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Midday Scan: A Washington bank, cross-examining tax breaks, Sam Hunt's Costco vendetta

The legislature winds up for a state bank; Publicola plays referee on the state's tax breaks analysis; Sam Hunt is still trying to play the Costco as enabler card.


The Occupy movement could snare its most tangible policy win if Olympia establishes a state bank. A public bank? Who will portray President Andrew Jackson or Philadelphia plutocrat Nicholas Biddle? "State government stores money at Bank of America, buys goods with U.S. Bank cards, and distributes welfare aid through JP Morgan Chase ATMs," the Olympian's Jordan Schrader writes. "Supporters of cutting such ties to big banks say the first step is creating the state’s own bank."     

Speaker Frank Chopp has embraced the state-bank bill as a top legislative priority. It's a delightfully populist brainstorm; so populist, in fact, that it could quickly unravel. (Democratic state treasurer Jim McIntire is no fan.) "Skeptics wonder where the money would come from to accomplish the bank’s goals, such as making low-interest loans to college students and to local governments for public works," Schrader writes.  

An anemic economy gives birth to innovation, creativity, and occasional nonsense. So, what are charter schools? Innovative nonsense or a school-reform panacea? With liberal lawmakers such as Rep. Eric Pettigrew championing charters, the effort has a tailwind. The News Tribune's editorial board gives it the nod. "Charter public schools are hardly the most important reform out there, but they do serve as a barometer of a state’s willingness to give every possible option to parents and children," the editorial board writes. "The highly motivated educators who typically launch charter schools sign a contract — the charter — that commits them to meet specified standards and gives them leeway to reach those goals."

The Washington Education Association's line-in-the-sand absolutism could put the kibosh on the charter-school campaign. Is it really a slippery slope, though? "These [accountability and better funding] are all more important than charter schools. But a K-12 establishment that won’t tolerate a single charter school — not one — is never going to tackle the genuinely hard stuff," the News Tribune opines.

Rep. Sam Hunt is a workhorse. As a former legislative aide to the late Sen. Warren Magnuson, Hunt appreciates the distinction between a show horse and a lawmaker who delivers. So why is he tweaking Costco? It seems Hunt can't repress his inner-gadfly. "Three state representatives have proposed legislation aimed at making Costco Wholesale feel bad about devoting a record $22 million to get voter Initiative 1183, the liquor-privatization measure, passed last fall," the Seattle Times' Melissa Allison writes. "House Bill 2426 would prevent membership retailers like Issaquah-based Costco from selling liquor because 'buying in bulk and in supersized packaging...increases abusive consumption.'"  

Hunt's "abusive consumption" premise should resonate. Each year, bulk buying of diet coke and toilet paper at Costco spurs abusive consumption, ultimately tearing families apart. Once you mix in cases of Jameson and Smirnoff, well...

Is there a compelling reason why Washington offers so many tax breaks? Are tax breaks job incubators or a reflection of various industries' well-heeled lobbyists gaming the system? Publicola provides a cogent analysis on the curious findings of the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC.)

To compound its confused read, JLARC also has a "citizen review" commission that doesn't agree with the committee's semi-vague recommendations. Publicola reports, "the JLARC’s authority is legislatively granted and the legislature has never instructed the committee to conduct an actual return on investment analysis. The JLARC only looks at whether tax exemptions meet 'legislative intent' —an unhelpful metric because the legislature typically fails to say what the specific policy goals of tax exemptions are."

Lastly, there is no reason to panic simply because a foreclosure company is buying up Northwest newspapers. The Oregonian reports "Routh [co-founder of Rim Publications, LLC] is also CEO of Bellevue-based Northwest Trustee Services, Inc., whose one-stop shopping business model has made it the largest foreclosure trustee in the region. Owning newspapers will reduce costs for Northwest Trustee's lender clients and could make foreclosures more profitable for Routh's firm." Making foreclosures more profitable: Yet another illustration of media in the public interest.       


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