Midday Scan: Monday's top stories around the region

Political shootout in north Sound county executive's race; Alaska looks at survival in post-oil era; Boeing and Microsoft's tax breaks; and is rationed care coming to the ER?

Crosscut archive image.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon

Political shootout in north Sound county executive's race; Alaska looks at survival in post-oil era; Boeing and Microsoft's tax breaks; and is rationed care coming to the ER?

There is a potent clarity to the Seattle Times' Emily Hefter's take on the elbow-throwing race for Snohomish County Executive: This isn't yin versus yang but yang versus yang. Hefter quotes veteran political watcher Ron Dotzauer regarding incumbent Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon and his challenger, Republican state Rep. Mike Hope. "They both have got pretty big personalities. You've got a couple of gun slingers at the OK Corral," Dotzauer says. The confection of hubris, smarts, and testosterone makes for a signal Northwest political battle. 

"The race is competitive and partisan and also a referendum on Reardon, a divisive figure in Snohomish County," Hefter writes. "In attack ads already flickering across county television screens, Reardon says Hope is a liar; Hope says Reardon is corrupt." So, a two-term incumbent who is relatively young and savors a fight faces a challenger, an ideological moderate like himself, who is, well, young, ambitious, and savors a fight. It's a combustible formula that will gladden the hearts of direct-mail consultants from both parties. For exhausted and cynical voters, however, the slogan could be: "May the quietest candidate win."

For Alaskans, "Life after Prudhoe" sounds akin to "an instruction manual for the coming Apocalypse." Is a post-oil economy in Alaska even imaginable? Could future employment mostly revolve around Holland America Lines and the Discovery Channel's The Deadliest Catch? As Sean Cockerham of the Anchorage Daily News writes, "A new report from the University of Alaska Anchorage says the transition to a 'post-Prudhoe economy' will be the biggest challenge for Alaska over the next decade, a warning that comes as the state's politicians bicker over what to do about oil taxes and a natural gas pipeline."

One fascinating takeaway is how Alaska's oil production has actually declined over the years, a fact hidden by steeper oil prices. All the while, the state's massive oil reserves won't be spent for decades (the notion of a post-carbon economy still rings false for Alaska politicos). The report may also inform the political debate in Juneau where Gov. Sean Parnell hopes to roll back state taxes on oil companies. Curiously for Alaska, however, where oil wealth is a bipratisan touchstone, there isn't unanimity. "Opponents of Parnell's tax cut plan call it a corporate giveaway that would just make the problem worse. The forecast is that Parnell's plan could result in more than $8 billion in less production tax revenue to the state over the next five years," Cockerham writes.  

How about a "Life after Boeing" report from the UW? In this morning's Herald of Everett, Michelle Dunlop examines the state's eight-year, incentive-packed campaign to land the Boeing 787. The strategy worked, even though the economic and jobs' windfall was relatively modest. However, after billions of dollars (and lots of genuflecting to the company) was it worth it? An excellent chronology and analysis. 

In his Seattle Times' column, Danny Westneat takes a contextual look at a Microsoft tax break and underlines why it no longer passes the smell test. "Microsoft reports it is getting a $132 million break in its sales taxes — a fourfold jump compared with what it reported the year before," Westneat writes. "The tax break comes as part of a program established in 1994, under then-Gov. Mike Lowry, to promote the fledgling high-tech industry. It lets companies get out of paying sales tax on building research-and-development facilities, including the equipment used in them, such as computers."  

Extending the Microsoft tax break is a classic example of public-revenue mission drift. The last Midday Scan checked, Microsoft was in the "thriving" and not the "fledgling" category. So, it's an easy tax-loop-re-jiggering call for Olympia lawmakers, eh? Not as long as the "it could cost jobs" sword of Damocles hangs over legislators. Of course, holding on to their own jobs may also be a priority for some lawmakers.

The nightmare of rationed healthcare comes to life in Jordan Schrader's Tacoma News Tribune article on the state's unwillingness to pay for repeat emergency-room visits when the visits don't qualify as actual emergencies. As Schrader writes, "The trouble is all in how you define an emergency." The lastest scheme is straightforward: Medicaid won’t underwrite more than three ER visits when a patient's symptoms align with one of 700 diagnoses. These ailments include, for example, nonspecific congestive heart failure, shortness of breath, and "hypoglycemic coma." The good news: Most coma patients don't have the wherewithal to stroll into the emergency room anyway.          

Link summary 

Seattle Times, "Snohomish County exec race a referendum on Reardon" 

Anchorage Daily News, "Life-after-Prudhoe study arrives amid heated oil tax debate"

Everett Herald, "8 years, billions in incentives: Was the 787 worth it for Washington?"

Seattle Times, "Microsoft doesn't need our tax break"

Tacoma News Tribune, "State decides what's not a medical emergency"


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson