Thursday, May 27, 2010

WA's high-tech industry is the Adrian to our Rocky.

When it comes to our economic engines, we just can't help but shout out our love for our state's high-tech industry like Rocky after laying the hurt on Apollo.

The truth is, diversifying our state's industrial base and encouraging the growth of highly sought-after businesses of the future, while providing the skilled workforce necessary for such growth have been priorities of the HDC for over two decades now, getting us in fighting shape. Just like chasing chickens around and running up stairs helped Rocky. Yeah, just like that.

Anyway, to the point of this post, which is: Can I get a high-tech five?

Reps. Ross Hunter, Zack Hudgins, and Jamie Pedersen were on hand at Google’s event Tuesday to celebrate not only the company’s success here, but our state’s collective awesomeness as a computing powerhouse.

The Seattle PI story states:
Google on Tuesday estimated that its online advertising injected more than $2.8 billion worth of business into the Washington state economy during 2009…That put Washington, despite being the 14th-most populous state in the country, at No. 7 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

"This is a tech state. There are a lot more dot-coms here than other places," Hunter said. "I'm excited that Washington has more companies than just Microsoft."

Many of those were started by former employees of Microsoft, which as we all know has spawned a tech ecosystem in Washington since it moved here in 1979. It's an "anchor" institution for the Seattle area, said Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, who spoke at the Google event.

Hudgins also is a former program manager at Microsoft and project manager at Amazon. After the event, he and state Rep. Jamie Pederson, D-Seattle, spoke with about the tech climate in Washington and its roots in Redmond.

"You get to a critical mass, then people who move here because they were hired by Microsoft can stay here if they want to do something else than Microsoft," Pederson said. "It's almost like an exponential expansion."
And, lest anyone still buys into the talking points stating Washington isn’t a good place to do business, here’s one more non-partisan report recently released – this one by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council – which lists Washington’s tax system the 5th best for entrepreneurship and small business.

(So how many times do we have to say it?)

Ways & Means meeting today

Today is the sequel to last week's House Ways & Means meeting as the members continue discussions about how to make our state government more effective and efficient.

It's not really a new conversation, and Washington is already a noted leader in "results-based governance." But the recession and its $12 billion impact on our state budget has put new life and urgency into finding ways to cut costs and streamline operations.

After trying to rebalance our 2009-11 budget in a short 60-day session, and anticipating continued economic fallout in next year's 2011 session, Rep. Kelli Linville, chair of the Ways & Means Committee, is devoting the interim to finding smart reforms and gathering ideas from legislators.

You can tune in to today's meeting at 1:30 on TVW.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

June 30 deadline for (nearly) all-expenses paid college scholarships

The College Bound Scholarship promises today's 8th grade low-income students that if they keep up the good grades, stay out of trouble, and get accepted into college the state will pick up the tab for tuition, fees and $500 for textbooks.

The deadline is June 30. Check here for more information on who qualifies and the super-easy online application.

The Legislature created this program in 2007 and the first group of students to benefit will be heading to college in 2012.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is our state prepared for a major oil spill?

As the world watches images of oil-covered birds and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico, Washingtonians may be wondering what would happen if a major oil spill happened off our own coast or in Puget Sound.

In today’s Ecology & Parks Committee meeting, members were given an oil spill prevention update by Dale Jensen, who manages the Department of Ecology’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program, and David Dicks, who heads the Puget Sound Partnership.

The update was mostly reassuring. Washington differs from the Gulf Coast states in that we have no offshore drilling, we don’t allow any supertankers into Puget Sound, and there is no oil pipeline traveling under Puget Sound. However, these were all ideas that were floated at one time or another, but thankfully state leaders at the time didn’t end up acting on them. So that already greatly decreases the likelihood of a spill the magnitude of the Gulf spill happening here.< In addition, our state has oil spill preparedness standards that exceed the federal standards.In fact, companies bring people from all over the world to train with our Oil Spill Response and Prevention program. We also have a strong program at the state level to handle oil spill readiness and response. Our state Department of Ecology has the authority to step above the federal standards; by contrast, the Gulf states rely more on industry response and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Some recent steps we’ve taken to minimize the risk of a catastrophic oil spill include passing legislation in the 2009 session (sponsored in the House by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege) that permanently stationed a rescue vessel at Neah Bay – funded by industry.

In fact, on June 30 of this year, at midnight, the state-funded rescue tug will be replaced by the industry-funded one, saving taxpayers millions of dollars a year while keeping our response readiness at 24/7, 365 days a year. There is also a five-cent per barrel tax on all oil that comes into the state, with four cents going into the Oil Spill Prevention Account, and one cent going into the Oil Spill Response Account.

However, it was noted today that the clean-up costs of a catastrophic oil spill would likely be greater here than down in the Gulf. The reason is that the Gulf leak is far from shore, so there was time to prepare some response. But a spill of that size in Puget Sound would quickly hit shorelines in less time than would be needed to put together the necessary response measures. This reality underscores the need to keep our oil spill prevention and response efforts robust, and ensures that future legislative sessions will likely continue to work on ways to protect our waterways.

Health care reform means families and taxpayers save beaucoup bucks

An independent group says national health care reform will shrink spending by $590 billion.

The Commonwealth Fund released a report that says:

  • the average family will save about $2,000 a year in health insurance by 2019
  • taxpayers will save $524 billion in reduced Medicare costs; and
  • the national deficit will get cut $400 billion over 10 years.

You can read the full report, in all its wonky goodness, via the series of tubes.

Lawmakers are meeting this week to talk about making health care reform work here in Washington state. Many of the ideas included in the national reform got their start right here, including the Basic Health Plan.