jan. 10, 2013, the 23 Senate Republicans in the chamber announced they had formally reached a deal with conservative Democrats Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon to form a “Senate Majority Coalition Caucus” to run the state Senate. Technically, there are  26 Democrats in the Senate and 23 Republicans, but with Tom and Sheldon’s maneuver, the Republicans hold a working majority. The Democrats will be in the minority for the first time since the 2006 session.

In the state House, Democrats held a 55-43 seat advantage over Republicans.

The Legislature was called into special session on Nov. 7 by Gov. Jay Inslee to work on a transportation funding bill, including a package that includes extensions of tax incentives for the Boeing Co. so that it will build its new 777X airliner in the Puget Sound region.

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OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans have resisted an increase in the gas tax increase all year long.  Until now.

They just recently came forward with a plan to match the $10 billion proposal that Democrats have been pushing for months.  But along with a gas tax hike, Republicans want transportation reforms as part of the deal.

transportation“You’ll find that in this there are very few, if any, studies, those kinds of things,” said state Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima.  “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it, and let’s get it done.”

On Thursday, an overflowing crowd came to testify about this latest proposal.  One clear supporter is the mayor of Everett, who says it’s key to keeping Boeing there because the company needs good roads for its employees and its freight.

“Passing this transportation package is going to be critical to our potential success in landing the assembly of 777X,” Ray Stephanson said.  “I would urge you, please, this committee, and then on to the full Senate and House, to pass this transportation package.”

The Republican proposal would fund many of the projects that are supported by Democrats, including State Route 520, Interstate 5 and State Route 167. And both plans provide authority for King County to raise taxes to save Metro bus service.

But transit activists aren’t happy with the Republican proposal, which, they contend, is too heavy on roads and too light on alternatives.

“Their package is terrible,” said Ben Scheindelman of the Seattle Transit Blog.  “Thinking that they can put something out there with 2% transit in it when most states give 17% of their transportation budget to transit is way out there.”

Scheindelman argues the package needs to be significantly altered.

“This is a joke,” he said.

Many lawmakers are trying to forge a deal before the end of the year so that it can be done before the new Legislature begins in January. Otherwise, they worry about chewing up a lot of that two-month session with this debate and pushing aside all other business.

SEATTLE — By a 2-to-1 margin, Machinists union members in the Puget Sound region Wednesday rejected Boeing’s proposed eight-year contract extension that would have cut pension and other benefits in exchange for Boeing’s commitment to build the planned 777X airliner and its advanced-technology wing in Washington state.

Sixty-seven percent of those 31,000 union members in the region voted no on the proposed contract extension, the union announced Wednesday night.

boeing2There will be no strike, because the workers’ current contract does not expire until 2016, but the big question now is whether Boeing will seek to assemble the 777X in another state.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner said after the vote:  “We are very disappointed in the outcome of the union vote … But without the terms of this contract extension, we’re left with no choice but to open the process competitively and pursue all options for the 777X.”

At a news conference in Olympia after the vote, Gov. Jay Inslee said Boeing told him the company would consider “multiple sites, including Washington” for the assembly of the new airliner and that he wasn’t about to give up in trying to gain the 777X production in the state.

“We intend to be competitive in the weeks to come,” Inslee said.  “We know how to compete in the state of Washington.”

He added, “We could have won this tonight without any competition (but) that didn’t happen.”

Tom Wroblewski, spokesman for the International  Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751, issued the following statement:

“Today, the democratic process worked and our members made the decision to not accept the company’s proposal. It is my belief that we represent the best aerospace workforce in the world and hope that as a result of this vote Boeing will not discard our skills when looking to place the 777X.

“We preserved something sacred by rejecting the Boeing proposal. We’ve held on to our pensions and that’s big. At a time when financial planners are talking about a ‘retirement crisis’ in America, we have preserved a tool that will help our members retire with more comfort and dignity.”

As workers were casting votes Wednesday afternoon, one of the 31,000 Machinists union members in the region, Randy McFadden, said at the union hall voting site: “Boeing is asking us to get rid of all the things we worked 20 years for — flush it down, just so they can make more money.”

Another worker called Boeing’s offer “an extortion, a take-it-or-leave-it thing. I’m not going for it.”

Camy Badr, the owner of   Good Guys Pizza near the Boeing plant in Everett, said he’s worried about what might happen if Boeing lives up to that threat to move business elsewhere.

“During the last strike, business dropped 30 percent,” Badr said. “The economy is just picking up and I depend on Boeing workers a lot.”

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said  losing the 777X work and thousands of jobs to another state would be devastating.

“We are talking about an economy that is very fragile right now,” Lovick said. “And the fact that we would be taking those jobs out of this region, it would be huge to Snohomish County.”

On Monday, Inslee signed a bill into law that gives billions in tax breaks for Boeing — a move to sweeten the deal for the company to produce the 777X here.

The production of this new, efficient aircraft would secure at least 56,000 jobs and more than two decades of work, analysts have projected.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., issued this statement following the union’s vote:

“I believe Washington is still the best place to build the 777X, but the hill just got steeper. We now need to be prepared for an intense competition with other states and countries that want these jobs.”

SEATTLE — With the Legislature beginning to consider a transportation funding package in Olympia, King County Executive Dow Constantine again warned there would be deep cuts in Metro Transit service without more money.

metrobuses“The time for action is now, with the Legislature in special session, to avert cuts to bus service that would be without precedent in the 40-year history of Metro,” Constantine said. “It is unconscionable that King County should be compelled to cut bus service, due to lack of funding authority from the state.”

Temporary funding dedicated for Metro Transit expires next year, Constantine said, and Metro has exhausted its reserves and implemented many efficiencies and cost-savings.

Metro’s service guidelines identify the need for increasing service by 15 percent – but without funding in place after next year, Metro on Thursday released a proposal that details up to 17 percent in cuts to bus service. Another 150 daily bus trips between West Seattle and downtown Seattle – buses that ease construction congestion during the Alaskan Way Viaduct project – also are at risk of being canceled in June when state funding ends, Metro said.

“Buses are on the chopping block throughout King County, severing people’s lifelines for getting to work,” said King County Councilman Larry Phillips, chairman of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “These drastic transit cuts move King County in the worst possible direction for mobility and a prosperous economy. Voters deserve to have a say about this, either by the state Legislature coming through on a transportation package in the current special session, or by King County finding other funding options.”

Metro said that the proposed cuts would revert Metro’s service to levels not seen since 1997 – even as ridership nears all-time highs. Ridership is up 40 percent on SR 520, and RapidRide growth continues. Traffic is down 25,000 vehicles a day on SR 99 while bus ridership from West Seattle is up nearly 10,000 riders – 42 percent – since 2009. Metro provides about 400,000 rides each day and is nearing the annual record of 119 million riders reached in 2008.

Metro must plan service changes and notify the public months in advance of potential implementation, and will launch a wide outreach effort to inform riders of any such changes. Three months of public meetings are planned prior to the King County Council’s consideration next spring of the proposed service cuts that would have to begin as soon as June, with more cuts to follow through 2014 and 2015.

The proposed cuts could mean a loss of an unprecedented 14 million rides annually, said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond.

The King County Council will consider finalizing the proposed cuts in spring, to be reviewed in light of updated financial forecasts available in March. Cuts in Alaskan Way Viaduct mitigation service would begin in June unless state funding becomes available; other cuts would follow beginning in September.

Route details

Proposed cuts of up to 600,000 hours of service, or about 17 percent of Metro’s current service, and 45,000 hours of Alaskan Way Viaduct construction mitigation service, are posted online.

74 of Metro’s 214 routes would be deleted: 4, 5EX, 7EX, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 37, 47, 48EX, 57, 61, 62, 66EX, 67, 68, 72, 82, 83, 84, 99, 110, 113, 139, 152, 154, 158, 159, 161, 167, 173, 178, 179, 190, 192, 200, 201, 202, 203, 205EX, 209, 210, 211EX, 213, 215, 217, 237, 238, 242, 243, 244EX, 250, 260, 265, 277, 280, 304, 306EX, and 308; and DART routes 901, 908, 909, 910, 913, 916, 919, 927, 930, and 935.

  • 107 routes would be reduced or revised. Examples of changes are fewer trips, service ending earlier at night, deletion of the tail-end of a route, and combination of routes. C Line, D Line, 1, 2, 3*, 5, 7, 8, 9EX, 11, 12, 13*, 14, 16*, 17EX, 18EX, 21EX, 24, 26EX*, 28EX*, 29, 32*, 33, 36, 40, 41, 43, 44, 49, 50*, 55, 56EX, 60, 64EX, 65, 70*, 71, 73*, 98**, 105, 106*, 107, 111, 114, 116EX, 118EX, 118, 119EX, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 128, 131, 132, 143EX, 148, 150, 156, 157*, 164, 168*, 177*, 180, 181*, 182, 186, 187, 193EX, 197, 204, 208, 212*, 214, 221, 226, 232, 234, 235*, 236, 240, 241, 245, 248, 249, 252, 255, 257, 269, 271, 311, 331, 342*, 346, 348, 355EX*, 358EX* (E Line), and 372EX; and DART routes 903, 907, 914, 915, 917, and 931. (*Routes have additional service, trips as a result of a revision; ** South Lake Union Streetcar)
  • 33 routes would not be changed, but would likely become more crowded as they absorb riders who lost their service. A Line, B line, 10, 15EX, 48, 74EX, 75, 76, 77, 101, 102, 140 (F Line), 153, 166, 169, 183, 216, 218, 219, 224, 246, 268, 301, 303EX, 309EX, 312EX, 316, 330, 345, 347, 373EX, 601EX, DART 906
  • ADA paratransit services – If the proposed 17 percent service reductions are imposed on the fixed route system, ADA paratransit service may also face reductions.

Public outreach, meetings

Metro plans public meetings and other informational opportunities throughout the county during the next three months. Riders with questions or comments can visit Metro’s service cuts page for more information. On social media channels, riders can use #KCMetroCuts to join the conversation.

  • Federal Way: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 6-8 p.m., Federal Way Community Center
  • West Seattle: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 6-8 p.m., Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
  • North Seattle: Thursday, Dec. 5, 6-8 p.m., North Seattle Community College
  • Downtown Seattle: Tuesday, Dec. 10, noon- 2 p.m., Union Station
  • Bellevue: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 6- 8 p.m., Bellevue City Hall
  • Kent: Monday, Dec. 16, 6-8 p.m., Kent Commons
  • Kirkland: Thursday, Jan. 16, 6- 8 p.m., Peter Kirk Community Center
  • Southeast Seattle: Thursday, Jan. 23, 6-8 p.m., South Shore K-8
  • North King County: Monday, Jan. 27, 6-8 p.m., Lake Forest Park City Hall

SEATTLE — Stuart Elway, of Elway Research Inc., discusses his latest poll results on the popularity, or lack thereof, of Washington state lawmakers.

Watch the video

maxwellRENTON — State Rep. Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton, announced Tuesday she is resigning from the Legislature to join Gov. Jay Inslee’s Legislative Affairs and Policy Office staff as a senior education policy adviser.

Maxwell has represented the 41st Legislative District in southern and eastern King County since January 2009. Her district includes Bellevue, Beaux Arts, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Renton and Sammamish.

In the Legislature, she was on the House Education Committee, the Appropriations Committee, the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, the Rules Committee and the Technology & Economic Development Committee.

“I’ve been honored to serve the people of the 41st District in South and East King County, and believe that my new position in the Governor’s Office will continue my work on their priorities for our state,” Maxwell said in a statement.

Maxwell was first elected to the Legislature in 2008, and was re-elected twice. She was previously elected to the Renton School Board for eight years. She is also a Realtor.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday signed a $33.6 billion state budget that averted a government shutdown that would have occurred Monday if the Legislature had not finally passed a compromise spending plan.

OLYMPIA — It took 151 days and two special sessions, but state lawmakers on Thursday finally reached a $33.6 billion budget deal that averts a government shutdown that was set to begin Monday.

legislatureGov. Jay Inslee made the announcement with legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle.

“The deal reached today makes it clear that state government will continue to operate,” Inslee said.  “All government functions will be in operations Monday, July 1.”

The deal includes $1 billion more for K-12 education, adds 350,000 people to Medicaid coverage, and implements many reforms to how the state does business — all without a general tax increase.

Inslee took no questions at the brief announcement, but later visited the House Democrats, where he did express his view of the deal, especially the new spending for public schools, which will begin fulfilling last year’s state Supreme Court mandate.

