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Midday Scan: Friday's top stories around the region

Poker games with revenues in Olympia; why the lobbyists love Patty Murray even more than usual; high pay for profs; recognizing the Duwamish Tribe; and a history lesson for Obama, while "visiting" Seattle.

Sen. Patty Murray

Sen. Patty Murray

To borrow (poorly) from Rogers and Hammerstein, how do you solve a problem like Republicans? Defying the first rule of poker, state Republicans have tipped their hand to reveal a full house but no revenue card. As Josh Feit of Publicola notes, "In order to give voters the chance to sign off on revenues, the legislature would have to pass a revenue package and send it to the voters. That package would certainly need GOP support to be credible at the polls." November's special legislative session to unscramble the budget will be a political crucible but not, apparently, a profile in bipartisanship. Feit juxtaposes the key passages from competing Democratic and Republcan press releases. Democrats: "We strongly encourage our collegues in both parties, in the House and Senate, to avoid drawing lines in the sand and instead to arrive in Olympia in November prepared to offer solutions and to be ready to discuss all of the possibilities." Republicans: "We know from recent history that as soon as discussions begin about increasing revenue, all talk of reforms seems to evaporate."  

The most salient political quote this week comes from Washington attorney Manuel Rouvelas. Regarding lobbyists and the new supercommittee, Rouvelas tells Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times, "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." (has anyone reminded the good-cause lobbyists or have they already been devoured)? Lichtblau points out that "The committee is the focus of intense lobbying not only because of its broad mandate, but also because it faces an unusually fast timetable; its recommendations are due by Thanksgiving. And the failure to approve a plan would set off a series of automatic cuts." One of the more disconcerting observations? "Indeed, lobbyists say word is already out in Washington that opening their wallets at fund-raisers could help get access to lawmakers to make their pitches."   

Sen. Patty Murray, the subcommittee co-chair, is a prime target in part because she also serves as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. A pay-to-play strategy, however, seems antithetical to Murray's character. Her spokesman tells the Times, "It would be misguided to think that she’s suddenly going to compromise her ideals now."

"Become a professor or go into politics if you have the passion for it," Midday Scan was lectured back in high school. "Just remember that you're not going to make any money." Two decades later, members of Congress earn $174,000 a year. And professors? Well, best to review the list of the top-salaried state workers and judge for yourself. Jerry Cornfield of the Everett Herald highlights the top 50, beginning with Husky football coach Steve Sarkisian at $1,982,918.28 (the governor and other elected officials don't manage to break the top-50 ceiling).  

Cornfield provides a key caveat: "While higher education accounts for a big slice of the state payroll, including most of the highest-paid workers, it's important to remember that universities and community colleges have sources of revenue other than taxpayer dollars, including tuition paid by students, grants for research, and revenue from sports." In fact, critics may attempt to use salary data as a pretext to slash higher-ed. "Look at those pampered profs" is a populist-applause line, however much it reflects a broader short-sightedness.

Rep. Jim McDermott continues his perennial push to get federal recognition for Seattle's Duwamish tribe. As the Seattlepi.com's Chris Grygiel reports, "Recognition could potentially allow the Duwamish to open a casino in its ancestral homeland — Seattle. It is for this reason that Duwamish members believe other tribes in the area have been hostile to their attempts to be recognized." It's a complex tale of bureaucracy and injustice. The Clinton administration moved forward with federal recognition, but that decision was subsequently reversed by President George W. Bush. In the meantime, the message from the U.S. Department of Interior is as cold as it is unequivocal: Your tribe doesn't exist.      


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