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Inslee budget: $1.4b in new revenue, mostly for K-12 ?>

Inslee budget: $1.4b in new revenue, mostly for K-12

dollar-sign1-300x300The Battle of the Budgets has begun.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat in the third month of his tenure, unveiled his $34.4 billion budget blueprint in a lengthy televised news conference at the Capitol on Thursday.

Headline: He would generate about $1.4 billion in new revenue by extending expiring taxes and by closing or reducing a variety of tax exemptions.  The new money would mostly go for education, a $1.2 billion down-payment on the state addressing a state Supreme Court mandate for full state-level funding of basic education.

The plan will collide with the no-new-taxes, GOP-dominated Senate coalition, which releases a budget soon. Inslee said he’s optimistic that a good compromise will happen. “I believe we can do hard things,” he said.

The governor’s calculation:

“To govern is to choose …. I choose education over tax breaks. … I’m betting on the future here.”

Secretary of State Kim Wyman complimented the governor for restoring support for the Washington State Library, erasing a $2.6 million deficit in the budget plan submitted by Gov. Chris Gregoire before she left office in January.

The new proposal, like Gregoire’s, would shift the Library out of the main General Fund, into the Heritage Center account, but Inslee doesn’t presume a Library cut of over $600,000 and doesn’t presume passage of a $2 million fee increase that Gregoire had proposed but that looks DOA in the Legislature.

In short, Inslee fully funds the Library, which Wyman called “great news after a decade of severe budget cuts.” The Library serves not only the Legislature and Hill staffers, but also patrons across the state and local libraries across Washington, she said.  The Library also provides crucial services to blind and reading-impaired people, to inmates and to mental hospitals.

Inslee also would:

  • Restore the 3 percent salary cuts for public employees, starting in the new budget, which takes effect in July.
  • Expand state participation in the Medicaid program, saving the state treasury in the near-term. (more…)
After 45 years in public life, Sam Reed bids farewell ?>

After 45 years in public life, Sam Reed bids farewell

Sam speaks to 2013 Senate

(Photo courtesy of  Legislative Support Services Photography)

Secretary of State Sam Reed bade a fond farewell to the people of Washington Tuesday after 45 years in public life, including 35 years as a state and county elected official.

Addressing a joint session of the Legislature, Reed brought along a special reminder of his family’s long connection to Washington politics and government — his grandfather Sam Sumner’s battered leather briefcase.  Exactly 100 years earlier, Sumner, a state GOP chairman and longtime party leader, was sworn in as a state House member, beginning a legacy of public service that would extend to Reed’s career and love of politics and government decades later.

“Politics is, and should be, a noble calling,” Reed said in his well-received remarks.  He added:

“It has been an amazing ride for Margie and me. Nearly a lifetime ago, it seems, we came to Olympia from the apple orchards and the Palouse of Eastern Washington to teach and to serve in government. We stayed to raise our family here and to heed the call the service. On our hardest days, we never regretted that decision.

“My heart is full as this Wenatchee boy reflects on the opportunity to be of service and to work … to make Washington a better, more responsive and just government worthy of her people. Whenever we saw a problem to fix or an opportunity to grasp, we went to work. In our better moments, we worked collaboratively, across the aisle, with common purpose and with civility.”

Among the highlights Reed mentioned were:

  1. Saving the State Library.
  2. Creating the nation’s first ground-up Digital Archives.
  3. Restoring confidence in the elections process after the closest governor’s race in America, fighting for the Top 2 Primary and other reforms and improvements in the elections process.
  4. Ramping up service to job-creating companies.
  5. Honoring our history and promoting a new State Heritage Center on the Capitol Campus to house the Archives and State Library and make public records, books and history accessible to the public.

In closing, Reed said:

“Although I am leaving public life, I am not leaving public service. I expect to be deeply engaged as a volunteer, working and mentoring as a private citizen on my signature issues of civility, bipartisanship and moderation.”

The joint session also heard Gov. Chris Gregoire’s optimistic and sweeping State of the State Address recapping her eight years in office and her thoughts about the future.  The gathering also heard farewell remarks from Attorney General Rob McKenna, who succeeded Gregoire at the helm of the 1,100-member AG staff and who lost to Democrat Jay Inslee for Governor in November.  And outgoing Brian Sonntag, the veteran State Auditor, also gave well-received and emotional farewell comments.  The proceedings were broadcast live and archived by TVW.


Our new Native American exhibit is up! ?>

Our new Native American exhibit is up!

Over the past couple of weeks, some of our staffers have shown off their interior design and home improvement skills as they’ve transformed our office’s front lobby. The sounds of hammers and power drills have been commonplace, as have scenes of co-workers standing high on ladders to remove displays and patch holes in walls.

All of this has been done to take down one interesting exhibit and replace it with another that is sure to capture the attention and amazement of visitors for the next year.

The Washington State Heritage Center has just finished installing a powerful and compelling exhibit on the Native American tribes in Washington.

Entitled “We’re Still Here: The Survival of Washington Indians,” the free exhibit’s launch takes place during a special program April 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda, but visitors are welcome to take a peek at it now.

The privately funded exhibit features 12 panels, an assortment of artifacts and some rare video footage, acknowledging the early and continuing story of Native Americans in four major themes: the struggle over land, the conflict over Native identity, the battle for treaty fishing rights, and the cultural revival of Indian customs and language in the world today.

“We’re Still Here” will be on display until next April. It replaces the exhibit on Isaac Stevens, Washington’s first territorial governor, and the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

The Heritage Center is part of the Office of Secretary of State.

Slade talks redistricting, 9/11, Senate and more ?>

Slade talks redistricting, 9/11, Senate and more

John C. Hughes and former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton sign copies of the book that Hughes recently wrote about the longtime statesman.

Former state Attorney General and U.S. Senator Slade Gorton was the featured guest at a forum and book signing Thursday in the Legislative Building’s State Reception Room.

More than 50 attendees heard Gorton speak about his enduring and prominent career in state and national politics.  Gorton is the subject of a recent biography entitled “Slade Gorton A Half-Century in Politics.” The book is written by John C. Hughes, chief historian with our office’s Legacy Project and former editor and publisher of the Aberdeen Daily World.

Gorton answered questions from a panel and audience members about his more than 50 years of public service, which includes membership on the 9/11 Commission and the 2011 State Redistricting Commission, which recently finished redrawing Washington’s congressional and legislative district boundaries.

The forum panel included Hughes; David Ammons, communications director for Secretary of State Sam Reed and former Olympia bureau reporter for The Associated Press; and Austin Jenkins, Public Radio Northwest Network’s Olympia correspondent.

The book costs $37.50 (including shipping and handling) through the Secretary of State’s Online Store at . Proceeds from the sale of the Gorton book support the publication of Legacy Project books. No state funds are used to publish Legacy Project books.

All Legacy Project books are available to read free online at and are available for Kindle and e-readers at

The forum was hosted by the Office of Secretary of State and the Washington State Heritage Center.  TVW covered the event, which will be shown on the channel in the coming days. The forum’s air times can be found at

3, 2, 1…we have a book launch! ?>

3, 2, 1…we have a book launch!

Our Legacy Project has produced some outstanding biographies and oral histories since it began in 2008, and Thursday night in Seattle saw the official launch of its latest offering.

John C. Hughes, chief historian for The Legacy Project, has penned a new book about the long, influential political career of Slade Gorton. Entitled “Slade Gorton: A Half Century In Politics,” Hughes’ book goes back to the start of Gorton’s political career in Washington as a Republican state representative from Seattle in the late ‘50s, to his 12 years as state attorney general, then his three terms as a U.S. senator (including his defeats to Democrats Brock Adams and Maria Cantwell), his time on the 9/11 Commission, and finally, his work on the 2011 State Redistricting Commission, which is expected to release its final plans for new congressional and legislative districts very soon.

The book launch event at the Slade Gorton International Policy Center was emceed by Secretary Reed (shown above talking about the book while Slade and his wife, Sally, listen). Hughes, former Governor and U.S. Senator Dan Evans and Gorton himself spoke during the program. TVW says it will air the event Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Nov. 22 at 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., and then occasionally during the Thanksgiving weekend and the following week.

If you want to buy the new book about Gorton, you can purchase it for $37.50 (including shipping and handling) by visiting the Secretary of State Online Store. An electronic version is available online for free here.

WA lawmakers button down hard-times session ?>

WA lawmakers button down hard-times session

Washington lawmakers are heading back to their home districts after completing a brutal recession-era 135-day session.  Budget cutbacks, including salaries of state employees and teachers and budgets of virtually every area of government, were the rule of the day as lawmakers grappled with a budget gap of billions.

Cuts and freezes totaling $4.6 billion will affect K-12, higher education, “safety  net” programs, and a variety of state services, from parks to prisons.  The $32 billion two-year budget takes effect July 1, and will include hundreds of layoffs and a pay cut of 3 percent and higher health care costs for state workers.

The operating and construction budgets passed in the waning hours of the session and enjoyed bipartisanship support, particularly in the Senate, where the two parties crafted the spending plans, pension reform and workers’ compensation overhaul. Governor Gregoire called the session the toughest in recent memory, but hailed reforms and “a new spirit of bipartisanship” in Olympia.

The budget leaves over $700 million in reserves in case there are further revenue problems as the state and nation slowly pull out of the worst recession in decades.

The budget sweeps away the Heritage Center savings account that had been authorized previously as seed money for a new facility on the Capitol Campus to consolidate the State Archives, State Library, education center and history exhibits.  The $13 million was redistributed to the state history museums in Tacoma and Spokane, the state Arts Commission and other programs that were stripped of their General Fund support.  The fund source will not be available in two years. (more…)

State budget deal: cuts and more cuts ?>

State budget deal: cuts and more cuts

As Washington struggles to emerge from the deepest recession in 80 years, lawmakers have reached an 11th-hour budget deal for the next two years, cutting expenses in virtually every sector of state government.

The $32.2 billion plan, hammered out behind closed doors by negotiators from all four caucuses, relies on nearly $4.6 billion in spending cuts, including $1.2 billion saved by not funding two voter-approved education initiatives.  Other monster cuts are higher education, $535 million, offset by an expected $376 million in much higher tuition; $344 million in future pension benefits for PERS1 retirees; $215 million for smaller K-4 class size; $179 million by presuming a 1.9 percent pay cut for teachers; $177 million from a 3 percent pay cut for most state workers; $150 million from hospital rates; $129 million from tighter eligibility for Basic Health Plan; $116 million by recasting the Disability Lifeline program; and so on.

Legislative leaders and budget negotiators rolled out the new plan at a joint news conference, praising the unusual bipartisan approach to this budget.  Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, quickly endorsed their work.

Lawmakers are racing a midnight Wednesday adjournment deadline, and several potential hangups remained, including the construction budget and a constitutional amendment to roll back the percentage of the state General Fund that can be used for construction bond debt.

The Office of Secretary of State, meanwhile, saw its Heritage Center fund swept away, shifted to  history museums, arts and preservation organizations. The Heritage Center was authorized by the Legislature as a central home for the State Archives, State Library, and education and history exhibits on the Capitol Campus. The $12 million savings account, primarily generated by previously authorized fees on filing of documents, had been set aside to await a final legislative decision on site, design and bond authorization.

The budget also ended, at least for the next two years, the state’s Productivity Board, which solicits money-saving efficiency plans from state employees.  The program has saved nearly $60 million since its inception. (more…)

That’s General Reed to you ?>

That’s General Reed to you

Decked out in a Union general’s uniform from the Civil War, Secretary Reed addresses the crowd gathered Tuesday night for the grand opening of the new, privately funded exhibit on Isaac Stevens, Washington Territory’s first governor who later was a Civil War general.  The exhibit will be displayed through February 2012.

Red ink: House offers $32 billion cut-laden budget ?>

Red ink: House offers $32 billion cut-laden budget

Majority House Democrats have unveiled a $32.4 billion state budget that incorporates $3.2 billion in assorted cuts, a 3 percent salary reduction and higher medical contributions for public employees, pension reforms, and more.

The no-new-taxes budget for the next two years was the first draft to surface in the Legislature since a new revenue forecast knocked another $800 million hole in the budget last month, bringing the total gap to over $5 billion.  Tax collections have lagged as the state and national recovery struggles to take hold.

House budget Chairman Ross Hunter and other House Democratic leaders briefed reporters on the new plan, which was scheduled for a public hearing later in the day and action by the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.  The full House may vote by week’s end, and soon the Senate is expected to come up with its counterproposal.  In the House, minority Republicans are producing an alternative budget; in the Senate, Republicans are at the table.

The House plan freezes voter-approved initiatives for teacher pay and class-size reduction, cuts $482 million from higher education, cuts public employee pay by $177 million, eliminates K-4 class-size appropriations to save $216 million, trims the Basic Health Plan by $108 million and the Disability Lifeline program by $100 million, and saves $362 million from automatic pension COLAs for some older retirees.

The budget proposal would cut the Office of Secretary of State by about $15 million, including cuts of 22 percent at the State Library and the Legacy Project, and saving $10 million by suspending the 2012 presidential primary.  Secretary of State Sam Reed and Gov. Chris Gregoire jointly requested the primary cut, given the dire straits of the budget.

Reed will resist the deep Library and Legacy Project cuts.   The budget does not contemplate removing the Library and Legacy Project from the Office of Secretary of State, as a separate bill had proposed.

But the budget does sweep up the funds that the Legislature previously authorized for construction of a new Heritage Center for the Capitol Campus, to house the Library and State Archives and to provide an education and visitor center and historical exhibits.

House Democrats also proposed a state construction budget that uses $1.6 billion in new bonds.  A separate transportation budget was approved earlier and awaits action in the Senate.

Who plays Isaac Stevens: Pitt or DiCaprio? ?>

Who plays Isaac Stevens: Pitt or DiCaprio?

Now that our new Civil War sesquicentennial exhibit featuring the first Washington territorial governor, Isaac Stevens, is up and ready for everyone to see in our office’s front lobby, one recurring comment made by some office staffers is that Stevens bared a strong resemblance to actor Brad Pitt, who, as one female co-worker put it, “is Mr. Dreamy.”

Another colleague remarked that Stevens looks a bit like Mr. Titanic himself, actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

So, not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to take the public’s pulse on this oh-so-crucial issue, we want to find out what YOU think: Did Isaac Stevens, who was in charge of Washington Territory in the 1850s, look more DiCaprio or Pitt? Let us know by taking part in our poll. We’ll provide a look at the results later on.

The Stevens/Civil War exhibit is privately funded. It will be on display until next February. The exhibit is overseen by the Washington State Heritage Center, which is part of the Office of Secretary of State.

Who does Isaac Stevens resemble more?

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