“We have a great down payment on our moral obligation for the paramount duty of the state of Washington,” Inslee said.

But the governor also said the deal involved a great deal of compromise.

“Of course there are things that I didn’t agree with in the budget,” he said.  “There’s some things I would have done differently, but I think it embraces some Washington principles.”

Republicans were happy with the hard-fought deal.

“I feel great,” said Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the Senate’s chief budget writer. “It’s going to be a great budget.”

Hill was pleased with the added money for K-12, as well as the fact that the budget holds the line on tuition increases at the state’s colleges and universities.  That hasn’t happened since 1986.

“In the last eight years, tuition has doubled,” Hill said. “What that is is a tax on the middle class, on the students and parents.”

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Budget Committee, attributed the long-delay in reaching a deal to the makeup of the Legislature.

“It’s always hard when you have split control,” he said of the fact that Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate.  “We think of the world in very different way.”

On the same day lawmakers reached a deal on the state’s operating budget, there was still vigorous debate about a separate transportation package, including a 10-cent increase in the gas tax.

Despite opposition from Republicans, the 10-cent increase did pass the House, but still faces stiff opposition in the Senate.

Local News

Still no budget deal as state shutdown looms

OLYMPIA — The deal is imminent.

capitolThat has been the word out of Olympia the past several days.

There is still no budget deal, and now the governor’s office is now laying out plans for a state shutdown.

“We are surprised we have gotten to this point in the journey and we were hopeful we would not have to have the conversation,” said Mary Alice Heuschel, Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff.

It’s a conversation no one wants — about what will happen if the state has to shut down on Monday, July 1.

About 25,000 state employees will be furloughed, state parks will close, and millions of residents — including Medicaid patients — will lose state services.

“DSHS will also have to notify tens of thousands of vulnerable adults, children, and the elderly that their services will not be available as of July 1,” Heuschel said.

The only thing that will avoid the shutdown is a budget deal, and, on Wednesday, there were conflicting reports all day from both sides of the aisle.

Around noon, state Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, sent out an e-mail claiming the Senate and House had reached an agreement on the $33 billion budget.

That was immediately shot down, as David Postman, the governor’s spokesman, proclaimed, “There’s not a budget agreement, and I don’t know why that announcement came out when it did.”

There appears to be plenty of agreement on the state funding plan, which includes $1 billion for schools, but there is still debate over a few, smaller details that are holding up the handshake.

“The broad framework of a deal is in place,” said state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, the House budget negotiator. “We have made meaningful and substantial progress, but we simply are not yet complete.”

If they don’t get there by midnight Sunday, there will be a lot of pain felt throughout the state, and the governor’s office is now preparing for it.

OLYMPIA — A day after Gov. Jay Inslee said a long-awaited budget deal was “imminent,” state legislative leaders still hadn’t finalized an agreement Tuesday.

“We have a broad conceptual agreement, but we need to get these details right and work through those issues,” Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said late Tuesday afternoon.  “Everybody’s working in a very cooperative manner, so I expect that to continue and for us to be able to finish up here shortly.”

Tom said it was important to make sure everything was thoroughly worked out.  “When we shake, there’s no going back,” he said.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, chairman of the House Revenue Committee, also expressed a desire to make sure all the details are worked out when he spoke on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re a large state with a lot of investment in education, other programs,” Carlyle said. “We have to do a lot of paper work as well.  So, we’re hoping to get a handshake.  It’s imminent, as the governor said, but we’re not quite there.”

But many, including legislators, remain frustrated a deal still hasn’t been reached.

“We should have been done by June 1,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle. “We should have a rule moving forward that we get done by June 1.  Period.”

For Frockt, taking budget negotiations all the way to final days of the fiscal year unnecessarily runs the risk of a government shutdown, which would affect thousands of state workers, state services, and state open spaces.

“People start to feel it,” Frockt said. “They go to their state park and it’s closed and they want to go camping for the Fourth of July weekend, that is going to crystalize in people’s minds that these are services that your state is providing and that we’re not getting the work done. That doesn’t help anybody.”

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, there was still no formal handshake on a budget deal. However, all leaders continue to make it clear that a shutdown won’t occur next week.