Thursday, November 24, 2011

Enjoy your Thanksgiving

The Advance will be taking a few days off over the Thanksgiving weekend. On Monday we'll be back for the start of the special session, reporting on what's happening with the budget and other news about your House Democrats. In the meantime, here's a few state resources to keep close while we are away:

Hitting the road? Be sure to check traffic at Dept. of Transportation
Feeding friends and family? Head to the Dept. of Health's Holiday Food Safety Guide
Plan and deal with bad weather with the Dept. of Health and Emergency Management Division
And of course, if you're looking to give back a little, you can use the search at the Secretary of State's Charities Program

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What about the children?

Rep. Jeannie Darneille
For the millions of mothers and fathers who have lost their jobs in the Great Recession, Thanksgiving 2011 may be a less festive occasion than it was before the economy crashed. The impact on them, of course, extends well beyond fewer courses on the holiday table or smaller servings of cranberry sauce. And the economic downtown also takes a heavy toll on others gathering with them for the meal: their children.
Rep. Jeannie Darneille joined with Sen. Debbie Regala to host a community forum in their Tacoma district to hear from children and their parents about what the recession means to families. The Nov. 15 forum drew more than 100 people to Jason Lee Middle School.
The forum was modeled after a similar program in Connecticut that led to legislation addressing the needs of children in hardship.
To learn more, read Sen. Regala’s report on the forum.

Is Washington's revenue REALLY down?

It is often suggested in some quarters that Washington doesn't really have a revenue problem at all, despite the fact we have had to take budget reductions of more than $10.5 billion over the last three years.  During his presentation at the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council meeting last week, chief economist Arun Raha pretty well dispelled that myth. 

As you can see from the charts below, state revenues are currently way below the 2008 level, and will continue to be lower at least through 2013.  Revenues have also not kept up with population growth, according to Raha.

There is more information available here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And the award for most unusual award goes to...

It's a frisbee, it's a UFO, it's a...Secchi Disk!
Recently, Rep. Andy Billig had the opportunity to speak at the North American Lake Management Systems 31st Annual Symposium, held at the Spokane Convention Center on the banks of the Spokane River.

He discussed a highlight from the 2011 session: Passage of the “Clean Fertilizers, Healthier Lakes and Rivers” bill (HB 1489), which he sponsored. It regulates the sale and use of lawn fertilizer containing phosphorous, because businesses and local governments have spent millions on wastewater treatment upgrades to control phosphorous discharge into waterways. Phosphorous fuels algae growth which leads to a decline in dissolved oxygen levels in water bodies like Lake Spokane, endangering fish and other aquatic organisms. In some years, phosphorous promotes toxic algae blooms that can be lethal to pets and pose an immediate health hazard to humans.

After Rep. Billig's speech, the Washington Lake Protection Association honored him with their 2011 Secchi Disk Award. The award's inscription reads, “Thank you for keeping the P for Protection and not for phosphorous.”

What is a Secchi Disk? Created in 1865 by Pietro Angelo Secchi SJ, it's a circular disk used to measure water transparency in oceans and lakes. The disc is mounted on a pole or line, and lowered slowly down in the water. The depth at which the pattern on the disk is no longer visible is taken as a measure of the transparency of the water. Secchi disk measurements have been an integral component lake water quality assessment programs for some time, especially in Minnesota where lake residents make periodic measurements and submit their readings to state and local agencies.  With passage of HB 1489, Washington joined Minnesota and Michigan in strictly regulating phosphorous in lawn fertilizer in order to keep rivers and lakes healthier.

Holiday cheers to Washington businesses

Everyone knows Washington is often praised for being one of the best places in America to start and grow a business.  But did you know that Washington businesses are also world leaders for consumers?  The new Naughty & Nice Holiday List from Consumer Reports leaves no doubt.
The 2011 edition of Consumer Reports’ Naughty and Nice Holiday list features 10 companies that have adopted great policies for consumers, and nine companies that have embraced hidden fees, naughty  merchandize-return tactics and other Grinch-like policies that will bring no cheer to holiday shoppers.
Celebrations are in order in our case because four of the top ten businesses on Consumer Reports’ Nice Holiday List call Washington Home:  
  • was applauded for taking the lead on frustration-free packaging that is good for consumers and the environment, too.  
  • Kent-based REI earned a tip of the hat for having a great merchandise-return policy that offers peace of mind without any hassle for consumers. 
  • Microsoft won plaudits for soaring beyond the pack with consumer-friendly refund policies. 
  • Costco earned cheers not only for its generous return policies, but also for the free tech support it offers on many electronic products.
As the Holiday season gets into full swing, the HDC is proud to join Consumer Reports in singing the praises of these great Washington companies for treating consumers right.  Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice. But Consumer Reports knows best which businesses have been the nicest.
To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.

Rep. Tharinger joins WWRC board

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition board announced the appointment of six new members in a press release yesterday.  Among the new appointees is state Rep. Steve Tharinger.

Rep. Tharinger, who served on the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board from 2002 to 2010 and chairs the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, is a longtime advocate for Washington's natural resources and agricultural lands.

He is also a member of the House Capital Budget Committee, which allocates grant funding for the protection of wildlife habitat, natural resource recreation areas, and working farms through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP).  WWRC administers the WWRP grants.

In 2007, the WWRC gave former state representative and then- House Capital Budget chair Bill Fromhold its "Award for Outstanding Legislative Leadership."  Fromhold passed away in 2010 from leukemia.

"I didn't have the privilege of working with Bill Fromhold in the House, but his legacy is one of protecting our natural areas for the benefit of future generations," Tharinger said.  "Like Bill, I believe our state's economy and environment are closely intertwined, and both can thrive simultaneously."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Statement from Speaker Chopp on Governor Gregoire's budget proposal

As we mentioned earlier, Governor Gregoire released her 2011 supplemental budget proposal today.  House Speaker Frank Chopp released this statement about that proposal:

“This recession has had an unprecedented impact on our state’s economy, and after three straight years of deep budget cuts, we have very few options left.  I understand just how difficult it was for the Governor to write this budget – we are facing the same bleak numbers in the Legislature. 

“I am very heartened that she included a revenue package in her proposal.  The service reductions and program eliminations that will result from cutting $2 billion more in the current biennium will be devastating for people in communities all over the state.  We owe it to our school children, to our citizens with disabilities, and, frankly, to the future of our state to have a discussion about alternatives.” 
To read this blog post in Spanish, click here.

Governor unveils budget that ‘shreds safety net’

Gov. Chris Gregoire says the state has cut $10.5 billion in the last three years – and because of the global recession, needs to make up for another $2 billion shortfall.
This time, however, she’s proposing alternatives to lawmakers that include raising revenue.
“I have heard from all four caucuses that we need to look at revenue, because they see the depths of the cuts,” Gregoire said. “What we have is the envy of other states and nations. We can and we must make sure that we don’t give it up.
An all-cuts budget would include cuts that the governor says she can’t stomach.
Those cuts include:
  • $49 million in cuts to the Basic Health Plan, ending health coverage to 35,000 people
  • Cutting four days from the school year and eliminating levy equalization for poorer schools
  • Shortening the time that 16,600 convicted criminals would be under supervision once released
  • Chopping another $160 million from colleges and universities
“Are we going to have a future for Washington state or not?” Gregoire said. “It’s time for this generation, our generation, to step up.”
Gregoire said she may be the first governor in the state to propose a referendum to the voters to raise revenue via a half-penny hike in the sales tax.
“I can’t live with these cuts. It’s not right for the state of Washington – we must stand up, we must unite, we must do what’s right … to buy a better future for Washington state.
Gregoire said the sales tax isn’t a perfect option, but it’s the best option.
“This is our calling,” she said. “This is our responsibility. We can build the future of Washington, and I believe we must. … We’re going to stand up to this challenge. We’re tough. It’s time to be tough, to unite, to stand up for Washington.” 
The governor’s full proposal and details can be found here.

To read this blog post in Spanish, click here.