Friday, September 18, 2009

Rep. Rolfes takes a closer look at the impact of capping carbon emissions

The rapid increase of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere is no surprise. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon pollution jumped 20 percent from 1990 to 2004.

In an effort to learn more about how glass manufacturers would be impacted by capped carbon emissions, Rep. Christine Rolfes, vice-chair of the House Ecology & Parks Committee, organized a tour of Cardinal Glass Industries in Winlock.

Last session, Cardinal Glass testified before the House Ecology & Parks Committee with concerns about the climate change bill. They are now voluntarily working with the Department of Ecology on data collection and analysis to implement the Governor’s Executive Order on Climate Change.

One of the strongest emerging markets for the company is the production of glass for solar panels for clean energy generation.

Rep. Dave Upthegrove, chair of the House Ecology & Parks Committee, also joined the tour.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Newest revenue forecast signals we should be on our way up soon

Earlier today the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council presented the latest state revenue forecast. These forecasts give legislators a sense of how much revenue the state is bringing in and is critical to helping craft the state budget. The Council presents a forecast every few months.

This forecast has two components: the final numbers for the 2007-09 biennium, which ended on June 30 and changes to the 2009-11 biennium, which we are now in. Together, for both biennia, we're down an estimated $238 million from what we expected in revenue.

Dr. Arun Raha, the director of the council, pointed out it seems likely the recession has ended, though recovery will be slow and unemployment will remain high for some time.

Washington is expected to outperform the nation in the recovery, and national and state experts agree that Washington is poised to be one of the five states to lead the economy back up.

Legislators will be back in Olympia in January and, as usually is done in even-numbered years, will draft a supplemental operating budget. The 2010 supplemental budget will have to address the revenue situation, as well as caseload increases, etc.

At this morning’s meeting, Victor Moore, director of the Office of Financial Management, estimated that by January we'll face a $500 million to $1 billion budget problem.

You can watch Rep. Ross Hunter and Marty Brown talk about the upcoming budget challenges on last night's The Impact. Hunter sits on the revenue council and is chair of the House Finance Committee. Brown is the policy director for Governor Chris Gregoire.

Tonight, TVW will air an interview with Rep. Kelli Linville who chairs the House Appropriations Committee. Also interviewed will be Victor Moore.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rep. Upthegrove gives presentation on transportation and climate change in Woods Hole, MA

On September 9 and 10, Rep. Dave Upthegrove (Des Moines), along with five other delegates from Washington state, participated in an Executive Workshop on State Transportation and Climate Change.

The event was held at the National Academy of Sciences’ J. Erik Jonsson Center in Woods Hole, MA, and was organized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Center for Clean Air Policy. It was funded by the nonprofit Rockefeller Foundation and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, which covered the delegates’ costs of attendance.

Our state was one of five selected to send a delegation to the workshop, and Rep. Upthegrove was the only elected official from any of the state delegations. Other Washington delegates included officials from the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Puget Sound Regional Council, the Puget Sound Clean Air Authority, and the Transportation Choices Coalition. The purpose of the two-day workshop was to share information about effective strategies, and learn about the challenges – and successes – other states have had in attempting to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation. In our own state, the transportation sector makes up nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions.

While at Woods Hole, Rep. Upthegrove gave a presentation on the political challenges of addressing climate change in the transportation sector.

“It won’t be possible to end our dependence on foreign oil without reducing the carbon pollution from the transportation sector,” Upthegrove said after returning from Massachusetts. “But we can do this in a way that increases personal freedom and economic opportunity, and builds communities where American families can thrive.”

Tackling the Underground Economy

In just a matter of moments, legislators will convene a meeting of the Joint Legislative Task Force on the Underground Economy, chaired by Rep. Steve Conway.

The “Underground Economy…” Sounds sinister, right? Well, it may not be the stuff of Jason Bourne flicks, but the reach and impact of this task force is substantial. Their mission statement, as it is, reads: The purpose of the Task Force is to formulate a state policy to establish cohesion and transparency between state agencies to increase the oversight and regulation of the underground economy practices in the construction industry in the state.

Basically, they’re tackling the challenges in both identifying the bad apples in the construction industry who are cheating consumers and other legitimate construction businesses by skirting the rules and regs, and the efficacy of state enforcement practices. This could be anything from contractors who skirt labor laws, to unlicensed plumbers who could leave you and your home at risk.

The task force will spend their time today hearing from state agency and legislative experts on penalties for contractors in other states, what can be done to assist local governments with monitoring needs, and barriers to enforcement for agencies.

For more info on the Underground Economy Task Force, visit:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Get your GET credits now

The very popular Guaranteed Education Tuition program is now open for new enrollments.

If you want your child to go to college one day, this is the best deal to be had. Essentially, you get to purchase tuition "credits" today (at today's rates) and save them up for your child to redeem in the future (when tuition rates will most certainly be much much much more expensive). The credits are good at nearly every public or private college and university in the country and can be yours today for the low price of $101.

Check it out here. Enrollment ends March 31, 2010.

Let's talk pensions

The Select Committee on Pension Policy is meeting in Olympia today. Rep. Steve Conway chairs the committee.

The management structure of Washington's pension system has gone through many, many changes over the past few decades. Pensions are also an enormous cost-driver in our state budget. A
ccording to a report from last year, "the actuarial value of assets available as of the latest actuarial date for all systems was $50,791 million. The accrued liability is $56,467 million." This is not good. It's probably one reason we see lots of bills introduced every year to tweak pension policies.

So if you want to learn more about PERS, TRS, SERS, LEOFF, DROPS and other fun pension-related acronyms, this is the meeting for you! TVW will stream a live webcast for anyone wanting to tune in starting at 10.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Education budget committee meeting now

The House Education Appropriations Committee is holding a work session this morning in Olympia. They are reviewing the 2009-2011 K-12 and higher education budgets (including how federal stimulus dollars are being used) and will also discuss the status of budget cuts in early learning.

TVW is airing the action live on tv and on the
web. Enjoy!